Yokohama Choral Society (YCS) was founded in 1970 with the vision of making full-fledged performances of the choral works of J. S. Bach. With the members planning and managing the concerts by themselves, YCS has been active in performing various classical sacred works. While placing a major emphasis on J. S. Bach, YCS has also performed works of various other composers, ranging from Baroque and Romantic composers, such as Schütz, Mendelssohn and Brahms to modern and contemporary composers, such as Frank Martin and Arvo Pärt.
The resident conductor is Takeshi Yamagami. The trainers, who provide the choir members with both voice training and music training, are Chinatsu Kijima (Sop.), Akiko Ogawa (Alt.), Akihide Kobayashi (Ten.), and Masakazu Sano (Bas.).
Having organized more than 50 regular concerts, YCS has had the privilege of performing with renowned guest conductors, such as Michio Kobayashi, Hiroshi Wakabayashi, Hideomi Kuroiwa and Herr Prof. G. C. Biller, the previous Thomaskantor from Leipzig.
In 2000, with the kind cooperation of Prof. Biller and many others, YCS organized “BACH FEST 2000 TOKIO” in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Bach's death and its 30th anniversary.
In 2002, YCS had the second German tour and performed at three locations including the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.
In 2004, under the baton of Prof. Biller, YCS performed the early version of St. Matthew Passion (BWV244b), which was well-received by the choral circle.
The fourth German tour in September 2015 was particularly significant as it provided an opportunity for performance exchange and joint concert with amici musicae, a choir and orchestra based in Leipzig. In October 2017, YCS is scheduled to organize another joint concert with amici musicae, inviting them to Yokohama.
Conductor: Takeshi Yamagami
Mr. Yamagami was born in 1973. After graduating from Jiyu Gakuen College and Tokyo University of the Arts, he studied in Italy. After returning to Japan, he started his career as a chorus conductor. Currently, in addition to serving as a regular conductor of many chorus groups, ranging from children’s choir to large-scale mixed voice choir, he teaches temporary choirs organized at different locations through the recruitment of local citizens. His recent work includes conducting the chorus for Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 (conducted by Jakub Hrůša) and Dvořák’s Stabat Mater (conducted by Junichi Hirokami) in 2011, Verdi’s Requiem (conducted by Keiko Mitsuhashi) in 2013 and Brahms’s German Requiem (conducted by Junichi Hirokami) in 2014. His relevant and precise instructions have earned the trust of conductors and choir members in Japan and abroad that he performed with.
To provide the joy of singing with an orchestra to people of all ages, he has produced and conducted many concerts including those featuring Mass of the Children of John Rutter (first performance of the orchestra version in Japan) and “Arashi no Yoru ni” of Maki Ueda (first performance of the orchestra version). As an outstanding and promising conductor, his performance in conducting an orchestra is also highly reputed particularly in the field of religious music.
Conductor: Kazumi Yahiro
Photo: Tsuboi Photo Office
Mr. Yahiro graduated from the Vocal Music Course of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music, having learned vocal music from Kei Yatabe and conducting technique from Akio Watanabe. As soon as graduating from the university, he became a founding member of Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus. Since then, as a concert master, he had been involved in the activities of the Chorus, working as a trainer, adaptor and conductor. In 1973, he was assigned as conductor of the Chorus. While being engaged in the nation-wide performance activity of the Chorus, he devoted himself also to developing amateur choruses and training chorus instructors. In 1982, he was sent to former East Germany under the overseas training scheme for artists by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus in 1997, and is now guest professor of Kurashiki Sakuyo College. Mr. Yahiro has was the conductor of the YCS from 1973 to 2015. YCS's association with Prof. Biller was created by Mr. Yahiro.
Guest conductor: Georg Christoph Biller
Photo: Taeko Toriyama
Prof. Biller is the 16th cantor (counting from J. S. Bach) of the St. Thomas Church. At the age of ten, he entered Thomas School attached to the St. Thomas Boy's Choir to receive a thorough music education. In 1976, he entered Leipzig University of Music to learn conducting technique from Kurt Masur, etc. Having organized a chorus group, he was also active as a singer himself, giving performances with Gevanthaus Orchestra.
He was Thomaskantor from 1992 to 2015 and has also been professor of chorus conducting of Leipzig University of Music since 1994. The repertoire of the current Thomaskantor ranges widely from Gregorian chants to modern pieces, and he also composes music. The St. Thomas Boy's Choir has released many CDs and DVDs especially after his installation as cantor. YCS has given six performances conducted by Prof. Biller: "Messe in h-moll" in 1990, "St. John Passion (ver.2)" in 1996, singing motets at the morning service of the St. Thomas Church in 1997 and 2002, "Bach Fest 2000 Tokio" commemorative concert in 2000, and "St. Matthew Passion (early version)" in 2004. Prof. Biller's music backed by his solid sense of religion has always been a source of inspiration for us.
