FRINGE REVIEW – Tenchi Shinmei: The Ocean

*****

The haunting sounds of traditional Japanese instruments fill the beautiful interior of St John’s during The Ocean, a performance from Ensemble Rivelta, making their first UK appearance with taiko drum group Tenchi Shinmei as part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

Featuring Kazuko Takeda on the horizontal Japanese harp, the koto; and Tenzan Yamada on the shakuhachi (bamboo flute), Ensemble Rivelta evoke the atmosphere of feudal Japan with a number of traditional pieces played with the precision of experts in their field. The versatility of the instruments and the performers are also demonstrated by a selection of western pieces, making The Mountain a well-rounded and enjoyable whole.

Commencing with an original composition to commemorate those who perished in the Japanese earthquake, we are then led through the cherry blossom to ancient Tokyo; then – via a series of twists and musical turns – to tango, classical and even – with a touching and heartfelt rendition of Amazing Grace – closer to home.

The pair hardly speak any English, yet possess a humble grace and an adeptness with their instruments which requires no translation. Taiko drum group Tokara leader Art Lee introduces each number; also joining the ensemble on stage to lend his expert skills to a few of the numbers. He also gives a sneak preview of Tokara’s full show – Tenchi Shinmei: The Mountain – in a powerful and evocative solo number on the large taiko drum at the back of the performance space.

As Ensemble Rivelta pluck and blow their way through an atmospheric set and the sounds of their music swells to the vaulted ceiling of St John’s, the manic hustle of Edinburgh in August seems a thousand miles away; replaced instead by a captivating and beautiful performance played with grace and humility by masters of their craft.

The Ocean runs from 8-29 Aug at 14:00 at St John’s Church. More details here.

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