Michael Djupstrom: Songs of Spring (2016)
Songs of Spring was written on a request from the National Cherry Blossom Festival for a celebratory work to be included among the music performed at the 2016 festival’s opening ceremony. I first intended the work to be a kind of fantasy upon the well-known Japanese folk song “Sakura, Sakura,” which invites the listener to observe the beautiful cherry blossoms that bloom each spring and which are the festival’s namesake. In researching the melody, however, I was delighted to discover the great richness of Japan’s folk song heritage, and as a result, I decided to weave a number of traditional melodies into my piece, creating a lively, varied musical tapestry. At its center, however, still stands the elegant "Sakura, Sakura," which receives the most elaborate treatment of any of the songs.
Mamiko Hirai: Portraits of Sakura - Our Memories of Bloom (2017)
Portraits of Sakura - Our Memories of Bloom was composed with a visualization of the ebb and flow of the changing weather during the start of spring; it is an illustration of the complex changes that occur from one season to the next. With consideration of the vast history of the cherry blossom tree and its international influence, the tree’s beauty in its surrounding environment is portrayed. The melody and notes are the palette of the tree’s budding, peak bloom, and falling petals, along with the many memories that are formed from viewers of its temporary and breathtaking display. The motif and main melody of the traditional Japanese folk song "Sakura, Sakura" was incorporated to develop a tone that reflects the common recollection of experiences we all hold dear.
Kunihiko Murai: Sakura on the Potomac (2018), Arr. by Christian Jacob
Many people may not realize this, but cold weather is necessary for the flowering of beautiful cherry blossoms in spring. In fact, it is the very coldness of winter that prepares the cherry trees to bloom. Flowering is delayed when winter is too warm.
In this piece, the harsh winter cold is expressed in a minor melody, while the major melody gives voice to the joy of flowering. But, it is important to remember that this joy is actually contained in the severe winter cold, which is why the main melody of this song is in the minor key. From the middle of the song, you will hear the traditional Japanese melody, “Sakura, Sakura”, from afar. Sakura is the song for cherry blossoms. The minor theme is then intertwined and played at the same time as this traditional melody, until the song concludes with the major melody, to rejoice in the flowering season.
Translated to English by Peter Levitt.
Clancy Newman: Cherry Blossom Fantasy (2019)
When I first heard the folk song "Sakura, Sakura", I was struck by the tension between the words and melody. Take away the melody, and the words are full of joy; take away the words, and the melody sounds full of sorrow. Why is this? Perhaps it is a reflection of the fleeting nature of life, as represented by the cherry blossoms: inexpressibly beautiful, but all-too-short.
Of course, in writing for a piano quintet, I could not use words. So the task before me was to convey the full range of emotion inspired by the sakura - from joy to sorrow and everything in between - through melody alone.