In December 2015, my husband and I spent six amazing days in Japan. We just wanted a vacation, but it so happened that I could schedule things such that we’d end up in Osaka on the 22nd, the first day of Kalafina’s three-show Christmas Premium Live 2015. How could I resist?
Okay, it actually took quite a lot of planning. And our decision to go to Japan was made last-minute, so I had to buy tickets on resale. Not cheap, I tell ya.
Getting to Japan in itself was a dream come true for me; it was something I’d doubted I’d ever be able to afford, until a small financial boon recently (it was still very expensive…) Being able to watch Kalafina live as well would feel like a minor miracle. I was afraid to talk about it beforehand in case something went wrong and we couldn’t get to the concert but…
…we made it. And it was nothing short of magical.
Before I report on the live, I’ve got a long story to tell. You can skip to the next section if you prefer, but I really wanted to describe this.
We were almost late. Yeah, I know, how could I be late for something so important to me? Well, after five days in Japan, I’d started to take the legendary punctuality of their trains for granted.
The plan: One minute train ride from Osaka Station to Fukushima Station, followed by a leisurely 10-minute walk to the Symphony Hall in the cool winter evening. Maybe take a few photos of the venue before settling into our seats.
We were travelling during the rush hour. The stations and trains would be full, but we should still have arrived in good time. Unless there was a huge delay caused by an accident or something…
…Which is exactly what happened (I hope everyone involved came out all right). Trains were delayed and Osaka Station was overflowing with commuters. We would have to wait in a long queue just to get on our train.
The concert was supposed to start at 7 p.m. At 6.45, it became clear that we wouldn’t get to the Symphony Hall on time if we kept queuing.
So, we ran.
Emergency plan: An exhausting 15-minute run from Osaka Station to The Symphony Hall in the cold, against the bone-chilling wind. Just getting out of the station took almost five minutes. Plenty of stops in between due to my lack of fitness.
At one of these stops I legitimately gasped, “I can’t do this! Not even for Kalafina!” I still get teased about that.
We reached the building a few minutes after 7 p.m. We gasped for breath as the startled but ever-polite staff examined our tickets, then groaned and forced ourselves to stumble up three floors’ worth of stairs before crashing into our seats.
Just in time, too. Two minutes later, the musicians walked in.
Christmas Premium LIVE 2015 “Kalafina with Strings”
The Symphony Hall, Osaka
22nd December 2015
I couldn’t take photos, of course. Fortunately, the media could. And if you haven’t seen what they were wearing for those lives, you really should:
Photo from Kalafina’s official blog
Photo from BARKS. This one is actually from the Tokyo show, though
Imagine Wakana, Keiko and Hikaru gliding onto the stage in those gowns. Imagine them gracefully curtsying to the audience in unison—not the typical Japanese bow, actually curtsying—like elegant court ladies, their skirts forming shimmering pools around them. The magic was beginning.
I was sitting at the top row at the side of the stage. This was my view of the stage:
Photo from The Symphony Hall’s website
We could only see two members of the string quartet, and everyone in my row had to spend the concert leaning forward to get a good view of Wakana, who was closest to us. Not ideal, but we could live with it. We probably had it better than those sitting at the back of the stage. Unless they liked looking at Kalafina’s backs for some reason.
I don’t understand Japanese well enough, unfortunately, so I won’t be able to discuss the MCs.
1.荒野の果てに「讃美歌106番」(Angels We Have Heard on High)
2.もろびとこぞりて (Joy to the World)
I had to look these up here. I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I’m only familiar with a few of the more popular Christmas songs. I recognised the melody of Joy to the World, though (both songs were sung in Japanese). Both songs were lovely, but it sounded like Wakana and Hikaru hadn’t completely warmed up yet. Especially Hikaru—she seemed to be struggling, but not enough to ruin things. Keiko was pretty much perfect.
I had to marvel at the hall’s superb acoustics (the hall’s website boasts of a full two seconds of reverb. I’ll take their word on it). It definitely did wonders for the music and the vocals. I’ve watched Kalafina before at Anime Festival Asia, and while the sound system was passable the backing track tended to drown out the singers, especially Keiko. No such problems here. You could pick out each person’s voice clearly. I felt the reverb was especially flattering for Keiko’s deep voice.
I was listening to my favourite singers in some of the best circumstances possible. Already, I felt so thankful to be there.
One of my favourite performances. It was heavenly; I could have cried at this moment. Wakana was amazing, and the harmonies were breathtaking.
4. Kagayaku Sora no Shijima ni wa
Hikaru still didn’t sound like she was in top form yet, and I wish she’d sang it lower; she was just a little shrill at the beginning. But it was still great overall. Powerful and emotional. I really loved the arrangement here; this song is a great choice for “Kalafina with Strings” concerts.
I think it was here that Keiko spent most of the song facing the back of the stage. Must have been a treat for the people seated there.
Can I just mention again how much I love those gowns? It made all those small movements and gestures they like to do seem more dramatic. Quite entertaining.
5. seventh heaven
I know this song is a fan favourite, but I’ll confess to finding it a little boring. But this performance captivated me. Hikaru sounded much better now. Keiko’s voice was so…warm. Lovely.
This was a pleasant surprise for me; Kizuato has always been one of my favourite songs. It was interesting to hear Hikaru can indeed do a decent falsetto in place of Hanae’s (I think) parts. Such a gorgeous arrangement too. Overall it sounded a little gentler than the original.
(Continues on page 2)