Like cherry blossoms that brighten our world in the spring, the Sakura Chorus brings whimsical warmth to delight the ears of those who emerge to enjoy life. With perfect three-part harmony, their sweet and mellow voices blend in song accompanied by piano. The word Sakura actually means “Cherry Blossom” in Japanese. Cherry blossoms fall from the tree and, sadly, the Sakura Chorus will be gone after this concert.
The Sakura Chorus is the only Japanese American chorus group on Long Island. It was founded in 1982 by Ms. Kouno Okamoto in Great Neck and practiced at the library there until moving their rehearsals to the sanctuary of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Port Washington several years ago. After forty thriving years, their final concert will be held on Sunday, June 18.
There was a large influx of Japanese families into Long Island in the 1970s and 1980s due to the rapid economic growth of Japan. Several large companies including Canon and Nikon established facilities on Long Island and the transferred families settled nearby. Like expatriates everywhere, there was an urge to join together with others of the same heritage. For the Japanese women especially, this was a way to make new friends and to enjoy some of the traditional activities of their culture such as flower arranging, tea ceremonies, and singing in a Sakura chorus. At one point there were nearly fifty members of the Long Island Sakura Chorus. They actively promoted Japanese culture by performing a yearly concert and performing for the students at the Saturday Japanese School held at Weber Middle School in Port Washington.
The nature of company transfers meant that one member might move away after five, ten, or possibly fifteen years here. Thus, there were many hellos and goodbyes as new members were welcomed and departing members went back to Japan or other locations. Eventually, their numbers diminished. The few remaining members have decided that they can no longer sustain the group and will disband on June 18th following this concert.
The conductor of the concert will be Yuko Tsuda, with Rikako Asanuma as the pianist. The program includes nine songs in the Japanese language along with three German songs, two Italian songs, and Time to Say Goodbye in English.
All are invited to this free concert at The Lutheran Church of Our Savior, 12 Franklin Ave., Port Washington, NY. 516-767-0603. The doors open at 3:00 p.m. with the concert beginning at 3:30 p.m. Free parking is available on the street as well as at the train station lot on Haven Avenue.
Shakespeare wrote, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” but our sorrow is that the sweet voices of the Sakura Chorus are parting.
—Written by Janice Crawford