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Concert for raising children in Sendai

On August 9, as chairperson of the Japan Lullaby Association, I was invited to appear in a concert entitled "NHK Concert for Raising Children: Songs for Emotional Education and as Gifts from Parent to Child", staged by Sendai Station, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). It was held in Kawauchi Hagi hall in a building to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Tohoku University. Held in Tokyo in 1991 and 1992, this was the third such concert.

Unlike the programs in Tokyo, two rehearsals were held, in the afternoon of August 8, the day before, and in the morning that day. This entailed staying in Sendai for one night and two days. I sympathized with NHK staff who worked non-stop for two whole days and admired their enthusiasm for broadcasting the concert in the Tohoku region.

The concert, which began in the afternoon, lasted an hour and half, but I appeared for less than 15 minutes in the middle of the program to comment on the subject of "child raising and lullabies." It hardly compared with the time and energy that the staff had expended.

What the Japan Lullaby Association means by "songs for child-raising" should not be narrowly construed as only lullabies. Besides douyo (children's songs), this category includes much loved songs by children as well as those that parents and children can sing together. The performers were people with some connection to the Tohoku area: In addition to the soprano, Emiko Suga, whose name I was already familiar with, other performers included pianist Sae Tahara and the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra directed by conductor Chikara Iwamura, the Sendai Broadcasting Chorus, and the NHK Sendai Boys and Girls Choir. Serving as the masters of ceremonies were Ryoko Tsunoda, as former personality in TV program for young children together with announcer Soichiro Tsuda.

Let me go over the program so you will get an idea of what a concert of music for raising children is. It started with Schubert's Wiegenlied by the beautiful soprano Emiko Suga with orchestral accompaniment. This was followed by two lullabies from the Miyagi and Akita regions of Tohoku accompanied by Sae Tahara on piano. The women's chorus of the Sendai Broadcasting Chorus sang a song from the Iwate region. After this came three well-known lullabies from outside the Tohoku area to piano accompaniment. The chorus also joined in the singing of Takeda no Komoriuta, which underscored the distinctive solitary feeling of the song.

After this, I made my appearance, "A Few Words on Lullabies and Child-raising" and talked about my usual themes, which you can read in Monthly Koby's Comments.*

This was followed by eight fun children's songs performed by Ryoko Tsunoda, both solo and with the NHK Sendai Boys and Girls Choir under the baton of conductor Kenichiro Iwasaki. All were extremely entertaining performances and everyone no doubt enjoyed many of their favorite songs.

All this ended with the orchestra performing three of the world's most loved lullabies. Listening to these consummate performances, I recalled the concerts that I had attended as a subscriber to NHK Symphony Orchestra.

Then came the finale. All program participants ascended the stage and sang The Cradle Song (lyrics by Hakushu Kitahara, composed by Shin Kusakawa). This is the song the Empress of Japan recently sang when she visited a children's hospital in Toronto. Of course, I sang, too, immersed in the deep feelings toward mothers and their gentleness that I feel whenever I sing a lullaby.

I was invited by Sendai Station, NHK in my capacity as chairperson of the Japan Lullaby Association. The first chairperson had been Goichi Matsunaga, a researcher of lullabies, and after he passed away, I accepted the position as the strong urging of one director, Yoshiko Nishidate. I had, however, studied almost nothing about lullabies from a literary, sociological or historical perspective. I would like not only mothers but also fathers and all people involved in raising children to sing lullabies together I wish for a society where we are able to hear people sing lullabies together, and to be able to hear lullabies softly sung in towns throughout Japan. In this way, we can change child-raising and the world we live in to create a gentler, warmer society--this is our fundamental aim. My appearance on this program as chairperson of the Japan Lullaby Association was indeed an humbling honor, and I did my best to live up to the expectations.

In our affluent society today, we are able to acquire almost anything we desire. But how rich are we spiritually? Japanese society is experiencing dysfunction in several areas, beginning with children's education and extending to various behavioral problems including crime. The TV and newspapers tell us that people are always irritated and murders are committed over almost nothing.

As for problems involving child-raising, not only do some mothers and fathers not bond with their children and fail to raise them properly, but they even treat them violently. It is a tragedy that in Japan, two children per week die of child abuse.

Lullabies are important for the direct effect they have on the growth and development of children's emotions. They reinforce the parents' desire to care for children, but also create a warm and caring atmosphere in society at large and enrich human relations.

I think it is wonderful that NHK continues to broadcast lullabies, children's songs and other songs on TV and FM radio station, either daily or at the same time weekly. And having the good and unexpected fortune to appear at the child-raising concert in Sendai, I felt this all the more strongly.

* "At the Japan Lullaby Forum 2007""

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