Voice trainer (Soprano): Chinatsu Kijima
Ms. Kijima graduated from Kunitachi College of Music and was taught by Michiko Matsuo, Kinuyo Kawaguchi and Chikako Hashimoto. In 1992, she went to the U. K. to devote herself to voice training under the guidance of J. Cash. She won the fourth place at the Brugge International Early Music Competition in 1993 and was invited to the music festival of the competition in the next year to sing the solo part of Mozart's Grabmusik K.42. Also, she has performed at a number of music festivals and concerts in Europe, including Charpentier's opera "David and Jonathas" conducted by W. Christie and a duo recital with Nigel North. She returned to Japan in 1995 after completing the Early Music Course of Guildhall School of Music and Drama and acquiring a performance diploma at the Royal College of Music. Although her performance activity mainly focuses on the baroque, she has a wide-ranging repertoire, including renaissance music, German lieds and modern music. Currently, she is an instructor at the St. Gregory's House Institute for Religious Music and a member of Cappella Gregoriana Favorina, a vocal ensemble of the St. Gregory's House.
Voice trainer (Alto): Akiko Ogawa
Ms. Ogawa graduated from the Faculty of Music and completed the master course of the Graduate School of Music of the Tokyo University of Arts, specializing in solo vocal music. She has also completed a training course at the Opera Institute of the Agency of Cultural Affairs and was a student of well-known vocal singers/instructors, such as Keizo Takahashi, Takanosuke Watanabe, Toshiko Toda, Jun Mohri and Adele Haas. After receiving a number of awards including the Second Award in the Vocal Music Section of the 61st Music Competition of Japan in 1992, the Third Award in the 4th Vocal Music Contest of Japan, the First Prize and Kosaku Yamada Award in the 4th Sogakudo Japanese Song Contest, she studied in Vienna for a year from November 1997, sponsored by the Agency of Cultural Affairs of the Japanese government.
As a soloist, she has performed religious music composed by Bach, Händel, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Bruckner, etc., and taken part in concerts of “Symphony No. 9” by Beethoven, “Song of Lamentation (Das Klagende Lied)”, “Resurrection Symphony (Auferstefung)” and “The Song of the Earth (Das Lied von der Erde)” by Mahler, “The First Walpurgis Night (Das erste Werpurgisnacht)” by Mendelssohn and “Romeo and Juliet (Roméo et Juliette)” by Berlioz, among others. She has also appeared in operas, such as “The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte)” by Mozart, “Hansel and Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel)” by Humperdinck, “In the evening, congratulation songs are heard (Iwaiuta ga nagareru yoru ni)” by Kazuko Hara, “Spirits of Another Sort (Tenshu Monogatari)” by Shuko Mizuno, “The Child and the Spells (L'enfant et les sortilèges) by Ravel and “The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer)“ by Wagner.
She has released a number of CD albums; “Selected Japanese Songs” in 2003, “Singing Takuboku and Misuzu” in 2006, “Karatachi no Hana - Songs by Kosaku Yamada” in 2008, “Kojo no Tsuki - Great Composers of Japanese Songs” in 2010, “Sakura Yokocho – Four Collections of Songs by Yoshinao Nakata” in 2012, “Soshunfu – Selected Japanese Songs 2” (Piano: Hiroaki Yamada) in 2014 and “Karamatsu – Japanese Songs Performed by an Alto and a Guitarist”(Guitar: Kiyoshi Shomura). Many of her performances can be heard on YouTube.
She is a member of Nikikai Opera Foundation.
Voice trainer (Tenor): Akihide Kobayashi
Mr. Kobayashi graduated from the Vocal Music Course of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music and completed the graduate school of the University. He also completed the 6th class of the Opera Training Institute of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. He received the Tenor Special Prize at the 16th Concorso di Lilica Italiana and won a prize at the 56th Music Competition of Japan. He has appeared in a number of concerts, such as the NHK FM Recital, Beethoven's Symphony No.9 and Mozart's Requiem. His opera repertoire includes Tamino in "The Magic Flute", Nemorino in "The Elixir of Love" and Camille in "The Merry Widow". He was sent to Italy in October 1989 by the Agency for Cultural Affairs to pursue his studies. During his one-year stay in Italy, he won the second place at the 8th El Corano International Vocal Competition. He was taught by Akihiko Mori, Teruo Mitsubayashi, Shojiro Hikita, Yoshihisa Yamaji, Virgilia Polonini and Carlo Mericiani. Mr. Kobayashi is currently a member of the Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation.
Voice trainer (Bass): Masakazu Sano
Mr. Sano graduated from the Vocal Music Course of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music with honors. Upon graduation, he has the privilege of performing in the presence of the Emperor at Toka Gakudo in the Imperial Palace. He also completed the Vocal Music Course of the graduate school of the University. He won the second place at the Japan Italy Vocal Concorso and the Cercle Deux Colonnes and received a prize at the Music Competition of Japan as well as an encouragement prize at the Sogakudo Japanese Song Competition. He has played many roles in opera performances, such as Don Giovanni in "Don Giovanni", Rigoletto in "Rigoletto", Germont in "La Traviata" and Marcello in "La Boheme". He has also served as a soloist in a number of religious music performances, such as "Requiem" by Mozart, Fauré and Duruflé, "German Requiem" by Brahms, "Messiah" by Handel, "Cantata" by Bach, "The Death of Jesus" by Graun (the first performance in Japan), "Messe" by Puccini and Schubert. For three consecutive years from 1996 to 1998, he appeared as a soloist in the Japan-US Friendship Concert of Symphony No.9 at the Carnegie Hall in New York. Currently, Mr. Sano is a lecturer at Shobi Junior College and Seitoku University. He is also a member of Sankikai, Japan Italy Music Association, Japan Vocalists Academy, La Société Fauré du Japon, Japan Federation of Musicians and the Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation.