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Timeline: A Piano, A Boat And A Violin

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Peace Boat is an organization founded in Japan in 1983 by university students responding to their government's censorship regarding Japan's past military aggression.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the past few episodes we’ve been looking at musical instruments that have been rescued from the ashes and rumble of those explosions. They’ve been reclaimed and are now being used to promote peace and to bring understanding of the real human cost of war.


In our last episode we talked about Akiko’s piano, an American made, Baldwin upright that survived the war even when Akiko herself perished. This year, 2020, Japanese composer Dai Fujikara, has composed his fourth piano concerto entitled “Akiko’s Piano” to honor the memory of a young woman and the instrument she loved. The concerto was scheduled to premiere at the “Music for Peace” concerts on August 5th and 6th with the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra and Martha Argerich on the piano. However, due to concerns over the global pandemic, public health and safety, the concerts and the premiere were postponed.

Though, I totally understand the need to postpone the performance it is a shame, because Argerich was actually going to use Akiko’s piano during the cadenza section of the piece. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to listen to this special piano concerto in the way that composer Fujikara intended.

Akiko’s piano is now on permanent display at the Rest House in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. In 2019, the piano was on a cruise, sailing the seas of East Asia on the Peace Boat. Peace Boat is an organization founded in Japan in 1983. Japanese University students were responding to their government’s censorship regarding Japan’s past military aggression. The first voyage of the Peace Boat was to visit nearby Asian countries and discover the actual accounts of those who survived the Second World War, to hear their stories directly. Since then, Peace Boat has sailed around the world bringing a message of hope while not shying away from some of the darker aspects of our history.

Akiko’s piano was on display for Peace Boat’s “Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project.” Hibakusha means people affected by the bomb. Since it’s been 75 years there are now fewer Hibakusha to give their real-life accounts. That's why musical instruments, like Akiko’s, have been used to speak where voices can’t. Over the course of the cruise the piano was featured in performances on board accompanying another instrument that survived the blast of Hiroshima in 1945, an Italian-made violin that was the possession of a Russian music teacher named Sergei Palchikoff.

The story of how one violin made its way from Italy to Russian to Japan will be the focus of the next few episodes of Timeline. It’s a story that will weave through some of the greatest conflicts of the 20th Century.

Learn more aboutAkiko’s Violin and Peace Boat and follow the Timeline.

James Stewart is Vermont Public Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.
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