News 17-09 (No.357)
Issued : September 25, 2017
The Prince Chichibu Memorial Civic Hall Opens
By Kosuke Suzuki
A new hall recently opened in the most western corner of Saitama Prefecture. Attached to Chichibu City Hall, the new hall bears the name The Prince Chichibu Memorial Civic Hall. The new city hall and civic hall replace the old city hall and civic hall facilities that stood on the same land and were forced to close due to deterioration from age and damage from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The new facilities are based on plans developed to replace both the city hall and the civic center. During the period of the city hall’s closure, many city functions temporarily relocated to the History culture Denshokan Museum that was completed in 2003.
AXS SATOW and Maruoka Architectural Firm served as the architect of the new city hall and civic hall project. The general contractor was a joint venture of Taisei and Takahashi Corporation. Nagata Acoustics participated on the civic hall portion of the project, providing the full range of acoustical consultant activities from design through acoustics-related construction management and post-completion acoustical measurement.
Every December, Chichibu City hosts the Chichibu Night Festival, which UNESCO added to its Intangible Heritage list in 2015. Even before being added to the UNESCO list, the festival was famous throughout Japan as a winter festival that includes a simultaneous parade of lavishly decorated floats with taiko drummers and large fireworks displays.
New Drop Curtain Depicting
Chichibu Night Festival
The path the floats travel brings them together to Chichibu Park in the parade. This spot is also the south end of the city hall and civic hall site. The drop curtain for the previous hall was made with a design that depicts the floats of the night festival. The city decided to keep this original drop curtain and re-use it in the new hall. In the new hall, in front of the now taller proscenium stage, the night festival fireworks and Chichibu City’s most emblematic view—Mt. Buko are added at the top of the drop curtain to bring a piece of historical continuity to the new space.
<< Overview of the New City Hall and Civic Hall Project >>
The design of the new building takes note of the adjacent History culture Denshokan Museum by having both a feeling of volume and a modern extensive use of glass. The abundant use of locally sourced Chichibu timber inside the building gives the architectural design a distinctive quality.
The new building is a reinforced concrete structure. The layout has the city hall on the west side and the civic hall at the east side. In between the 2 wings corridors and the civic hall’s dressing rooms are located. For acoustic isolation design reasons, we specified the use of expansion joints between the 2 wings. In normal use conditions, both the city hall and the civic hall can be used simultaneously without disturbing sound leakage between them.
Construction of the entire building completed in February, 2017 and a commemorative opening of both the city hall and civic hall was held on March 26. City Hall employees moved into their new space and public access also began on March 21, while the civic hall used through August as a training period for civic hall employees. During this time period, some organizations were allowed to book and use the hall without charge, giving the hall employees opportunities to rehearse their roles. On August 20, an opening celebration performance was performed in the new hall and as of September 1, the hall became available for use by the general public.
<< Foresta Hall >>
Civic Hall Stage
Civic Hall Audience Seating Area
Looking Up at the Side Walls’
Louver Cedar Surface
With one balcony at the rear of the hall and a gently-sloped main floor, the new hall seats an audience of 1,007 persons. The hall has been given the name "Foresta".
When planning began for the new civic hall, we considered what other performance venues exist in the city. Chichibu City has a primarily classical music concert hall at its Chichibu Muse Park. Therefore, for the new civic hall we decided to prioritize theatre, opera and speaking events such as lectures and symposia for the design of the new hall’s room acoustics, with our main focus on high intelligibility of clear speech reaching every audience seat. Secondarily, to enable the hall to also be used for classical music performances, we included the installation of a suspended orchestra shell system at the new hall’s stage.
Chichibu-sourced wood has also been used abundantly in the hall’s interior. The stage floor has a top layer of solid cypress flooring and the vertical wood columns for the left and right sides of the proscenium are also made of solid cypress. The side walls of the audience seating are flame-retardant, engineered cedar. This engineereed surface has 30 mm x 30 mm (1 in x 1 in) ribbing spaced at 30 mm (1 in) intervals and installed with a gap between the back surface of the ribs and the wall behind them. From the room acoustics perspective, this surface element promote sound scattering. Because the ribs and the spaces between them are all of consistent size, at each vertical 900 mm (35 in) interval, placement of the ribbing are shifted to create a 3-dimensional surface not aligned in the vertical plane to break up the uniformity of the surface. The result is the woven appearance seen in the accompanying photo.
