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Young Harpers perform in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka for Japan Tour 2023

Japan Tour 2023 Cover Photo

Five young harp players from Music Generation Laois had a trip of lifetime this summer. The young musicians travelled across the globe to perform and share traditional Irish harp music with Japanese musicians.

Young harpers Dasha Buckova, Lily Van Den Bergh, Niamh O’Shea, Kiêu Conroy and Emily Breslin were accompanied by composer/harper Michael Rooney, flautist June McCormack and Musician Educator/harper Siobhan Buckley.

The group performed an original work by composer Michael Rooney called ‘The Spirit of Laois Suite’ in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. The piece was commissioned by Music Generation Laois in 2017 with funding from Creative Ireland Laois, Laois County Council.

Performing in incredible venues, to capacity audiences, the young harpers experienced real- life as a professional touring musician! The trip was made extra special by the generosity of the professional Japanese musicians who shared their music and knowledge with the young harpers.

"Our harp tour of Japan was truly the trip of a lifetime. We all shared amazing experiences that will stay with us forever. It was wonderful to experience the Japanese culture and to spend time with the harp ensemble from Nagoya and to play in such beautiful venues. It was a dream come true, forever grateful!" Kiêu Conroy, Young Harper, Music Generation Laois

A very special highlight of the trip was performing with the Kinjo Gakuin Harp Ensemble in Nagoya. Kinjo Gakuin Harp Ensemble are a fifty-five-piece school-based harp ensemble, with members ranging in age from 13-18. Ahead of the tour, the young harpers had rehearsed and collaborated with the Gakuin Harp Ensemble over Zoom. In August 2023, their online teamwork turn into a real, live performance. Watch part of the performance here.

Next stop on the Tour was Toyko, where The Embassy for Ireland in Japan hosted a wonderful event to celebrate the young harpers from County Laois.

The group enjoyed plenty of sightseeing and adventures during their Japanese tour. They had a visit to Mount Fuji via the high-speed Shinkansen (bullet) train, a night in a traditional Japanese house, and visits to local temples. They even wore traditional Japanese socks for a concert to support the preservation of a local historic venue. More delightful moments of the trip included sampling a variety of KitKat flavors and signing autographs.

"Our Tour of Japan was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime cultural and musical experience. We were very fortunate to have some amazing Japanese friends and supporters guide us for the duration of the Tour." Siobhan Buckley, Musical Director of Music Generation Laois Harp Ensemble

Riko Matsuoka is an international multi-award winning harpist and one of the most prominent Celtic harpers in Japan. Riko played a key role in making Japan Tour 2023 happen.

Rosa Flannery, Music Development Officer for Music Generation Laois commented, "We are most grateful to Riko for creating this opportunity for our young musicians to tour Japan. We look forward to further opportunities to work with Riko, and we hope our friends from Japan will visit us in the coming years so we can return the hospitality our young musicians received in the Summer of 2023."

Music Generation Laois also extended a huge thank you to all who supported their fundraising efforts in advance of the Tour. In particular they thanked Riko Matsuoka, Yu Imamura, Dai Komatsu & Tom Toi for making this tour possible.

Find out more about Japan Tour 2023 here.

Music Generation Laois is part of Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board, and supported locally by Laois County Council.