Concerto for Traverso - “Green tea concerto”

I was asked by the traverso soloist Toshiyuki Shibata and the B'Rock Orchestra to write a concerto for traverso flute, in response to the Coffee Cantata by Bach. Immediately, I was interested on several levels.

First of all, I have written a lot of music for modern flutes, from a flute concerto to music for all kinds of modern flutes including, the contrabass flute.

Secondly, I have been asked recently to write music for Japanese traditional instruments, including a shakuhachi concerto. These traditional instruments go back over thousands of years. I was also interested in exploring old western instruments and was even doing research, hoping that one day I would write for them.

The most personal and interesting part is this. My grandparents were full time farmers in southern Japan, almost exclusively growing green tea plants. When I was little, I spent a lot of time with them, even staying with them for months at a time, and going to fields with them, they taught me what to do. As they said, “plants don’t wait for us, we don’t have weekends to rest”.

They grew green tea plants after the second world war. Their house was surrounded by mountains and fields. In the side of the mountain, which is part of their garden, there was a big tunnel which was a bomb shelter during the war. After the war, they just stored vegetables and watermelons there. It was my job to bring watermelon from the shelter to the house, after my grandparents worked so hard all day to look after green tea. We ate cold watermelon in the evening. Cold from the tunnel.

So when Toshiyuki presented me with the idea of “Green tea concerto” for Traverso, rather unsure - as I could tell from his zoom window (it was during the pandemic) – about whether or not I might laugh, I was delighted for the three obvious reasons above.

My personal interests, as well as the root of who I am, are reflected in this concerto, especially as socialising has not been possible during in last year because of the pandemic. Green tea, as well as coffee, is central to social activities, just as music making is.  

Dai Fujikura