Events celebrating Noh actor Akira Matsui in London

noh_akiramatsuriNoh time like the present is a series of Noh-related performances taking place at LSO St. Luke in London 24 -25 February 2017, celebrating Kita-school actor Matsui Akira, one of the few professional Noh actors intensively participating in non-traditional performances. Matsui recently turned 70, just like Kanze-school shite actor Tsumura Reijirō, another pioneer of intercultural theatre emerging from the Noh world. My teacher, Kongō school actor Udaka Michishige, also turned 70 last year. A generation of Noh actors opening the doors of noh training to the ‘world outside tradition’.

All information and details are available on the Japan-UK Events Calendar website – here

“These two performances at LSO St Luke’s are a rare opportunity to experience the 650-year-old art of noh, and the genius of classical noh performer Akira Matsui, now age 70, in a bold collaboration with western opera, theatre, ballet, music and poetry. We are particularly pleased that this special programme will include ‘Rockaby’ by Samuel Beckett.


The project also includes a range of education activities ‘Getting to noh… more’, including a Seminar on Noh Theatre and Western Culture, at 6pm on 20 February 2017 at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and a series of lecture-demonstrations on Noh Maskmaking, in partnership with The Japan Foundation, from 17-24 February 2017 in Norwich, Oxford, Durham, London, Southend and Dublin.”

— Diego Pellecchia

Noh Reimagined in London


A wonderful series of Noh events coming up in London!

Noh Reimagined – The Contemporary Art of Classical Japanese Theatre

Friday 13 and Saturday 14 May 2016, Kings Place, London

Art, Music, Dance & The Divine

Noh originated in the 14th century and has been performed continuously since, making it among the oldest unbroken performance traditions in the world. Noh’s aesthetic concepts, unique musical rhythms and tempos influenced many Western artists in the 20th century, including Benjamin Britten. This two-day festival explores the art of Noh, which continues to inspire many practitioners across diverse art forms.

King Place continue their collaboration with Akiko Yanagisawa of mu: arts in presenting some of the foremost Noh performers from Japan to the UK. These performers, all of whom are recognised as intangible cultural assets by the Japanese Government, will be joined by innovative British artists at the cutting edge of the UK’s vibrant interdisciplinary arts scene. The festival’s aim is to communicate the essence of classical Noh and explore how its distinctive aesthetic and musical textures have become valuable resources for the contemporary visual, musical and theatrical arts.

Yakult, Daiwa Anglo-Japan Foundation, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, The Japan Foundation, Arts Council England and Arts Council Tokyo generously support the Noh Reimagined Festival.

Overview of the two-day festival:

• Highlights from the popular classical Noh repertoires including Tenko, Takasago and Toru performed by pre-eminent Noh artists from Japan, such as Yoshimasa Kanze (main actor-dancer) and Yukihiro Isso (Nohkan flautist and accomplished improviser).

• ‘Evan Parker Meets Noh’ A ground-breaking collaborative improvisation with the renowned saxophonist Evan Parker and Noh musicians, combine for an evening of virtuoso improvisation.

• ‘Masking and Unmasking: Noh Theatre as a Strategy in Contemporary Art and Performance’ explores the place of Noh in contemporary visual arts and performance, starting with a screening of Turner Prize winner Simon Starling’s ‘Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima)’. This is followed by three collaborative performances and a panel discussion featuring Ignacio Jarquin, Andrew G Marshall and Michael Finnissy, Ami Skånberg Dahlstedt and Palle Dahlstedt, as well as David Toop and Wiebke Leister exploring the psychological and aesthetic significance of voice and face-masks in Noh.

• Premieres of new works for Noh instruments by Andrew Thomas and Nicholas Morrish-Rarity, who have collaborated with Noh musicians on the Sound and Music Portfolio programme over the past eight months.

• ‘Noh Remixed’ Award-winning composer/turntablist Mariam Rezaei premieres OM, a live remix of traditional Noh stories exploring experimental improvisation in live performance, with electric guitarist Adam Denton and Noh performers.

• ‘Cross-cultural Collaboration and Contemporary Music’ A panel discussion with composers Nicola LeFanu, Ruth Fainlight and Sound and Music Portfolio composers chaired by Richard Whitelaw, Director of Programmes at Sound and Music.

