Letter from Ralph Mace – Producer
I first met Hiro Fujikake in 1987 when I was director of classical music for RCA Records in London. This was shortly after he had won the composition prize at the prestigious Queen of the Belgian’s Music Competition and he came to my office to see if we would be interested in recording some of his serious music works. I explained to him that there was very little interest for contemporary music recordings at that time and asked what else he might have. So he played me a cassette of some of his light music pieces which he had recorded on his electric keyboards. The very first of these was The Enchanted Forest and after just a few bars my eyes lit up and I knew that I had found something very important.
Several years before, I had signed the wonderful flutist, James Galway, to RCA Records. The records we had made included several “cross over” albums, including “Annies Song” which was very successful and reached the tops of the pop charts in Europe and North America. We then recorded a few similar albums including “Songs of the Sea Shore – a collection of Japanese folk songs” which we recorded in Tokyo with a studio orchestra conducted by Maestro Hiroyuki Iwaki. Following these successes, Mr. Galway now had very many “middle of the road” fans all over the world who were still hoping for more similar repertoire from him, but this was becoming difficult to find.
Immediately I knew that these pieces by Hiro were perfect for James Galway. I sent him the cassette, he agreed with me and so we arranged to make a recording of Hiro’s pieces and arrangements during James’ concert tour of Japan in 1988.
We all met together in the Sound Valley Studios in Tokyo on March 13th, 1988. It was a slightly nervous meeting. James and Hiro had not met before and we had never recorded with an accompaniment solely of electronic keyboard instruments – all of which Hiro was to play. We set up the Roland synthesizers, put a pair of headphones on James’ head and played the first track for him. The mood in the studio quickly became warm and confident. James and Hiro worked happily together as two great musicians should, and the results can now be heard on the CD of The Enchanted Forest, which millions of people have enjoyed.
I soon found that Hiro was also a man of great charm and humour. At the end of the first day’s work he asked what I was going to do afterwards. I said that I would take a taxi back to my hotel. “I am going to the station and it is on the way to your hotel, can we share a taxi?” Of course we could. Just before we arrived at the station, Hiro suggested that I should join him for a meal at the station before he caught his train home. That seemed a good idea and we went into one of his favourite “noodle shops”. Everything in the restaurant was in Japanese, not a word in English, so I asked Hiro to order something for me. “Do you like noodles?” has asked. “Why not!” and the noodles soon appeared on the table. All this was quite an exciting and new experience for me, I carefully watched everything that Hiro did so that I could then do likewise. Hiro noticed this and as he filled his spoon with the delicious food he smiled at me and gave me a first lesson in Japanese table etiquette, “In Japan” he said, “it is good manners to make big noise when you eat noodles!” We have got on famously ever since.
The Enchanted Forest was a big success and a sequel was required and so we recorded The Lark In The Clear A ir in Sydney, Australia, in 1992 where james whas making a concert tour. This time we used traditional and classical repertoire which included an English folk song (the title track), and then ranged from the Albinoni Adagio, via Borodin (the beautiful Notturno from the String Quartet) and Shostakovich (the Romance from “The Gadfly”) to a most exotic arrangement for solo flute and synthesizers of Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres midi d’un faune. Again the album was a success and fully displays Hiro’s mastery as a performer and at arranging traditional repertoire so that it sounds as if the great composers, if alive today, would automatically have written for the Roland synthesizer’s. The only other musician I know who has a similar unique talent is Hiro’s compatriot, Isao Tomita, who I am also happy to count as one of my colleagues and friends.
For me, Hiro Fujikake has achieved his success in music through his skill as a performer and arranger and particularly for his great gift – something that has to be “God-given”, for it cannot be taught – of being able to create magical melodies which all can enjoy.
“Hiro, it is a privilege to know you.”