by Dee Goto, For The North American Post
Michi Hirata North, pianist, is performing a Beiju (88th birthday celebration) event and honoring Hidemaro Konoye with her Town Hall concert on November 10th. There are three main reasons for this performance.
The first is that Mr. Tanaka, temporarily in New York, saw Sam Goto’s cartoons of Michi performing her last concert at Meany in the North American Post four years ago. Tanaka-san emailed me and said he had been trying to reach Michi. Subsequently, he returned to Japan and shared a CD of Michi’s with his friend Mr. Tawara, who worked in diplomatic relations with Russia, but had a hobby of collecting a vast amount of memorabilia of historical musical professionals in Japan.
Mr. Tawara wrote Michi saying, “I saw you perform as a teenager in the late 1940s. I’ve been looking for you for 65 years.” Michi is one of the only well-known musicians of the World War II era still living. Mr. Tawara has a close relationship with Kingstudio.asia. They immediately agreed to produce CDs of Michi’s upcoming concert for distribution. The studio executives are excited about getting an even better recording for posterity. Tanaka-san called Michi in September to say he is coming for the concert, from Japan.
The second reason for this concert is Michi reconnecting with the granddaughter of Hidemaro Konoye and the Konoye Foundation of Music. Hidemaro is the younger brother of Fumimaro Konoe (I don’t know the reason for the different spelling of their last names). Michi was in their home on December 17, 1945, when Fumimaro committed honorable suicide as the pre-war prime minister of Japan responsible for getting Japan into a war with the United States.
Hidemaro was Michi’s father’s best friend. They studied in Germany together in the 1920s. Konoye is known for founding the New Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo (the present-day NHK Symphony Orchestra). At the end of the war in Germany, Konoye, as one of the guest conductors of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, was isolated by the US government because the war between Japan and the U.S. was still raging. He was repatriated through New York and chose to return to Michi’s home.
Michi was 13 years old when Konoye was staying in their home in Tokyo. Now she says: “Up to his visit to our home in 1945, I was obediently practicing, but Konoye inspired me to become more excited about music and performing. I traveled all over Japan with him and his orchestra from ages 14 to 18.” Michi is honoring Konoye with his orchestral composition for Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1.
The third and most remarkable part of the event is that Michi is turning 88 years old this December. Imagine, playing two 40-minute concertos, all on one November 10th Sunday afternoon, and we get to be there!