Event Report: Sound! Euphonium Live Concert

by Spencer Dakos,

To commemorate their thirtieth anniversary as a company, Kyoto Animation's producers were looking for a title set in their locale of Uji, just outside Kyoto, to adapt into a series. Producers Eiharu Oohashi and Riri Senami each found a little novel written by a young woman who grew up in Uji and who was attending a Kyoto University. Enthralled by the tale set nearby their studio, they sought permission to adapt it for an April 2015 airing and Sound! Euphonium began production in 2014. Due to popular demand, the concert band that performed the pieces for the series began performing at Euphonium events and later at the first scheduled concert series last October. The second concert series was scheduled as part of the 3rd Kyoto Animation & Animation Do event this weekend, and I was lucky enough to see both performances that day.

For the first performance, I sat in the front left side of the stage. As the curtain rose to start the show with a live band performance of the opening for season 2, I was greeted with a surprise Tuba-kun right in front of me! Tuba-kun aided True's performance of the song “Soundscape” to begin the concert series. True's vocals were immensely powerful compared to the background performance as she motioned to all four floors of the Rohm Theatre packed with Euphonium fans during her performance.


From left: Moe Toyota, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Chinka Anzai, and Ayaka Asa)

Following her performance, Moe Toyota (as the MC since Sapphire is a concert band otaku), Ayaka Asai (Hazuki), Chinka Anzai (Reina), and Tomoyo Kurosawa (Kumiko) came out on stage to greet the crowd (and Tuba-kun) and began the cast talk portion of the show. They gave introductions along with True and the conductor of the Senzoku Gakuen Freshman Wind Ensemble 2016, Masahiro Oowada. Next they introduced the second performance of the day, “Polovtsian Dances”, the song that Mizore and Nozomi's Minamiuji Middle performed during their last year of middle school, and a piece over 10 minutes long.

The performance itself ranged from a very nice wind music section to start to a booming bombastic performance from the percussion section during the latter third of the piece. The memories it conjured up of the relationship between Mizore and Nozomi brought tears to a few faces. After that performance, Toyota and the other girls came out to talk a bit about that piece. Anzai was announced as the big Mizore fan of the group and was asked her favorite Mizore scene in the series, which was that gloomy atmosphere on the bus ride back after failing to move on in the competitions. Toyota then introduced the next section of performances, three pieces performed by only a section of the band: “Gakuen Tengoku (Team Monaka version)”, “Starting the Project (3rd years only version)”, and “American Patrol”.

When Toyota mentioned the Monaka version, she asked Asai about the “Monaka version”. Asai mentioned that it was a “Congratulation” version to the rest of the Kitauji band who achieved gold at the Kyoto competition in the series. “Starting the Project” was the song played during the very first promotional video shown at Comiket 87 and brought back some nostalgic feelings for the seiyuu. “American Patrol” was the song that Kumiko's sister, Mamiko, played for her. Kurosawa mentioned how Kumiko felt as a young girl asking her sister to keep playing it over and over again. She also mentioned the currently screening film version which amplifies that aspect of the second season. The performances themselves of the songs were wonderfully done, if not a bit short due to how short the songs themselves are.

After that group of performances, the seiyuu returned to introduce the next section of titles themed around the school festival in the shows: “Kimi wa Tennenshoku” and “Gakuen Tengoku (Full Band version)”. These two performances really felt lively like a school festival and lifted the mood again. Following these two pieces, we had a 10 minute intermission. Said announcement was actually spoken by True!

After the intermission, the curtain rose to reveal that a screen had been moved down behind the band. We instantly started into a performance of “Takarajima”, the song performed at the station concert in episode 8 of the second season accompanied by scenes from the TV series behind the band, especially ones from said station concert. There were additional cuts featured from the new movie included as well! As with the TV series, both an alto sax and baritone sax solo were performed in front of the crowd with the baritone sax performer also sporting Haruka's pigtails to get into character. Both received a great ovation from the crowd. During the second concert of the day, the Senzoku band encouraged the audience to clap throughout the piece, adding a live sensation to that performance. While the trombone and trumpet players did stand up and dance a bit during their focus of the piece, the band did not repeat the TV show's visual performance unfortunately.

