As the year draws to a close, we look back and celebrate the accomplishments from the year, and look forward to the year ahead. It's pretty amazing to see what we have accomplished in our first official year as the Rocky Mountain Taiko Ensemble.
In the Fall Semester of 2018, we began as the MRU Taiko Ensemble, and we began to brainstorm and search for a new name. After many wonderful suggestions and consultation with mentors in the taiko community and Japanese language speakers, our name officially became the Rocky Mountain Taiko Ensemble in January 2019! This was a very exciting and important step in the development of our ensemble, and a great way to begin 2019.
We quickly became quite busy with public performances, and our weekly rehearsals were spent refining our taiko technique, working our existing repertoire, discussing stage presence, and preparing for performances. There were many big highlights from our first year, including performing at Centre Ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome, meeting the Premier of Alberta, marching in the Calgary Stampede Parade, and more!
TAIKO IN SPORTS
We were very lucky to be invited to play taiko for many hockey games at the Scotiabank Saddledome to help cheer on the WHL Calgary Hitmen during their regular season and into the playoffs! Sometimes we were placed in the crowd, and other times we were placed up in the "Red Corner" to cheer on the Hitmen. The big highlight of the year was playing at centre ice, during Intermission on Multicultural Night, where we rolled our taiko to the middle of the stadium and performed a shortened version of Dokokara to fit the time slot. The youth members were treated to riding the zamboni, which was a huge highlight for them!
In addition to hockey, we were also asked to play at the Saddledome for the NLL Calgary Roughnecks lacrosse team, for the final playoff game where the Roughnecks won the NLL Cup Championship, and the Calgary Stampeders football game at McMahon Stadium.
We were also on hand to cheer on walkers and runners for several events in downtown Calgary, including the Light the Night event for blood cancers, where we debuted our new LED bachi with different coloured lights on the ends.
TAIKO AT MRU
In addition to the mid-year and year-end taiko recitals, we also performed for International Education week, pep rallies, and also supported the MRU Cougar soccer, volleyball, and hockey teams. Notably, the Crowchild Classic, which is the double-header hockey game between the men's and women's hockey teams with rival University of Calgary Dinos. The stadium was packed, and we played on the ice during warmups and in the crowd during the games!
TAIKO WITH SPECIAL ARTISTS
Yodan uchi is a difficult and complex style of taiko, and we worked hard with Yuta Kato and David Wells from the LA Taiko Institute in Aug, to master the intricate footwork and structure of the piece.
We also joined taiko players from Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge for a special taiko workshop series with Yuta and David, and the whole week ended with a very special concert at the Bella Concert Hall.
TAIKO AT SCHOOLS
Education is important to us, and we were happy to provide performances and/or mini workshops for schools, including band concerts, and the Japanese Language School, where we taught each age group a little of taiko after demonstrating beta, naname, and miyake styles of taiko.
TAIKO ON TV
An early morning television appearance to help promote Canada Day celebrations at Heritage Park, was our first time working with a TV crew. News segment link.
TAIKO IN THE COMMUNITY
Festivals are a popular place for taiko, and this year we performed at numerous festivals and community events. Highlights of the year included an outdoor screening of the film Isle of Dogs, at the Jack Singer Concert Hall with the Calgary Civic Symphony, Omatsuri Japanese Festival, Otafest concert, Heritage Park, and Globalfest fireworks and multicultural pavilions. We performed on Canada Day after a speech by Jason Kenney, the new premier of the province of Alberta.
TAIKO AT THE STAMPEDE
The Calgary Stampede is "the greatest outdoor show on Earth", and is the largest annual event in Calgary. We gave two performances on the grounds this year, in addition to marching in the Calgary Stampede Parade as a collaboration with Yosoca yosakoi dancers, Midnight Taiko, and the Calgary Japanese Community Association.