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Saturday, April 30, 2011

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Take it from the top: Conductor Robert Ryker and Tokyo Sinfonia members greet the audience in Oji Hall in Tokyo's Ginza district on March 18. COURTESY OF ROBERT RYKER

Maestro's Tokyo Sinfonia to serenade evacuation centers

Staff writer

Robert Ryker, the conductor and music director of Tokyo Sinfonia, has a dream to help heal the broken hearts of tsunami survivors with music.

"The holiday season is a period of high stress," Ryker, 72, who has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, told The Japan Times. "Music is part of healing."

Ryker, who has lived in Tokyo for 30 years, said he will take the Tokyo Sinfonia orchestra, composed of 19 string players, to perform at evacuation centers in Miyagi Prefecture on Sunday and Monday.

Baroque Japan Ltd., a Japanese company that operates a chain of clothing shops, will sponsor the trip, covering transportation and accommodation costs. It will also donate thank-you money to orchestra members, the conductor said.

Ryker and his orchestra will leave Tokyo on Sunday morning and will play music drawn from the Tchaikovsky serenade program to people now living in evacuation centers, including a public junior high school in Sendai on Sunday and Kesennuma, also in Miyagi Prefecture, on Monday. They will return to Tokyo that evening.

While central Sendai was far enough inland to be spared damage from the massive March 11 tsunami, Kesennuma was not so fortunate and most of the port was wiped off the map.

David Tharp, a psychotherapist who organized the trip together with Ryker, said, "Music can be one of psychotherapy."

The British doctor traveled to Iwate and Miyagi prefectures after March 11 to treat posttraumatic stress disorder in survivors of the disaster.

After losing families, houses and jobs, people in evacuation centers are suffering depression and have committed suicide. Tharp said he witnessed the same situation in Kobe after the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

Tokyo Sinfonia is the third orchestra Ryker has formed following ones in Canada and India.

After a successful career in Canada, he decided to come to Japan in 1981 when the Canada Council for the Arts, a federal body, told him it would cover expenses for a year for him to set up an orchestra in any place of his choice. He said his "wonderful experience" at the 1970 Osaka World Expo as a member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra prompted him to return to Japan.

Soon after arriving, he was introduced to the president of Musashino Academia Musicae, who offered him a position leading the college's brass band. But the president died a few months later, and he had to teach English for the first three years to make a living.

He formed Japan Sinfonia in 1984, but suspended it in 1989 because of financial difficulties. Between 1989 and 2005, Ryker traveled to many countries to work as a conductor, and it was in 2005 when he changed the orchestra's name to Tokyo Sinfonia, whose 19 members are all Japanese, and resumed its activities.

Most recently, Tokyo Sinfonia held a concert in Oji Hall in Ginza, in central Tokyo, on March 18, and managed to raise ¥100,000 in donations for the tsunami-hit Tohoku region. It will have a concert at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan near Yurakucho Station on May 13, and again at Oji Hall on June 3.

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The Japan Times

Article 8 of 9 in National news

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