More than 30 years after the film was released, Michio Mamiya’s music for the film was performed by an orchestra, recitation, and screening. The report on the premiere performance of the “Musical Poem: Grave of the Fireflies​”.

In 1988, I clearly remember even now that My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies were shown together when I was a lower elementary student. Even though I did not recognize both films were produced by the Studio Ghibli at that time, a warm story of Totoro, Satsuki, and Mei coexisting in the same natural environment, produced by the director, Hayao Miyazaki, a desperate survival life of Seita and Setsuko, and the name of the director Isao Takahata were inscribed deeply in my mind then.

Although I have seen Grave of the Fireflies tens of times, it was quite late that I knew the composer of the original score was Michio Mamiya. On September 17th, I went to the Hyogo Performing Arts Center, since I heard a theater performance of “Musical Poem: Grave of the Fireflies” was to be put on the stage at the Nishinomiya city of Hyogo Pref., where the original story came from.

The Grave of the Fireflies is based on the short story written by Akiyuki Nosaka and the story describes younger sister Setusko’s death in a horizontal air raid shelter about a week after the end of the war and ends with the tragic death of the brother Seita at Sannomiya Stations in Kobe a month after his sister’s death. This abstract follows the sad original but to my strangeness, I always find some hope every time I see the film. I could not get to the bottom of this feeling until now, but I am convinced that one of the reasons is Mamiya’s music.

Mamiya’s film score gives a sad impression but not a desperate one. According to him, he was requested not to lead music to too gloomy mood by Takahata. Actually, the director tries to illustrate Setsuko’s innocent gestures in the film although she is involved in difficult situations. To avoid the story from being too gloomy, the music functions as a stone weight. Generally speaking, the score music of Studio Ghibli is known as the composer, Joe Hisaishi for the director, Miyazaki. However, Mamiya for Takahata also can be appraised as the same.

For this stage performance, a voice actor and actress, Show Hayami, Yui Ishikawa, and a freelance caster, Izumi Maruoka were the reciters. A soprano singer Hiroko Kouda sang “Hanyu no Yado (Home, Sweet Home)” which is inserted in the film. Each personnel played an important role in realizing the visions of “Grave of the Fireflies”. And after all, Hyogo PAC Orchestra conducted by Kosuke Yamashita contributed a lot.

The orchestra has been working with the world-known conductor Yutaka Sado for a long time. Especially with him, the annual opera program has been highly appraised and expected. Their experience through the opera programs gave a sufficient background to this “musical poem” to express the subtleness of joy, anger, sadness, and happiness. The quiet and calm arrangement by Yamashita was in harmony with the visions of the film.

Before Grave of the Fireflies, the compositions by Mamiya – a documentary film music of Japan World Expo for Osaka Expo 70 and O.S.T. for the animation film Horus: Prince of the Sun that marked the first collaboration of Takahata and Mamiya – were performed. And also Kouda sang “Hilda’s Lullaby”. These compositions were hardly performed so the program gave me a very good chance to understand the high level of contemporary music of Japan. Yes, music composed for the theaters and films by Mamiya, is a precious asset for Japan.