Playing for caregivers of autistic people

Pianist Noriko Ogawa has organised concerts that take place in the day and serve tea and biscuits afterwards for caregivers of those with autism. However, her concert here on Saturday is a regular one.
Pianist Noriko Ogawa has organised concerts that take place in the day and serve tea and biscuits afterwards for caregivers of those with autism. However, her concert here on Saturday is a regular one.PHOTO: SATORU MITSUTA

When Japanese classical pianist Noriko Ogawa moved to London in 1988, she lived with a kindly musician couple who later gave birth to an autistic son, Jamie.

Witnessing the challenges they faced taking care of him spurred her on to come up with customised concerts designed for caregivers of autistic people.

"I am not a doctor, nurse or teacher. All I can do is play concerts, so I decided to organise what I call Jamie's Concerts," the 54-year-old says in an e-mail interview ahead of her performance here on Saturday.

"These families lead stressful lives, so they can't go to concerts at the usual timings. My concerts are tailored to their lifestyles. They happen in the day during the week and we serve tea and biscuits and chat after the concert."

There have been 14 Jamie's Concerts held in Japan so far and about five such concerts held every year in the United Kingdom. They have become a research topic at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where she teaches.

While she does not pass up the possibility of doing a Jamie's concert here in the future, the pianist and classical music teacher is in Singapore to perform an evening of works by Mozart, Chopin and her favourite composer, Debussy.

  • BOOK IT/AN EVENING OF FIREWORKS

  • WHERE: Victoria Concert Hall

    WHEN: Saturday, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $48 to $88 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    BOOK IT/LECTURE RECITAL BY NORIKO OGAWA

    WHERE: Steinway Gallery, 390 Orchard Road, Palais Renaissance, 01-01A

    WHEN: April 1, 6.30pm

    ADMISSION: $60 (call 6717-6087 )

"When I was a child, I saw a piano recital by Andre Watts, an American pianist, playing Debussy on TV. I couldn't believe how beautiful it was," she says.

Ogawa is no stranger to Singapore, having performed several times here with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. She has also recorded works by Russian composer Alexander Tcherepnin with the orchestra.

She will also conduct a lecture recital and masterclass on her trip here. "At the lecture, I'll talk about what it is like to be a professional pianist. I will also talk about what it's like to enter competitions, how they work and what young pianists can get out of them," she says.

Ogawa is married to fellow classical pianist Philip Smith, who is 58. The couple do not have children. She now splits her time between London and Tokyo, travelling 10 to 15 times a year.

She says: "I spend so many hours on airplanes that flying doesn't make me nervous anymore. Living in two cities is great, but I always feel like my belongings are at the wrong end. I am forever looking for my CDs, clothes, books and little things."

She is also a jurist who adjudicates in international music competitions such as the BBC Young Musician Of The Year Competition.

"I am trying to catch up with things all the time. Teaching takes many hours, but I love forming a rapport with young pianists. I learn so much," she says.

"I was brought up in a highly competitive environment when I was a child. But now, I've come to realise, musicians cannot live alone, we should collaborate. I am so lucky to be surrounded by wonderful pianist friends."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Playing for caregivers of autistic people'. Print Edition | Subscribe