Japan has a large number of children's choirs. We see boy, girl, and mixed chilldren's choirs. There is no tradition of children's choirs in Japan or as far as we know a choral tradition. They are mostly associated with schools, almost all a post World War II tradition. Japan began building a modern school system as part of the reforms assiciated with the Meiji Restoration (1860s). This is, hoiwever, not when schools began fornming choirs. A fee choirs may have been formed when foreign groupos, mostly missionaries began founding schools in Japan in the vlate-19th century. This was, however, a minor part of Jaoan's developing school system. It was only after Japan's cstristrophic defeat in the Pacuific War that we began to see choirs as well as some orchestras at Japanese schools. Not all choies are school choirs, but the great majortity are. Unlike many European choirs they are not associated with Japanese religious groups because Japan is not a Christisn ciuntry. Shintoism and Budhism have no choral tradition. The Japanese have a unique nack of incorportaing fotrign institutions and activities, often with their own unique style. The Japnese hasd incoportated baseball and Scouting before the War. During the post-War American occupation, choirs, and orchestras were added to the Japanese repoitre. The compsition of the chors and orchestras depended on the school, whether it was a coed or single-gender school.
There is no indigenous tradition of children's choirs in Japan. It is almost entirely a European import. European and American missionaries enterd Japan after the opening by American Admiral Perry in the mid-19th Century. The missionaries built churchs and schools. These churches began organizing choirs, but the impact was limited. Japan began building a modern school system as part of the reforms assiciated with the Meiji Restoration (1860s). This is, hoiwever, not when schools began fornming choirs. A fee choirs may have been formed when foreign groupos, mostly missionaries began founding schools in Japan in the vlate-19th century. This was, however, a minor part of Jaoan's developing school system. It was only after Japan's cstristrophic defeat in the Pacuific War that we began to see choirs as well as some orchestras at Japanese schools. Not all choirs are school choirs, but the great majortity are. Unlike many European choirs they are not associated with Japanese religious groups because Japan is not a Christisn ciuntry. Shintoism and Budhism have no choral tradition. The Japanese have a unique nack of incorportaing fotrign institutions and activities, often with their own unique style. The Japnese hasd incoportated baseball and Scouting before the War. During the post-War American occupation, choirs, and orchestras were added to the Japanese repoitre. The compsition of the chors and orchestras depended on the school, whether it was a coed or single-gender school. Japan at this time looked abroad and many foreign activities and institutions
were imported. The Japanese primarily looked to Europe with its strong tradition of boys' choral music. One of the most famous choir, Nishi-rokugo choir's director said "Vienna Boys Choir (Austria) are the most influential for me". Modern Japanese schools offer a wide range of cultural activities for the children. This includes artwork, research, choir, concert, theater and other performances. This is in addition to school clubs. Today in virtually all Japanese schools, whether public or private, have organized choirs. Commoinly these are not composed of children with the best voices. There are annual concerts and the usual pravtice is for all the chilfterm tomparticipate. The usual practice is for each class to sing one piece. The children are prepared months in advance. Competition is promoted between classes and sometimes even inter-school. National competitions are organized to determine the bestchoir. This helps motivate the children to be serious about practicing to defend the honor of their school. The choir groups in schools are called gasshoudan [合唱団]. In the West we have a strong connection to the choir in churches, when the choir refers to something religious, it is called seikatai [聖歌隊]. The Japanese choirs vary greatly in musical ability. They can not be easily compared with the better known European choirs where boys may board at the school and practice daily. Some of the Japanese choirs may only meet for parctices once a week for 2-3 hours. Those few choirs associated with schools may have a more rigorous practice schedule.
Boy choir Director are usually men. Many mixed children's and girls' choir
directors have women directors. This is in part because many fewer men choose to
major in music at Japanese universities. Science and buiness are much more popular fields for men.
Most all choir are mixed choirs. There are only a few boys choirs. In most mixed choirs, few boys participate. These groups are normally 90 percent are more girls as boys are so reluctant to participate. The groups are fun to watch, but the rather limited training means that they do not begin to reach the same music standards as the European boys choirs. The Tokyo FM boys choir and Gyosei boys choir are rare cases, but very famous in Japan.
