Shingo Fujii’s composition, Rondo Himawari starts out with a theme, which depicts bright ray of sun during the early summer months and a wind passing through the peaceful countryside. It was premiered by William Kanengiser, Yasuji Ohagi, and other guests under the baton of Shingo Fujii at the 3rd Shounai International Guitar Festival gala concert in August 2010.
My friendship with Shingo Fujii travels back to my student days. For over 40 years he has been an important colleague and a friend of mine. During his long music career, he has produced numbers of chamber pieces. Rondo Himawari is one of these chamber pieces by Shingo.There is one person I need to mention associated with the creation of the Rondo.
His name was Hisaya Sugawara. Mr. Sugawara lived in Shounai City, Yamagata Prefecture, next to the Sea of Japan. He was an amateur guitarist who was known as the “Jimuchou” or Director by his close friends. He was called jimuchou because he was the jimuchou at the local hospital. I met Mr. Sugawara about 20 years ago in the early 90s. I was taken by his warm smile and humorous character. It was his warmness which made me make frequent visits to Shounai and perform in concerts which he arranged. His most notable contribution to the Shounai’s music scene was the founding of the Shounai Town Hall of Creating Culture, Hibiki Hall. In 2002, my mentor Oscar Ghiglia and I performed at the hall. It was this visit along with the help of many volunteers, which prompted the start of Shounai International Guitar Festival Committee. Mr. Sugawara was appointed as the Board of Director and I became the music director.
After three years of planning, the 1st Shounai International Guitar Festival was held in 2005. However, by then Mr. Sugawara’s health had deteriorated. Despite his illness, his smile never disappeared and he looked happy around young guitarists. He went through series of chemotherapies and at one point it looked as if he was heading to a recovery. In fact, he was able attend the 2nd Shounai International Guitar Festival in 2008. However in March of 2009, he passed away.
Shingo Fujii had supported the festival from the very beginning. He held an ensemble class during the first festival. I believe he, too, was captivated by Mr. Sugawara and town people’s warm character. After the passing of Mr. Sugawara, Shingo wrote the Rondo as an homage. Mr. Sugawara’s lively character can be heard in this rondo. As it is in a rondo form, the themes always return to the ‘A’ section. Themes in between ‘A’ section express sorrow, lament, and uneasiness, but they always return to the optimistic ‘A’ theme. To me, this overlaps with Mr. Sugawara’s later years. I think that the warm and gentle color that runs through this piece is the color of sunflower, Shounai’s Himawari, which was Mr. Sugawara’s favorite flower.
In 2011, the eastern Japan was struck by an unprecedented earthquake. We are faced with the harsh reality of over 10,000 people dying. Because we are in this difficulty, we need music that reminds us of hope and sweeps away all the grief. I hope Rondo Himawari can offer consolation to all of us.