<< Opening Celebration: The Mikado >>
On August 20, the new civic hall celebrated its opening with a performance of the opera The Mikado in Japanese. This opera, with its libretto written by W.S. Gilbert and music composed by Arthur Sullivan, includes “… or The Town of Titipu” as the composition’s subtitle. Some people hypothesize that “Titipu” is a fictionalized form of “Chichibu” and that the opera’s creators thought of Chichibu as the story’s setting.
For the August 20 performance, the director, cast, chorus and instrument performers were all somehow related to Chichibu city, making the event truly a civic performance. The efforts of the local talent shone and every aspect of the performance achieved a very high level of quality. The Mikado is famous for being a comic opera that sharply satirizes the ruling class, and it has been sprinkled in allusions of recent scandalous news. As an intensely pleasurable, vivid and captivating composition, The Mikado was surely an appropriate choice for the hall’s inaugural performance.
I attended the performance and sat in a seat towards the rear of the main audience floor where the balcony overhangs the seats. I clearly heard all of the casts’ dialogue as well as the music from the musicians who sat in the temporarily constructed “orchestra pit”. I happily experienced with my own ears that our acoustic room design achieved its intended objectives.
The hall is not equipped with an orchestra pit yet. For this performance some front rows of seats were removed and a simple standing partition was set up to screen the orchestra. In addition, the entire stage floor was raised up slightly so that the sight lines from the audience to the stage would not be interrupted by the musicians.
The production adopted a unique use for the soft net grilles of the loudspeakers installed at the sides of the stage. Subtitles for the opera’s songs were projected onto the net surfaces as captioning during the portions that were sung. This performance was done in Japanese language so most of the audience should have understood the script easily. Nevertheless, had the entire libretto—and not just the songs—been captioned for the audience to see, I think that even people with hearing impairment could have enjoyed the entire performance more.
By the end of August, the Chichibu City website showed announcements of theatre, ballet and music concert performances scheduled through October, 2017. Some of the events already show as sold out. This is an excellent start and I wish the hall continued success for all its productions and hall operations.
Shonai Bank Inaugurates Shogin Honten Hall
By Akira Ono
Shonai Bank headquarters
In May, 2017, Shonai Bank’s new headquarters (Shogin Honten) completed construction in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. On August 26 and 27, the bank celebrated the opening of the new building with inaugural concerts in the new hall that is located on the second and third floors of the new headquarters’ building.
The architectural firm Kume Sekkei designed the building and a joint venture of Maeda Corporation and 3 other local construction companies served as the general contractor. Nagata Acoustics participated on the project in the role of acoustical consultant for the design and related construction management of Shogin Honten Hall.
<< The Project’s Client: Shonai Bank >>
Shonai Bank’s history dates back to the 1878 establishment of Dai-Rokushichi-Kokuritsu Bank—the name of the current bank’s predecessor institution. With the bank’s 140th anniversary approaching next year, the bank is one of the most venerable regional financial institutions in Japan.
The bank’s prior name means “67th National Bank” and indicates that the bank was among those established by the Japanese Meiji Government’s enactment of a “National Bank Ordinance”. The ordinance was a modernizing law that aimed to resolve confusion among various kind of monies in circulation at the time. The law let numerically identified, newly established private banks issue bank notes to replace the bills then in circulation. When a bank received the government’s authorization to collect existing bills and issue new ones, the bank also received a numerical designation from the government. The term “national bank” may seem to refer to a state-owned bank, but the true meaning of the phrase was “a private bank authorized to issue bank notes”.
<< Public Spaces in the New Headquarters >>
Shonai Bank’s new headquarters is a 6-story, steel-frame structure building. In addition to offices for company employees, the building has a branch for customers and the building’s lobby was designed as an “entrance hall” that local residents can use as an indoor casual meeting place. The building also has a gallery space available to local residents who wish to stage exhibitions. Of particular note from the music and acoustics perspective is the 416-seat Shogin Honten Hall on the second and third levels.
The bank explained that the inclusion of the hall, gallery and public lobby in its new headquarters stems from the bank’s intention that “the bank and the region develop together”. The bank’s vision for its future is of a financial institution that contributes to the region’s development.
Shogin Honten Hall will be used for training sessions of bank employees, lectures and workshops. In addition, to support the hall’s use as a public space available to local residents, we designed the acoustics of the hall so that it can be used as a venue for music performances by small ensembles of orchestral instruments.
