Drummers advance tie between UM and Japan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Japanese drummers presented an exciting concert to an overflowing crowd in LeBaron Recital Hall on the University of Montevallo campus May 1.

The performance was the most recent cultural exchange between Montevallo and Echizen Town, Japan.

The drum playing is known as &8220;Echizen drumming&8221; and has been practiced in the Echizen area in various forms since about the year 1600.

Today the art is designated as an intangible cultural asset in the region.

The music in the performance vibrated throughout the hall with an unusual blending of intensity and rhythms.

Drums of various sizes were used, including one about 24 inches in diameter.

The sticks used were either the conventional long sticks or some about the size and shape of a beer can.

The presentation was extremely colorful, energetic, exciting and performed with very controlled, and sometimes comical, gyrations by the players &045;&045; much like karate movements.

The crowd loved it and gave the performers two standing ovations.

The cultural exchanges between Montevallo and Echizen date back to 1995 when UM hosted the Alabama Clay Conference featuring Japanese potters as workshop leaders.

Since that time, Montevallo and Echizen have maintained a friendly relationship.

Among other cultural exchanges, UM students have visited and studied in Echizen.

A troop of imperial musicians, known as GAGAKU, visited and performed at UM.

Also, a group of Japanese middle school students came for a short stay in Montevallo and Montevallo Middle School students traveled to Echizen for a visit.

Ted and Catherine Metz have coordinated the many cultural exchanges.

Ted reported that in 2003 Montevallo Mayor Grady Parker and Miyazaki Mayor Kimura met and signed an agreement to establish &8220;friendly relations&8221; between the two cities.

That agreement, in part, read: &8220;Miyazake Village and Montevallo shall continue to promote mutual understanding and trust, and at the same time, with the sincere desire to better the two communities, shall develop interchanges and cooperation through due consultations.

&8220;These interchanges and cooperation shall be conducted by people from all walks of life in various fields of activity such as long established industries, art, culture, education and sports where both cities&8217; characteristics are utilized and respected.&8221;

Miyazaki Village was later merged into Echizen Town.

Mayor Sharon Anderson remarked, &8220;The drummers&8217; concert exemplifies the intent of our agreement with Miyazaki Village. We gained not only enjoyment, but better knowledge and understanding of the Japanese culture. Along with the university, we plan to continue the responsive affiliation, and we look forward to becoming a formal &8216;Sister City&8217; with Echizen Town.&8221;

Catherine Legg can be reached via e-mail at mailto:clegg2@bellsouth.net