The Garage International @ Adelaide Town Hall, Thu 18 Feb
Etsuko Kawaguchi appears by the side of the stage and makes her way up towards the impressive Koto that dominates the open space. The only other adornment is a colourful fan, placed in the foreground. Kawaguchi, in Adelaide for her sixth successive Fringe, bows to the small audience. Her traditional Japanese costume completes the visual landscape. It’s quiet, and those that have made the trip to The Garage await the performance with a reserved eagerness.
The evening’s 40-minute program features four pieces. Some of the compositions date back to the middle of the 19th Century, others are more recent (by a hundred years or so).
Kawaguchi is renowned as a virtuoso of the 13-string Koto and, after the applause settles, she tunes her instrument by manipulating the moveable bridges until the instrument is prepared – something she does for each piece.
The music is initially quite sparse and airy, comprising single-note melodies. It’s probably what the uninitiated ear would expect from the Koto. As the performance progresses, Kawaguchi adds her voice to the sound of the instrument. It’s quite beautiful. The music is striking, complex and meditative in equal measure. The simple melodies have become more involved; not only is there an increasingly polyphonic nature to the playing of the instrument; the percussive qualities of the Koto are now also apparent. Kawaguchi stands and bows at the conclusion of each piece; the audience applauds warmly.
The four works that comprise the concert are all different, but are all equally enjoyable. Kawaguchi’s playing and singing combine to fill the beautiful hall with a sound that, while being something of a rarity in these parts, is accessible to all who take the time to listen. Coming at the tail-end of the city’s rush hour, this has been a delightful excursion for the mind and soul.
Koto Music Concert – The Forgotten Past continues at The Garage International @ Adelaide Town Hall from 6pm until Sat 20 Feb.
Book at FringeTIX on 1300 621 255 or adelaidefringe.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.