<< Shogin Honten Hall >>
Shogin Honten Hall
The new hall has a single slope from front to back and a shoebox (rectangular) shape, with a ceiling height of 9.5 m (31 ft), room width of 15 m (49 ft) and depth from front to back of 27 m (89 ft). The rear wall of the stage incorporates indirect lighting and vertical louvers as variable acoustics system. The louvers are double layered—visible wooden louver in the front and black indistinct movable louver in the back. The louvers are exactly the same size, and back louver can be set so that the gap in between the front louver would become "open" for sound absorption, or "closed" for sound reflection. Inside the backspace of the louvers there are also sound absorbing, retractable curtain. When the louver is open and curtain is deployed—as we expect it will be most of the time—the hall’s acoustics are appropriate for bank employee training events, lectures and other programs that use the hall’s audio system, because the stage’s rear wall will serve as a sound absorbing surface. For music concerts, the louver can be closed and curtain can be retracted.
Because the hall is located on the second and third floors of a building that uses the fourth floor as office space, our design of the hall took into consideration the need to isolate sound produced in the hall from the fourth floor above. We also wanted to prevent sound from the office space—especially foot traffic—from being heard in the hall. To accomplish this, we installed an anti-vibration and sound-isolating ceiling in the hall above the visible surface finishes of the hall.
<< Inaugural Concert in the Hall >>
On August 26 and 27, 2017, the bank held a celebration to mark the completion of the new headquarters. Yamagata Symphony Orchestra performed two concerts in the hall under the baton of Maestro Norichika Iimori. Pianist Harumi Hanafusa joined the orchestra for the concerto on the program.
I had the pleasure of attending the performance on the first day, which began with Beethoven’s “Consecration of the House” Overture, Op. 124. This appropriate opening was followed by Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16 and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 “Scottish”. The orchestra ended the concert with the Marriage of Figaro Overture as its encore performance.
Over the course of the past decade, Yamagata Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Norichika Iimori completed recordings of the complete cycle of Mozart symphonies. The recordings received high acclaim and have been included in Japan’s CD Shop Award 2018 first half of the year classical nominees.
The Marriage of Figaro Overture perfectly suits the acoustics of the new Shogin Honten Hall and gave the inaugural concert a truly delightful close. I hope that there will be many more Mozart programs performed in this hall and that the hall will become a beloved venue of Tsuruoka City’s residents.
Celebrating Kitakyushu International Music Festival’s 30th Anniversary
By Chiaki Ishiwata
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Kitakyushu (also spelled “Kitakyusyu”) International Music Festival. The festival was established in 1988 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the incorporation of Kitakyushu City. During its first decade, Kitakyushu Festival partnered with Finland’s Kuhmo International Chamber Music Festival. Since 1998, Kitakyushu International Music Festival has charted its own course and the music festival's programming now includes a strong educational component. The festival currently identifies the following 6 focus areas：(according to the Kitakyushu Music Festival website)
1) Producing a comprehensive annual music festival;
2) Fostering the pursuit of performing arts endeavors and their dissemination;
3) Creating performing arts that reflect the distinctive culture of Kyushu;
4) Enhancing audience satisfaction;
5) Including younger generations; and,
6) Strengthening of public relations.
<< Hibiki Hall >>
The music festival’s main venue is Kitakyushu Hibiki Hall, a specialty concert hall with 720 seats that opened in 1993. Kazuhiro Ishii Architects & Associates designed Hibiki Hall. Tokyo University Prof. Emeritus Hideki Tachibana supervised the hall’s acoustical design and Nagata Acoustics was responsible for the project’s acoustical consulting work from designing and producing the acoustics-related construction documents through the completion of the project. Hibiki Hall is located inside Kitakyushu City International Village Center. The village center stands alongside a winding uphill road that is a 15-minute walk from JR Kagoshima Honsen Yahata Train Station.
The side walls of Hibiki Hall’s main level are finished with an exposed layer of blast furnace-fired bricks. The upper portions of these side walls—at the balcony level—have glass panels. The front of the stage and the lattice ribbing of the auditorium’s rear wall (behind the audience seating) have exposed steel pipes as part of their interior and room acoustics design. The use of these elements visually connect the hall to industries represented in the Kitakyushu economy. Hibiki Hall has a 12 m. (39 ft)-high ceiling and a large spatial volume of 8,300 cu. m. (2.9 million cu. ft), as well as generously-proportioned audience seats.
The first musical director of Hibiki Hall was the violinist Ms. Kishiko Suzumi who died young unfortunately. Along her original plan, many concerts had been held including the contemporary music. In 1998, Hibiki Strings—a professional chamber music string ensemble—was established with Hibiki Hall as the ensemble’s home hall. The ensemble maintains a busy performance calendar in Kitakyushu and throughout Japan, as well as internationally. Both the music festival and Hibiki Strings’ concerts contribute to the excellent reputation Hibiki Hall has earned since its opening 24 years ago.
