The whole world is speaking of a “warm winter” this year. Hokkaido is not the exception, and many snow or ice statues were exposed to the rain. The 29th Chitose Shikotsu Ice Festival, however, reproduced the fantastic world of Lake Shikotsu’s mystery this year as well, with ice buildings created by squirting water from the lake, and gathered lots of visitors. From February 14th to 17th, an artist from Norway, Terje Isungset and his party visited the festival site. They created musical instruments with ice for 2 days, and held the first “Ice Concert” in Japan.


Terje Isungset is a percussionist taking an active part in Europe, based on his musical experience of Jazz and Scandinavian music for more than 20 years. In a book called “Percussion Profile”, he is selected as one of the 25 most creative percussionists in the world, and gathering public attentions with the uniqueness of his poetic and simple sound making, using Norwegian wood, stone, sheep’s bell, and ice as an instrument.

Also, Arve Henriksen who collaborated with Terje in this concert is a trumpet player from Norway as well. He graduated from music department of the Trondheim University, and started his career in 1989. His musical talent was highly valued, and in 2004, he was selected as one of the represents of Norwegian Jazz’s new generation.


The second and the last day of their concert, before sunset, Terje and Arve were doing deliberate sound check together with a dependable engineer around the special stage at the festival site. “The concert last night went very well. But today, some of the instruments were broken by the sun in the daytime. The hardest thing is to control the condition.” They were shaving ice sticks to control its sound, taking very special microphones on ice in minute detail and covering ice faces to avoid one of archenemies, wind, while giving some parts of ice instruments, which cannot be used anymore, to the kids sometimes running up to them.


The most delicate concert which would be cancelled when wind blows, was really quiet. Or rather, had to be quiet. Right before the concert started, staffs with a “Be quiet please” board were running around the venue, and the notice was announced in broader area. Around the stage with the special microphones which “even captures the rustle when you put off your gloves”, people were restricted just as well on using mobiles as on moving for 40 minutes of the concert time. The audience with basted breath prepared for the sound of ice, which would be played for the first time in Japan.


The concert started with the deep and lowly beats from Terje’s feet. Arve’s high note voice and ice trumpet responded to it, and they created fantastic 40 minutes in collaboration with beautiful lighting on the clear stage and the audience as participants.


At the beginning, I focused on Terje’s percussion technique, but the performance itself was very simple, which was good. It naturally rode on the strength of the whole atmosphere and various kinds of delicate sounds of ice. Unexpected deep sound of ice drum was impressive.

All the musical instruments from the trumpet to the bass drum were made by ice except mouthpiece. It is said they do the concert at temperature below minus 30 degrees C in Norway, and the lower temperature it is, the better sound can be made. In the Shikotsu’s winter of this year which might be too warm for them, though only the concert was made which can be only actualized under this condition of this moment.
“This performance is not to show, but to create together with the audience and environment.” I think this is the thing to be said for all moments of all live performances, but this was the concert most quietly emphasizing it with the delicate sound the winter’s nature produced.

Date: Musical Instruments Production / February 14th, 15th, 2007
Concert: February 16th, 17th, 2007 19:00-
Place: The 29th Chitose Shikotsu Ice Festival Special Stage
Hosted by: Shikotsu City Organization Neo Stage
Sponsored by: The Royal Norwegian Embassy, Chitose City, Chitose Education Board
Supported by: Shikotsu Festival Executive Committee, Office Ohsawa
Artist: Terje Isungset / Arve Henriksen

Text: Yurie Hatano
Photos: Hiroshi Kotake

[Help wanted] Inviting volunteer staff / pro bono for contribution and translation. Please e-mail to us.