More Thoughts on Tokyo!

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YPC has done it again! The biggest concert of the tour, Tokyo, was last night, and it was our second concert of the trip. That meant that, unlike last year, we only had one full concert to prepare and perfect the show before Japan’s most influential and important musicians heard us. But after a day of zen, rehearsals, and mental preparation, we gave our most fantastic show yet!

This year’s concert is unique in that it mixes many serious and “slow” songs with gospel songs and even pieces that feature “choral rap.” The first half of our show, though, is mostly serious. We sing many songs, including “Song of Ezekiel,” a Transient Glory® piece from 2005, “Vere Languores,” one of the most well-known classical songs, and “Natsu No Omoide,” which is a traditional Japanese piece. Then we literally create a rainstorm on stage while singing/chanting tribal Brazilian and, later on, rap in Spanish. It’s an interesting mix of music, to say the least. And ending the first half, we sing “Tegami,” a “J-pop” song that was our encore last year. Hopefully, they recognize at least some of the words we’re singing.

The second half is geared more towards the audience. We start out with “Furusato,” another traditional Japanese song that the audiences love to hear. We even kneel, according to traditional Japanese customs. (This always gets appreciation from the crowd.) Then another J-pop song, “Yell,” which has become as popular among the chorus this year as “Tegami” was last year, meaning that it’s impossible to sing one line of the song without the whole group breaking out into song. I think the Japanese get very confused when they see a group of Americans walk along the streets of Tokyo singing, in Japanese no less. After a few more serious pieces, the concert changes character as we begin our gospel set, including songs like “Take Me To the Water,” an old YPC classic at this point, “Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Music Down In My Soul.” All the songs feature intense choreography and our YPC spirit that always brings the house down.

We also have three encores prepared: John Lennon’s “Imagine,” “New York, New York,” and “Oye.” We had to pull out all of them to satisfy the Tokyo crowd. After we finished the concert, everyone was incredibly pumped and hyper. We were amazed at how well we did, and it took a very long time for everyone to finally settle down enough to get sleep at all. With 12 concerts to go, we are positive that we can perform just as well at each concert, and personally, I’m excited to repeat our performance for all of our audiences.

– Lizz

Today is only day eight, even though it feels like it’s been years since we arrived in the Narita airport in Tokyo. We’ve been having a phenomenal time so far. At least for myself and for the YPC Japan Tour veterans, it’s a bizarre feeling to be back in Japan because it feels like no time has passed since we were last here. It’s a strange feeing to realize that a whole year has actually passed.

We had our big Tokyo concert two nights ago, which we were all incredibly nervous for, and I can’t even put into words how spectacular it was and how on top of the world we all felt getting off of that stage. Although there was a lot of pre-concert stress, I am so amazed at the way in which every single one of us rose to the occasion and mustered up all of our energy and passion and put it into making the concert wonderful, and therefore, adding an incredible amount of positive energy to the trip. I think that the coolest thing for me was getting to see the kids who are new to the trip experience the magic for the first time. The minute we stepped off of the stage, a group of choristers came running up to me, gave me a huge hug, and said with sparks in their eyes, “this is what its supposed to be like isn’t it!? We finally understand why you all marveled over this experience the way you did for the past year. That felt AMAZING, I didn’t even know it was possible to feel this way after a concert.”

That’s when I realized that that’s what this tour does to you: it makes you want to work as hard as you possibly can in order to feel something that, before you finally reach it, seems totally unattainable. Performing ends up meaning something completely different after having this experience, which is hard to explain without simply saying that it changes you. I feel so lucky that I have a chance to do it all over again.

Other than the performing, we are all getting a chance to see some very cool sights and are finally finding the balance between hard, hard work and getting to experience Japanese culture. I guess I forgot what a culture shock it is being here, and found myself surprised all over again to see Japanese people stare at us as we walk down the street, ask to take pictures with us, and try to practice their English with us. I am again seeing the faces of the audience light up and again hearing them “ooh” and “aah” when one of our speakers announce that we are all between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Most of all, I am remembering what a cool feeling it is to communicate with the audience while we perform and see it touch them in such a different way than I’ve ever seen a YPC performance touch an audience. Overall, we’re off to a great start and are all looking forward to what is to come! Shout out to Sydney, my number one roommate.

– Hadley