After a short ride on the bullet train from Kyoto we arrived in Kobe to sing at Kobe Shoin Women's University, an Anglican university founded by a Cambridge alumnus 120 years ago. The chapel was a bit smaller than some of our other venues but alongside this came a great improvement in acoustics, particularly for the renaissance polyphony; we opened with Byrd's five-part Mass, something which our countertenors were especially pleased about!
The Chapel is held in high regard as a concert venue, regularly hosting the world-renowned baroque ensemble 'Collegium Japan' and their director Masaaki Suzuki.
After the concert we went to a reception which involved a very special treat for all involved, proper Kobe beef – we were assured that, although many places claim to serve genuine Kobe beef (where the cows are massaged daily with beer), this stuff was the real deal. It certainly had that 'melt-in-the-mouth' thing going on...
After a night in Kobe, we gave another recital in a packed St Michael's Anglican Cathedral, this time to a vast audience of primary school children. It was our second school visit of the tour and we were far from let down by the enthusiasm of our reception.
As with our earlier visit to the Catholic school in Seibi, a section of our programme took on a more interactive note, and we joined together in a rendition of that popular wedding hymn Make me a channel of your peace – not quite our usual concert repertoire but, as it turned out, a huge favourite of the school children and they sang it with the utmost (and very endearing) zeal.
Saying goodbye to Kobe, it was back on the bullet train and to our final destination of the tour, T O K Y O, coming full circle from our stop over there at the start of the trip.
We've been very fortunate throughout the trip that one of the Gents, Julian Gregory, is already well-acquainted with Japan – Tokyo in particular – so rather than adopting that mentality which large groups in unfamiliar cities find impossible to escape (trekking around in the wrong part of town for somewhere to go and ending up settling for the first, unexciting place they come across), we had our way in to the best places in town.
This included the Park Hyatt Hotel and its bar on the 52nd floor (without the Choristers at this stage it must be said..). It's not what you could call a 'hidden gem' as it's the bar which provides the backdrop to most of the hit film Lost in Translation. Still there were brilliant cocktails, incredible views over Tokyo and we've even left them a Gents business card in case they're after any performers at short notice in the next few days!
Opera City Concert Hall today and our final concert on Sunday in Suntory Hall, returning to sing there after a 12 year gap.