• ‘Movement in Noh: The Dynamism of Stillness’ A workshop in which participants will learn to focus their inner energy through the highly stylised movements of Noh.

• ‘Music of Noh’ A workshop offering insight into the unique features of Noh music, which consists of chant and song accompanied by the Nohkan flute and three drums to create a distinctive sense of ‘ma’ (or ‘space’).

• ‘Knowing Noh’ An introductory talk by eminent Noh practitioner Professor Richard Emmert.

Full listings are available on the Kings Place website:

Dedicated project microsite:

Press Contact: Akiko Yanagisawa (mu:arts) Email: Phone: 07782343632

Rehearsals? That wouldn’t be Noh

As I have written in a previous post, I am about to leave for London where a group of Noh performers from Kyoto and Osaka will perform Noh music and dances at the London Contemporary Music Festival. I am lucky enough to be serving in the ji-utai chorus, and as the day draws near I am getting excited, but also a little nervous about performing Noh in such an unusual context. Even in Japan, Noh is not only performed in Noh theatres: there are a variety of ‘alternative’ stages, such as outdoors stages at shrines or indoors platforms at hotel banquet halls, where Noh is regularly performed. However this time our group will perform in an ex-carpet factory, in front of a mixed audience (the other acts are Stockhausen and Pain Jerk) who might not be familiar with Noh theatre’s conventions, and most importantly our schedule is so tight that will not have much time to familiarise with the local mood (and time zone).

The hyōshiban, a wood block used in training to reproduce the beats of the three drums. (Photo: Elaine Czech)
The hyōshiban, a wood block used in training to reproduce the beats of the three drums. (Photo: Elaine Czech)

How does a group of Noh performers ‘get ready’ for this kind of event? It’s simple, we don’t. ^_^ Noh performers study a shared canon of plays that consist of pre-established choreographies and musical scores, but they do so separately. Movements, lines, drums and flute patterns are the same, but there are various ‘stylistic schools’ for each role. For example, this time Kongō school actors will meet with Morita School flute, Kō School shoulder drum, Kanze School hip drum and Konparu School Taiko. This is one of the many possible combination of schools, and each will perform according to their specific way of interpreting the canon. What is exciting about Noh is that since everyone knows  what they are going to play, and what the others are going to play on stage, there is no need for weeks of rehearsals. A brief and even partial run-through, known as mōshiawase, is all you need to check that you are ‘on the same page’ with the others.

This quality of impromptu is what allows every Noh performance to be unique and fresh, reflecting the Japanese notion of ichi-goichi-e, which one could translate as ‘one meeting, one chance’. So when I asked Tatsushige-sensei, who is leading our band, how long would we need to rehearse our programme on the performance day, he replied that we absolutely need to avoid ‘over-rehearsing’, as ‘that wouldn’t be Noh’.

So I hope you will make to the London Contemporary Music Festival on May 29th – it’s your one and only chance!

Noh music and dance at the London Contemporary Music Festival 29 May 2014

Udaka Tatsushige
Udaka Tatsushige

“The Japanese Extreme” is the headline of the third night (29 May) of the London Contemporary Music Festival 2014 at Britannia House, Spitalfields, London. The organisers have put together an impressive and bold line-up that crosses genre boundaries: Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Himmels Tür, (a percussion piece of Japanese inspiration) the Japanese noise act Pain Jerkand…… NOH THEATRE.

Udaka Tatsushige and Udaka Norishige, sons of my teacher Udaka Michishige, along with four hayashi musicians from Kyoto and Osaka will perform the ibayashi (solo music and choir) of Shakkyō (The Stone Bridge), and the maibayashi (dance and music excerpts) of Hagoromo (The Celestial Robe) and Funa-Benkei (Benkei and the Boat). I will sing in the ji-utai chorus.

The repertoire we are going to perform is classic, and will be put on stage according to the Noh conventions. It is rather unusual for Noh to be performed along with other acts, all the more so in the context of a contemporary music festival, and we are very excited and honoured to participate to the LCMF this year. If you are in/around London don’t miss the chance to attend this unique event!

Visit the LCMF website for the full programme and ticket reservation.