The screen went to a standard visual announcing what the concerts were and the seiyuu returned to mention the history of Takarajima in the series. They joked that Asai was an instrument and had her perform a section of the song vocally as she learned during the recording of that episode. Toyota then led the group over to the tuba section asking them about her performance and got the tubas to perform Asai's vocalizations on the tuba itself. Toyota highlighted one of the trombone players in the band who was also named Shuichi similar to the character in the TV series before going over and talking with the contrabass player. Takarajima doesn't feature the contrabass; instead the player performs on a regular bass guitar just like in the show. Toyota asked the performer her thoughts on the contrabass and she said it was “cute.”

Next they then introduced a special guest performer for the day, a professional euphonium player named Hiroyuki Ennouji, who performed the titular song “Sound Euphonium” written by Asuka's father. This was the version performed in episode 3 where Asuka is demonstrating her desire to perform in front of her father. After performing Ennouji asked the crowd how many of them had heard of the euphonium prior to watching the anime. More than half of the crowd raised their hands. He encouraged people that were learning the euphonium to keep at it and keep improving.

Following this performance, we had another guest solo performer: the lead trumpet performer from the Freshman Wind Ensemble, Asami Tomioka. The two of them were set to perform “Ai wo Mitsuketa Basho,” the famous piece from episode 8 of the first season. When announced, Kurosawa and Anzai posed together since it was their characters who performed it in the show.

Following the performance, Toyota mentioned that Tomioka actually performed the solo for Kaori for the first season's re-auditions in episode 11. She has improved since then and truly sounds more like a professional than she did three years ago.

And then it was time for Kitauji to perform at Nationals. The next two pieces were the two that Kitauji performed during the competitions: “March-Wind of Provence” and “Crescent Moon Dance.” During the latter song, the screen showed additional clips from the show during the competitions and flashbacks of the characters performing and the emotional journey that Asuka took to perform at Nationals in the TV series. While the setting lacked the pressure that the competition would usually have, it was a fantastic performance of both songs.

Afterwards the seiyuu came back on stage and spoke with Oowada about performing the song. Kurosawa asked about the part that Kumiko struggled with during season 1 and encouraged the euphoniums to perform that bit again. Kurosawa was visibly in tears thinking about how much Kumiko put in to learn that section of the performance of “Crescent Moon Dance.” Oowada mentioned that the day of the performance was the same day that Nationals occurred in 2017. He asked the band to be sure and they agreed it was. Oowada then mentioned that Nationals was occurring there in Kyoto instead (it is usually held in Nagoya). Toyota then mentioned it was time for today's final song.

To conclude the day, the band performed the anime's ending song, “Vivace!,” while the screen highlighted the various members of the Kitauji band section-by-section. The very last bit featured the stills from the credits of the first movie ending with the commemorative photo following the Kyoto competition. The audience applauded and Ooowada left the stage as the lights dimmed on stage.

After a few minutes, the lights came back up and Oowada and Ennouji returned to perform the full band version of “Sound! Euphonium.” In contrast to the soothing melody Ennouji performed earlier, this version was a variety of sections performing in accompaniment to the euphonium. It was a lovely contrast to the previous performance. The audience applauded again and both performers left the stage as the lights dimmed again.

And then Oowada returned for the second encore performance. He raised his bow and the first sounds of “Dream Solister”, the opening song for the first season, came from the band. True returned and they performed the first movie's ending theme version of the song. Again, her vocals overpowered the music from the band, so it wasn't as good as it could have been, but it was a pleasant experience.

The four seiyuu, Ennouji, and Tuba-kun returned on stage to say their farewells to everyone. They all thanked everyone for braving the weather (a typhoon hit Kyoto that night) and hoped everyone enjoyed the concert.

As a fan of Sound! Euphonium, these two concerts were an exceptionally moving day for me. The music conjured fond memories of scenes from the series and novels while providing an experience one could only wish for (hearing the songs nearby the setting of the tale). While the previous day's events (screening of Violet Evergarden and Free! Take Your Marks) provided entertainment, these concerts provided a truly moving experience that could never be replicated. You could sense the love that every single performer and fan had for the series that day.  These were well worth the trip to see and I could only hope they may be released on video sometime in the future.

 


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