The Japanese choirs primarily perform popular music. Especially popular are Chiristmas songs, hymns, Japanese children's song, and animated movie music. Hayao Miyazaki is Japan's most famous animated movie director. His movies are very popular and boys often sing his theme song. Japanese choirs do not perform the clasical and religious music that is sung by many European choirs. The Japanese choirs are not trained to the extent of the major European choirs. There are, for example, not boarding schools
for choristers in Japan. Thus the Japanese choirs are not trained to the standard of European choirs, nor do Japanese audience appear to want the classical performances given by many European choirs. Japanese choirs peform some clasical music, but they do not concebtrate in it and studfy it like the European choirs do. Popular music is more widely performed by the Japanese choirs. A typical program at a Japanese choral performance might include: 1.Sprituals, 2. Fukurou-Megane...Makiko Kinoshita, 3. Ayu no Uta...Akira Yuyama, and 4. Aoi-tikyuu to Kodomotachi...Hideo Kobayash. Some impresarios have for years brought over British groups and continental European boychoirs (the Vienna and Kings College are very popular and usually sing to sold-out audiences that are 90 percent women and girls). In recent times, impresarios have been arranging for some of the top British boy sopranos to make pop-like recordings and apperances for Japan. Boys Air Choir (English boy sopranos) in mid-1999 was the bestselling classical music CD in Japan.
There appears to be quite a number of Japanese children's choirs. We have noted both boys' choirs and mixed children's choirs. We have been able to find information on the following choirs, although our information is still quite limited. The various Japanese choirs have quite a variety of uniforms. The choirs appear to mostly dress in European style clothes. I do not know of any choirs performing in traditional Japanese costumes. Choirs in the 1950s and 60s appear to have primarily performed in blazers and short pants. Some choirs have more infgormal uniforms. Some even had berets. The short pants, especially the shorter cut continental styles, and berets suggests that for some reason France figured prominently in influencing boys fashions during this period. Choir costumes in the 1990s appear to include many informal costumes with just short-sleeved shirts. Some choirs perform in blazers with long dress trousers. These uniforms appear to have more of an American flavor about them. HOpefully our Japanese readers will provide more information on the different Japanese choirs.
There are many similarities in the garments worn by Japanese choirs. The uniforms adopted in the 1950s and 60s have begun to change in the 1990s. Most choirs have both formal and informal costumes. Many uniforms are very casual, only "T" > shirts and shorts. It is common to give performances in casual clothes. The choirs operated by Chiristian churches and afilliate schools tend to have more formal uniform. But most Japan's children chorus are not religious. Because most Japanese believe that children should be lively and active, there are performances in such casual clothes. Of course, it depends on the nature of the concert.
Japanese boys commonly wear caps of various types, in part because many schools require them. I have little information, but it appears that most choirs do not require caps. A
few, however, require berets. Berets are not common for Japanese boys. Some private (perhaps Chirstian) school have berets as uniform. But in this case, it is often only the girls
that wear berets. In some kindergartens, boys also wear berets. The use of berets for
boys' choir uniforms probably is related to the European influence. The Japanese looking
to Europe which has a strong tradition of boys' choirs.
Boys in formal outfits (jackets or vests) usually wear white shirts. Almost all formal outfits were worn with white shirts. One group had pink
long sleeved shirts that theu wore with pink shorts and kneesocks.
Many choirs also have informal costumes of "T" shirts and shorts. Often the choir name
or logo appears on these shits. Some boys also wear turtleneck long sleeved shirts.
The boys normally wear solid color neckties for formal performances. Some boys performing in Eton suits wear bowties. Some choirs have the boys perform in open necked shirts
without ties. One group in the 1960s and 70s wore white bows.
Most serious choirs have formal uniforms consisting of blazers, colarless Eton suits, or
vests. They come in many different colors, including red, blue, grey, and other colors.
Almost all Japanese choirs have short pants uniforms for boys. Only in the late 1990s have
long pants begun to appear. Some choirs allow older boys to comtinue participating. These
older boys are allowed to wear long pants.
Almost all boys and childrens choirs wear white kneesocks. One choir had short white socks and another pink kneesocks. The prevalent style, however, is white kneesocks.
Black leather dress up shoes are nmot as common in Japan as America and Europe. Elementary
schoolboys, for example, commonly wear white sneakers to school. Most boys choirs require
black leather shoes. One choir in the 1960s had red shoes to go with red blazers and pink
The mixed choirs often have to decide how to blend the uniforms of the boys and girls. There are typically two or three boys in a sea of girls. Often they wear the same caps, shirts or vests and then wear short pants rather than skirts, but the pants and skirts are nornmally of the same color. Both typically wear the the same white knee socks and black
I'm not sure who desisgns the uniforms. The choir directr may be involved. Perhaps
parents had a say, but in the generally more autthoriative Japnese system it is likely
that the administrators decided on their own. Once the decision was made, the same
uniforms were often worn for years.
