Reflecting on 2020

January 28, 2021

Midnight Taiko members love performing throughout the year, and 2020 was off to a strong start with our February Family Day shows at two local Calgary libraries. We came off of a productive winter as our members and apprentices had been learning and improving through those months. Our stage manager for the show, Karen, built some solid plans and we played hard. It felt fantastic! But by March 12, the world would come to a halt. Like all performing artists, our calendar became wide open!

The world went virtual and so did we. Our rehearsals moved online and we also spiced it up with our weekly Midnight Tea, allowing us all to connect, relate over how to manage this new and crazy world, and play virtual games for some laughs. Some members were eager to do more, so they took on the challenge of composing a song remotely. We look forward to the opportunity to perform this for a live audience when the time comes!

At the end of June we began rehearsing in the great outdoors. It got us out of the house and into the fresh air with the added bonus of banging on the drum for a few hours per week with our taiko family. It also unintentionally provided us with a way to connect with the Calgary community – many folks stopped to enjoy the music as they strolled past. Some even brought out their lawn chairs to watch our rehearsals (at a safe distance, of course!). It was a good reminder of the joy that taiko brings to not only those who play it, but those who view and hear it. We continued park practices until mid-October when our fingers began to freeze and resumed rehearsals indoors (following health safety protocols).

Due to the current guidelines in Alberta, we are rehearsing virtually again.

2020 Projects

We weren’t going to let the pandemic stop us from taiko-ing, so we kept busy with some fun (COVID-friendly) projects.

First, we prepared a video submission for the 2020 Hiryu Project which was a lot of fun. It was our first in-person group project since the start of the pandemic and it allowed us to revisit the wonderful song Hiryu Sandan Gaeshi in honor of its composer Daihachi Ogouchi Sensei.

Our friends at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute (LATI) & Asano Taiko US created the taiko “Practice Challenge” encouraging groups to keep practicing this great art form. Groups from across the globe headed up to see who could log the most practice minutes in a four-week period. The generous folks at LATI offered this challenge three separate times and we participated in all of them… and had a ton of fun doing it!

We were thrilled to be invited by The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) to perform for their virtual summer festival. This turned out to be another fun project where we could catch some rays while preparing for and recording this performance.

One of our friend’s to the north of us, Carley from Kita no Taiko in Edmonton, organized a cross-Canada submission for the Taiko Community Alliance (TCA) program, Taikothon. We were happy to participate and play Renshu alongside many other great taiko players and groups from across our country.

Once again, the wonderful team at Asano Taiko US spearheaded another project, providing opportunities for taiko groups across the globe to perform in “The Asano Taiko US and Friends Virtual Concert”. This inspired groups to continue pursuing the art of taiko in whatever way they can during this challenging time by coming together to produce a collaborative show for audiences around the globe to enjoy! We had a ton of fun producing our submission for the show (even outside in the dead of winter) and loved watching all of the performances by the other groups. This became our first show of 2021.

Overall, 2020 looked very different from most years. We did not have our usual wild summer show season, but reflecting back, we did accomplish and experience some great things. We strengthened our relationships with the greater taiko community, learned skills (like video/sound editing), spent extra time with a metronome and on individual development, and found new ways of keeping our Midnight Taiko family connected.

Members & Apprentices

One positive aspect of 2020 was the return of our beloved taiko members John and Anny. Both individuals were integral to our Midnight family before they moved to Vancouver. John served as Managing Director (among many other roles) and Anny was a key performer and instructor in the group. They were both active in the Vancouver taiko scene and  brought back new skills, knowledge and experience to Midnight. We are thrilled and honoured to have them back and look forward to sharing more exciting taiko journeys with them in the future.

In other news, our members Lorie and Joe have welcomed their baby girl, Evie, into their lives! In the summer, we held an informal baby shower for the couple, and since Evie was born she has been the sweetest, most welcomed guest on our Zoom chats! Congrats again, you two!

At the end of 2020, Midnight comprised 14 members and 3 apprentices.  Midnight continues to benefit from the enthusiastic and tireless efforts of Teri-Lynn and Marty, who continue in their roles as our Managing and Artistic Directors. They jumped to action to discover and create new taiko opportunities to help Midnight adapt swiftly to the changes of 2020. We are so grateful for them and look forward to what they have in store for us next! We also welcomed back some familiar faces onto the board of directors, as well as added some fresh new faces to the mix.

Members’ Training and Development

We started off the year with some insightful lessons by Kokichi Kusano Sensei here in Calgary. It was a rare opportunity and most of our members were able to participate. The focus of the lessons was on history, fue and yoko-uchi style playing. Fortunately, this was before pandemic times, so we got to enjoy ourselves in person!

Some of our members subscribe to kaDON, an online taiko instruction community, and while the lessons and availability of content are always appreciated, it was invaluable to us this year. The new kaDON live series  was also very beneficial,  and a fun way to connect with other taiko enthusiasts.

In 2020, some of our members took advantage of extra time to learn or hone their skills in new instruments, like fue and shamisen. We are excited about the variety that these instruments will bring to our repertoire and future performances! Other members spent time on other passions (yes, we do enjoy other activities outside of taiko, haha!). Painting, art, musical instruments, bird-watching, bird mothering, kitty cuddling, writing, reading, hiking, snowboarding, cooking, baking, jewelry making, dog walking… you name it! For some of us, the energy that we would have usually directed toward performances went into other creative and enjoyable outlets.

A large group of our members had planned to attend the World Taiko Conference (WTC) in Japan, scheduled for November, but due to the current circumstances the event organizers moved the event online. This allowed taiko enthusiasts from across the globe to engage and participate. Internally, we held some virtual group video-watching sessions which were a lot of fun. Special thanks to the WTC organizers for making this event available to us all.

Thank you!

Throughout the pandemic, it has been miraculous to see the leaders of the greater taiko community pull together to create spaces for us all to engage, learn and stay connected. Our members have benefited greatly from these experiences. Special thanks to the Taiko Community Alliance (TCA) and all those taiko community leaders who are dedicating their valued time to keep the taiko spirit alive – we appreciate it!

We want to sincerely thank all of our instructors and mentors: 2020 was a challenging year, but also one of great lessons. We know all of the wisdom we developed will have a deep impact on our future.

We also wish to extend a huge THANK YOU (!) to the Calgary community and surrounding area for your continued support. We know we weren’t able to connect with you in our usual way this year, but we love sharing the art of taiko with the community and would not be able to do so without your support.

Here’s to a 2021 filled with laughter, joy and community. We look forward to seeing you soon!

– Midnight Taiko Kai