<< My Talk at the 2017 Kitakyushu International Music Festival’s Special Program >>
Returning now to the topic of the 2017 Kitakyushu International Music Festival, the festival’s offerings typically extend beyond concerts to include special programs, educational programs and activities planned and produced by volunteer local residents. Some examples are a children’s music appreciation class, a mixed lecture and performance event, a marathon concert played by local amateur musicians and a talk between NHK Philharmonic Concert Master Fuminori Shinozaki (he is Kitakyusyu natives) and Maestro Junichi Hirokami.
This year, the organizers arranged a special program entitled “Planning Classical Music Events (The Essentials Edition)”. Because of my connection as an acoustical consultant on the Hibiki Hall project, I was invited to speak at this program. The program organizers explained to me that they wanted to invite someone who would “share with people engaged in running classical music concerts the knowledge essential to achieve high quality concert operations”.
The attendees at this special program were a mix of community volunteers who perform various roles at concerts as well as professional, paid employees of Kitakyushu’s several concert venues, people involved in the Kitakyushu International Music Festival and other interested individuals. The special program spanned 2 days of lectures and included the festival’s Music Advisor, Aoyama Gakuin University Prof. Daisuke Hirose, artist management company AMATI’s company president, Mr. Koichi Iriyama and me as the invited speakers.
The first day of the program began with a lecture by Prof. Hirose. He spoke first about transitions taking place in the world of classical music performance and the specific efforts to adapt to these changes at halls in Japan and in other countries. Prof. Hirose then spoke in practical terms about the content of concert programs and methods of displaying the titles of compositions that the musicians perform during a concert.
I found Prof. Hirose’s comments about the famous Berlin Philharmonic Hall particularly enlightening. He mentioned the hall’s efforts to implement live video streaming of its concerts and also the astounding difference between the annual budgets of Japan’s orchestras and that of the Berlin Philharmonic. Prof. Hirose said that the Berlin Philharmonic’s budget is 10 times that of any Japanese orchestra!
After Prof Hirose’s lecture, I took the podium and segued into a discussion that began with the a historical perspective of the relationship between classical music compositions still performed today and the concert halls that were in use at the time those works were composed. I showed the audience illustrations of historic concert venues and explained how the development of modern Western societies has been accompanied by a popularization of concert attendance that, in turn, has led to the need for concert halls that accommodate larger seating capacities.
I also discussed how composers’ use of increasingly larger orchestra configurations and improvements in the manufacture of musical instruments have influenced changes in concert halls. I explained how reverberations are generated in a hall and the difference between a concert hall and a multipurpose hall. I then applied my general comments to more specific information about Hibiki Hall.
Day 2 of the program focused more directly on practical aspects of planning and staging a concert. Mr. Iriyama talked about how to develop a concert plan, booking musicians and inviting artists from other countries. He also spoke about concert preparations that must be done on the day of a concert. Mr. Iriyama also touched on topics such as troubleshooting risk mitigation plans and the importance of purchasing insurance. These items may easily be overlooked, but from a concert producer’s perspective, they are essential elements to include when planning a concert.
In addition to discussing the more administrative and organizational aspects of planning a concert, Mr. Iriyama also spoke about the use of pianos, an instrument so often used in concerts. With the help of Hibiki Hall’s veteran piano tuner, Mr. Yukiho Murayama, the process of tuning a piano was described while Mr. Murayama executed the tuning of a piano in real time. The program’s attendees watched with rapt attention as Mr. Murayama demonstrated the use of his tools and explained how a piano’s mechanism works.
In my opinion, including this kind of special program in a music festival is very meaningful because it promotes the development of performing arts productions by local groups and individuals. Such developments, in turn, will increase the use of hall venues.
<< The 2017 Kitakyushu International Music Festival Concerts >>
What may still rightly be called the music festival’s main event—various genres of music concerts—begin on October 7. The lineup of artists offers many performances that will surely please the festival’s audiences. In addition to the use of Hibiki Hall, this year the music festival will add a celebration of the reopening of Kitakyushu’s remodeled Kitakyushu Art Museum. Because of this, concerts at the Art Museum figure prominently in the festival schedule.
I send my heartfelt congratulations to the festival’s Executive Committee as well as to the entire city of Kitakyushu on the occasion of the festival’s 30th anniversary. I also send my wishes to both Hibiki Hall and the festival that they should continue to prosper and deliver successful concerts and programs for many years to come.
Nagata Acoustics Inc.
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