Culture Writer Zainab Rao attends the Candlelight tribute to Joe Hisaishi and finds the show to be magnificent in its own right

Written by Zainab Rao
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This candlelight concert was the perfect way to start December. After a long week of lectures, studying and work, I headed over to St Paul’s Church to enjoy an evening of orchestral covers of Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi’s works. Hisaishi is a world-renown composer of over 100 film scores, perhaps most known for his Studio Ghibli creations for movie classics such as My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). These covers were performed by the Sekine Quartet, each of whom are inspiringly talented in their own right.

The brief overview to each piece prior to the performance was incredibly useful, as I admittedly wasn’t familiar with some of the movie scores featured, such as Whisper of the Heart (1995) or Princess Mononoke (1997). Regardless of your familiarity with Studio Ghibli, these were performances that could be enjoyed in their own right. The vivacity of the Sekine Quartet’s instruments ensured that you could feel the tone and emotion of the scene that Hisaishi was trying to convey. Despite not fully knowing the plot to some of these movies, I felt as though I had been transported into the action of story.

My favourite rendition had to be the covers from My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away, which produced a series of emotions; nostalgia, joy and excitement to name just a few. There was such a warmth and enjoyment to listening to listening to such childhood classics, even more so live. This was my first time attending an orchestral event and so this exceeded so many of my already high expectations. I didn’t expect to feel so moved listening to songs that I’ve heard time and time again.

My favourite rendition had to be the covers from My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away

The choice of venue elevated the atmosphere to another level. Set in St Paul’s Church, surrounded by stain-glass windows, flickering candles and the magnificent structural architecture of the Church, this certainly felt like a divine experience. The high-ceilings complemented the acoustics of the quartet. Everything flowed so seamlessly, I can only commend the team behind the scene who perfectly chose this venue to match the music.

Due to train delays, I had arrived a few minutes late, so unfortunately, I had to sit towards the back. This combined with my height, meant my vision of the candles and the quartet was somewhat obscured. Though it meant that I could not soak in the entire visual impact, I was still utterly mesmerised by the magical auditory experience. There were moments where I had to close my eyes and allow my mind to unravel and relax, just enjoying the different layers of the instruments working together to create something I can only describe as utterly magical.

The relaxing nature of this event meant that time slipped away. I was so surprised when it was announced that we were on the penultimate performance. It was disappointing having to leave, especially since I finished the session feeling so light and happy that I could have listened to the Sekine Quartet for hours longer. Whilst I can’t replicate this wondrous experience using my earphones and Spotify, I am sure that I will be playing Hisaishi’s works on repeat for a while.

The choice of venue elevated the atmosphere to another level

Overall, this was a spectacular event. With prices ranging from roughly £15 to £40 depending on the seat, venue, and tribute, the candlelight concert experience really is a perfect present for a birthday, festive celebration or just as a treat to help yourself unwind. I for one will definitely be checking out the many other different tributes Fever has to offer. This is such a wonderful idea and is a great way to feel like you’re ending the evening with a bit of luxury. To anyone who wants to try something a bit different, I recommend giving one of the candlelight concerts a go!

Rating: 5/5

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