Many Japanese boys are reluctant about joining a choir. Some boys are quite keen about
singing and performing. Other boys were proud to be selected for a choir. Most boys,
however, are not very interested. Some really dislike theidea. They generally believe
that participating in a choir is a girlish activity. Although most boys are reluctant, there are a few boys who are
interested in joining choirs. Some simply love singing. In many cases, however, their
parents (usually the mother) insist on their sons joining. Once joining the choir, however, all member wear same costume. Many boys are used to wearing a uniform as some elementary
schools require uniforms, in some cases similar to the less dressy choir costumes. As a result few boys object.
I'm a little unsure about the popular of choral music in Japan. One HBC contributor
believes that there appears to have been a boom in appreciation of children's choir music in Japan. Another knowledge Japanese obserer sees little change.
Most of the fans seem to be mothers who are often more interested in children's personalities and the like rather than the
music itself. The people who attend concerts and buy records do not seem to be serious classical, "longhair" music lovers, of whom Japan also has many. The choir audiances appear to prefer more pop music.
The Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party is one of the several child chorus parties which are held throughout Japan. The party is held in the NHK broadcasting
center in the Tokyo city in the astringent juice valley ward. More than 300 children participate. They vary in academic level from the second year in high school down to the second year in elementary school. NHK held the first Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party in December, 1951. It was called the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus study meeting and subsequently the more familiar namer, the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party. Each year preparation for the
Party begins in March. The selection and training begins to prepare the children. The first broadcasts begin in October. After that, appearances in radio station become quite frquent.
I am having a bit of difficulty making out the rest of the English text: becomes an active center, but it appears to be a chronlogical accont:
1957: It broadcasts in November, 1957, on the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party 5 周年 record wish performance meeting ( the Tokyo broadcasting child troupe and the combination ) NHK hall, exhibiting.
1961: The performance travel which is first with the city snow festival of February, 1961, the 10th of Niigata prefectures.
1962: The television program "Everybody's Song" first appeared in 1962. After that, the television appearances become more frequent. In September, the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party 10 周年 time table meeting per the same year. (The Tokyo broadcasting child troupe and the combination.) The NHK hall
May, 1964: The Hungarian boy girl chorus party and the 交 joy performance meeting appeared on television.
1966: IA western Germany オーベルンキルヘン boy girl chorus party was held in January, 1966 of 交歓 television appearing, a volkslied in Japan and the announcement of the nursery phyme (the transcription for the child voice) in it per the same year by the premiere with the radio. February, the appearing of opera < the evening crane > per the same year are done. イイノホール March, the premiere of " evening べ of the present-day music " appearing < of the territory child 分 > per the same year are done at the stage. In September, < of the territory child > ( the Colombia record ) < 分 > but the Golden disk prize per the same year October, the singing of the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party 15 周年 record wish for every.
July, 1967: The Bulgarian Sofia boy girl chorus party and for every the same year 交歓 television appearing are done ( The Tokyo broadcasting child troupe and the combination ). The NHK hall
入賞 of April, 1968, 2nd of the BBC world amateur chorus contest October, the 50th time 読売 Japan 交響 band fixed period performance meeting the ルカ ordeal music the ペンデレツキー composition ) , the art festival prize wining = the Tokyo culture hall per the same year
January, 1969: The コンポジション complete works for the chorus the participation PAR=0EQUAL = the art festival wining for the recording of < of the territory child 分 > out of ( the live sign 芳 composition between ) The travel of it per the same year is done in August, the Niigata prefecture time rice paddy city performance. September, the opera per the same year < The dark mirror > ( Big 江健三郎作, the dust river 也 sun will composition ) broadcasting participation PAR=0EQUAL = Italian prize wining
June, 1970: The 203rd time Japanese file harmony 交響 band fixed period performance meeting < 8th of Mahler > The Tokyo culture hall September, the appearing of Italian opera < the to orchid dot ( the プッチーニ composition ) > per the same year are done. The Tokyo culture hall.
September, 1971: the 224th time day file fixed period performance meeting < first 劫罪 ( the ベルオリーズ composition ) > appearing Tokyo culture hall The fixed period performance meeting of November, the 567th time NHK 交響 bands per the same year < First 劫罪 > ( Jean フルネ direction ) The appearing Tokyo culture hall
Choristers in Japanese boy choirs are often selected for roles in musical theater. Broadway musicals are popular in Japan and often performef by local groups. The recording companies also draw on the choristers for Japanese recordings of muscical theater as well as other types of music recquiring boys' voices.
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