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Claudio Abbado takes mobile Lucerne Festival to quake-hit parts of Japan

They announced it in Davos, where the fat cats congregate and the arts pick up the crumbs, but this project seems to have everything: high-quality performance, in an area of dire need,. Here’s the press release, just in:

LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA to start in Matsushima
in autumn 2013


Lucerne/Tokyo, 25 January 2013 – Music as a way to bring hope and promise to those suffering from the aftermath of the tragic earthquake that struck Japan on 11 March 2011 — this is the idea and the aim of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA project. Following a period of intense preparations, the time and venue of the opening season can be announced: from 27 September to 14 October 2013 the mobile concert hall will be visiting Matsushima with a programme featuring national and international artists. 


At the Japan Night organized by the Japanese government during the World Economic Forum in Davos, the director of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL and initiator of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA project, Michael Haefliger, announced the dates and venue of the mobile concert hall’s first port of call. LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA will be visiting Matsushima from 27 September to 14 October 2013. Matsushima, in the Miyagi prefecture, is situated on the famous Matsushima Bay. This bay, dotted with 260 pine-clad islands, is one of the most beautiful and popular tourist destinations in the Tohoku region, which was devastated by the disaster. The islands prevented the tsunami from causing even more damage to this small town.


The mobile concert hall developed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki and British sculptor Anish Kapoor will provide a unique platform and meeting place for national and international artists. The highlight of the programme is a concert to be held on 12 October 2013 featuring members of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, directed by Claudio Abbado. A key element of the project is a collaboration with the Japanese composer, musician and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto and international organizations aimed at creating a programme to promote music education. Ryuichi Sakamoto is a co-founder of the School Music Revival foundation and heads the Japanese office of El Sistema.


With its multi-component design, the concert hall is suitable for a wide range of events and includes a 500-seat auditorium. The inflatable shell is made of an elastic material that allows it to be dismantled, transported and reassembled in another location. The wood used to construct the hall also came from the trees near the Zuiganji Temple, a family temple of Date Masamune and one of the most popular destinations in Matsushima.



A cedar-lined avenue leads to the main hall of the temple. Sadly, the upheavals caused by the tragedy of 11 March 2011 damaged the old trees so badly that they will have to be replaced. Reusing the cedarwood as acoustic reflectors in the concert hall will create a link between LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA and this significant historic and spiritual place.


LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA in Matsushima is being organized by an Executive Committee led by Masahide Kajimoto, who initiated the project together with Michael Haefliger. The project is being sponsored by UBS, Nestlé and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. Further details of the project and the autumn 2013 programme will follow in early March.


Masahide Kajimoto: In just under two years, some amazing work has been done in the region hit by the earthquake. But many people are still torn away from their communities and forced to live in temporary housing. The wounds on their souls left behind by the disaster will not be quick to heal. Art and culture created and experienced together can help to restore these people’s hope and trust. We are very grateful for the wide support we have already received for our project, without which this unique event would not be possible.”


Michael Haefliger: “When I visited the earthquake region in northern Japan I was very impressed by what has already been achieved there. However, it will take years before the local people will be able to return to normality. During this phase we would like to make our contribution with LUCERNE FESTIVAL ARK NOVA. We not only want to create a platform for high-class artistic projects for which there is currently no infrastructure in the area, but also help to develop and promote the cultural side of the region.That’s why we have invested so much work and enthusiasm in the feasibility and preparation of this project in the last eighteen months and why we’re proud to put our name to it. If the project in Japan proves successful, and with the right support, we can imagine launching similar initiatives in other crisis-hit regions of the world.”



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  1. I’m intrigued by this concept of a portable concert hall, the visualisations on the website look amazing, though anything involving an inflatable shell and helium balloons would worry me if it gets windy… Certainly a very worthwhile cause.

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