The ETH Big Band toured Japan in February 2014 as the music ambassador of ETH Zurich in celebration of the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations. This time, the Band dispatched four members for a three-day trip to Japan, to share the magic of their music once again with collaborators and fans, to celebrate the completion of the Japan CD, created in commemoration of the new and enhanced ties the Band has made.
The four musicians — Roland Wernli (tb), Henning Thomas (tp), Simon Gross (sax) and Benjamin Kreiss (sax) – played two shows this time. The first was before supporters from their February tour, including partner universities and sponsors at the Swiss Ambassador’s Residence. The show consisted of a combo performance with members of Hosei University’s New Orange Swing Orchestra and footage from the ETH Big Band’s Japan CD release concert that was held in Zurich on October 31. The musicians awed the guests by combining live performance with this video footage.
The band’s founder and leader, Christoph Eck, appeared live from Switzerland through skype to convey his greetings and best wishes to his collaborators. Separately, students of the Iwaki High School Wind Orchestra sent a recorded message to congratulate the ETH Big Band.
The music ambassadors had made a big impact when they first visited in February. To give a few examples, the performance at Osaka University prompted action on the part of the Japanese institution to initiate collaboration. This has borne fruit as a joint symposium in Japan with more than 10 speakers from Switzerland attending the two-day event.
Another example would be the two Japanese students currently studying at ETH Zurich. Dr. Matthias Frey, Head of Science & Technology Office Tokyo happened to meet them and was told in person that the final determining factor for them to want to study in Zurich was seeing the Big Band’s performance. Other students seriously considering applying to ETH Zurich also joined the concert at the Swiss Residence this time. Some had even travelled from Osaka and Sendai just for the show.
The February concert with the high school in Iwaki, Fukushima, one of areas stricken by the March 11 earthquake, earthquake and nuclear power facility accident, enlightened many locals in the area. The bond lives on with exchanges of video messages; the ETH Big Band had sent cheers in September when the high school students were preparing for the national competition, in which they won a silver medal.
The second and last show during the Japan CD launch trip this time was again with the New Orange Swing Orchestra at Hosei University. The members of the ETH Big Band were once again received with tremendous delight.