A lovely week in Vancouver

Miniature free style

Miniature free style

I spent the last week in Vancouver where the weather was a vast improvement over Edmonton’s winter conditions. On the coast, everything is green already, and spring flowers can be seen and even collected, to my great delight. I also had the pleasure of a long overdue visit with our daughter Julie, son-in-law Sean and granddaughter Alexandra as well as with our good friend Diana.

I was hoping to get in a few Ikebana lessons during the week and I was served well beyond my expectations by my teacher, Martha Banno Sensei, who saw me every day from Monday to Thursday, during which time we managed six study sessions.

On the first day we worked on a transformative shoka, starting with an isshuike (one material) arrangement of peach blossoms. For practice purposes, we changed the arrangement into a nishuike (2 materials) of peach blossoms and irises, and finally, worked the same shoka into a sanshuike (3 materials) of peach blossoms, irises and palm leaves. We finished the afternoon by arranging an isshuike of pussy willow.

Day two saw us working two special shokas known as denkas. In the morning I arranged a futakabu-ike,  a split shoka which, on this occasion, was composed of reeds on the one side and irises in the other.  In the afternoon I learned how to make a shochikubai shoka which is a special arrangement celebrating the New Year and only used for that occasion, but it needs to be practiced and this week was as good as any. The schoshikubai is composed of three materials, bamboo symbolizing integrity, plum blossoms for courage and pine for longevity.  This was the first time I ever used bamboo and it turned out to be a very exciting and dramatic material to arrange.

On Wednesday afternoon, after having reviewed the composition of various shokas, I created the miniature free style (jiyuka) pictured above. On Thursday morning I arranged and reviewed the composition of a rikka while in the afternoon I put together another jiyuka before bidding Sensei goodbye. It was an exciting and productive week.

JM Jiyuka 2


Hina Matsuri at the Edmonton Japanese Cultural Centre

The oldest collection at the EJCA (over 80 years old)

Hina Matsuri 2013 at the EJCALast Saturday, between my morning rehearsal and the evening concert of the Magic of Mozart, I took some time off to visit the dolls exhibit at the Edmonton Japanese Cultural Centre in celebration of Hina Matsuri, also known as the Doll’s Festival or Girls’ Day, which in Japan is celebrated on the 3rd of March. It is said, that traditionally, on a girl’s first Hina Matsuri, the parents or the grandparents would offer her a doll collection which every year would be exhibited as on the picture above. The dolls were set on a set of seven platforms covered in a rich red cloth. On the top tier would stand the Emperor and the Empress dressed in costumes of the Heian period. On the second platform you would find three court’s ladies and, beneath them, five musicians (3 drummers, 1 flutist and  1 singer). The fourth platform features two ministers, and in our example above, between them the hishimachi or diamond shape rice cake. On the fifth platform we find three servants or samurai, here flanked by a cherry tree on the left and a mandarin one on the right. On row six we have furniture and various household items, and on the seventh row the traditional ox-drawn cart.

The full set above is one of two sets owned by the ECJA. I am not sure of its provenance, but I have been told that it is over 80 years old. The second one is of a more recent vintage. In this day and age, it is unlikely that young girls will be offered such a collection for two reasons: it takes too much room and its cost is prohibitive (many thousands of dollars). If they are lucky, they will get imperial dolls that will then be in the family from generation to generation, an example to be found on the picture on the left. On the extreme left side of that picture is a fifty year old set of dolls proudly cherished to this day.

Our Mozart Concert


Most of this week is devoted to rehearsing our Mozart Concert to take place this Saturday evening. We have been working on this for nearly three months and this week alone is worth a full month of rehearsals. An exciting time to now be working with a full orchestra. I sing in the bass section which count fifteen singers; the choir reaches over 80 voices.

Our repertoire covers all of Mozart”s life, opening with God is my Refuge, composed at the age of nine during a sojourn in London, closing with Ave Verum from the last year of his life. We also sing four pieces from his last composition, the famous Requiem. He was only 35 when he died but what a monumental and brilliant life he lived. It is both exciting and humbling to be singing such work.

Flower time again


Two weeks ago, Edmonton had its annual Orchid Show. It is a rather small affair compared to the ones I have seen in Europe when we lived there, and particularly when compared to the biennial Florissimo held in Dijon, everything will appear to be small. Next year will likely be a larger event when it moves to the Hole’s Enjoy Centre, an exciting new venue in town. I did appreciate the brief time spent amongst orchids of all sorts and, as usual, I had to take at least one home, but not the one displayed above. It is nonetheless a lovely star orchid, kind of purplish-brown in colour. I was also looking forward to the flower arrangement portion of the annual exhibition, but there were only two entries which was somewhat of a let down. One of the arrangements was a gorgeous freestyle but it would have needed a better location, a space of its own, to be fully appreciated. It did, however, incite me to get into my own arrangements, and here we have it, flower time again.


When I was at my daughter France-Andrée’s, earlier this week, I rediscovered this beautiful boat vase carved especially for me by my golfing buddy and old friend Clarence Brown. Clarence has long since passed away but his precious gift is still with me. It was carved out of Canadian cedar according to drawings reproducing the Japanese Ikebana boat at rest, known as the tomaribune. The arrangement made in a tomaribune is a classical shoka, a special shoka called denka, one that is difficult to master due to a number of limitations. Very few flowers are suitable for this particular arrangement as they are to be tall and thin to fit within the confines of the boat. The iris laevigata is often used and it is absolutely gorgeous when the tall slender narcissus is used. In this case I settled for the daffodil, it might not be the ideal material but it provided me with good practice time. There you have it, my first Ikebana arrangement of the new year, my very own hatsuike.