The Arty Semite

Israel Philharmonic's Japanese Percussionist Reacts to London Protests

By Ronen Shnidman

  • Print
  • Share Share
Ronen Shnidman

It used to be that being boycotted wasn’t any fun. Having protesters wave placards outside your shop was a mark of shame that could be quite effective in forcing a change in policy.

But Palestinian Solidarity activists’ interruption of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s September 1 performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall seems to have seriously boomeranged. British media outlets such as the BBC — which broadcasted the event on radio until cutting the feed due repeated disruptions — described a frustrated audience of classical music lovers who supported the musicians and objected to the forced politicization of their night out. UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, who was in the audience that evening, wrote on Twitter during the performance that, “Demonstrators seem to have turned entire audience pro-Israel.”

To get a first-hand impression of the evening, The Arty Semite caught up with Mitsunori Kambe, a Japanese percussionist playing in the IPO, who described the experience as “musical theater.”

Kambe recounted sitting backstage during the orchestra’s first piece, Anton Webern’s “Passacaglia,” and hearing what sounded like a choir singing. He was surprised, since “Passacaglia” contains no choral section. After the end of the piece, a rousing ovation could be heard, which Kambe thought even more dumbfounding.

“Usually audiences don’t like that kind of music,” he explained. “It is more of a warm-up piece.”

Upon joining his colleagues onstage Kambe discovered that several groups of pro-Palestinian demonstrators had interrupted the performance. The demonstrators brandished Palestinians flags and shouted “Free Palestine” and “End the Occupation” during key moments in the music. The sound of people singing was in fact protesters singing anti-Israel lyrics set to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from the back of the concert hall. Online, the protesters dubbed the updated version of the classical masterpiece “Ode to Boycott.”

After several interruptions, audience members lost patience with the unsolicited evening of political theater. At the start of another round of shouting the crowd began responding “out, out, out!” and protesters were ejected by venue security staff. The frustrated crowd was so happy that they gave the musicians a rousing ovation.

Kambe estimated that there were about 100 protesters spread out in five or six groups, while other news reports counted approximately 30 demonstrators who were expelled from the concert hall.

During the interview, the Japanese percussionist was still slightly confused by the goal of the protest. “The people from the orchestra have no relation to politics,” Kambe said. “We don’t say anything [politically]; we don’t do anything [politically].” He added, “From a Japanese perspective, it is impossible for something like this to happen… This type of protest would never happen in Japan, especially for a classical orchestra.”

Several veteran IPO musicians told Kambe that it was the first time they could remember anything of this nature happening in the past 30 or 40 years. While protests outside IPO performances have been a routine occurrence, no one could remember demonstrators disrupting a performance inside the hall.

Regardless of their motives, Kambe appeared to be grateful to the protesters, as well as to his colleagues, for making his last tour with the IPO a memorable one.

“It was an interesting show for me,” Kambe said of the London performance. “I cannot forget this experience for my entire life. I really appreciate the Orchestra for [giving me] that.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ronen Shnidman, Music, Mitsunori Kambe, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Boycott, BDS

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.