NAGASAKI – Chansonnier Kazumichi Terai has been directing a choir of Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors for more than a decade, hoping to convey their wishes for global peace and a nuclear-free world.
The 66-year-old native of Nagasaki helped found the Himawari (Sunflower) choir in 2004 and has since engaged in training and songwriting for it.
The average age of the estimated 50 members is 77, and while acknowledging that some may find it difficult to memorize the words or sing loud enough, Terai said, “There are things that can only be told by survivors themselves.
“Many of the members hardly talked to others about their experiences and had not taken part in any anti-war campaigning before, but they were stimulated by my songs and started advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons,” he said.
The choir, based in the city, has performed on Aug. 9 every year since 2010 at the annual ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Nagasaki atomic bombing in 1945.
The group performed in New York in April, its first overseas performance, and is scheduled to perform for Pope Francis at the Vatican on Oct. 21.
The members are set to sing one of their signature pieces, “Mo Nidoto” (“Never Again”), written and composed by Terai.
The choir is set to leave Japan on Oct. 20 and will also perform in churches and museums in Germany during the trip through Oct. 27.
Yoshiko Hirahara, the 86-year-old choir leader, said, “We will sing so people around the world will understand our hope” to eliminate nuclear weapons and achieve world peace.
Terai became enthralled by chanson while studying French at Sophia University in Tokyo.
In 1979, he met atomic bombing survivors as a TV reporter in Nagasaki and their stories shocked him, compelling him to compose a song on the sorrow of the city titled “Urakami,” after the name of the district at the hypocenter of the blast.
“That song was the origin of my career as a musician,” said Terai, who has since composed 1,000 pieces on the tragedy.