In preparation: Bells of Paradise, Ballet after a Japanese Fairy Tale, op. 95

To be composed for wind orchestra Sint Jan, Wierden and their conductor Egbert van Groningen, in collaboration dancers from the  Vooropleiding Theaterdans Kottenpark and the talent class Kaliber Kunstenschool in Almelo, the Netherlands, both under the guidance of Nada Belada. This is the preliminary scenario (there may be alterations during the process of composing):

  1. Overture
    In a small town by the sea, an old monk once lived at his temple. He loved sitting on the porch and looking out over the sea. But in order not to feel alone, he had attached a set of silver wind chimes to the roof over the porch. It hung on a broad strip of paper with a beautiful poem written on it. As soon as the wind blew even just a little – and near the sea it was constantly blowing – the paper moved, and the silver bells rang sweetly. The old monk sat on the porch, looking out at the ocean, listening to its ringing, and smiled contentedly.
  2. Mohej

    In the same town also lived the pharmacist Mohej. Unbeknownst to him, he was plagued by three mononoke [1], invisible vengeful spirits or ghosts that curse people until they get sick or die. This caused him to feel depressed and ill all the time. He was so sad that he did not know what to do.

  3. Mohej’s Journeys
    In his distress, he one day sets off to the monk to ask his advice; his mononoke accompanying him.

  4. The Request
    But when he saw the old man seated so contentedly on his porch and heard the soothing ringing of the silver bells, he realized in a split second that these little bells would make him happy as well if he could sit there and listen to them. And indeed the demons hated the sound of the chimes. Mohej did not hesitate and asked the monk to give him the bells for at least one single day. “Why should not I lend them to you,” said the monk gently. “But do not forget to bring them back tomorrow morning, because without the bells I might become depressed myself.” Mohej thanked him reverently and promised to come back the next day.

  5. Mohej’s Return Home
    Mohej went home with the bells, full of impatience. His mononoke followed him at a distance.
  6. First Dance of Lightness
    As soon as he arrived home, he hung the little chimes over the porch. They began to ring, and Mohej became so light-hearted, and the world suddenly seemed so beautiful that he began to dance. And indeed, the demons were now definitely chased away by the sound of the bells.
  7. The Monk’s Impatience
    The next day the monk was in a bad mood already from the morning. Again and again he went to the temple and looked for the pharmacist. But Mohej did not come. One of the vengeful and frustrated mononoke, though, now found the old monk and out of spite now focused his cursing on him, causing him to start felling of depressed and unwell. An hour passed and another one…
  8. Taro is Called
    When at midday the apothecary still hadn’t appeared with the little gong, the monk called his little disciple Taro and ordered him: “Go into the city to the pharmacist Mohej. Yesterday, he borrowed my silver bells and he should have brought them back this morning. Please remind him and tell him I am waiting for him impatiently.”
  9. Taro’s Errand
    Taro went to the apothecary.
  10. Second Dance of Lightness
    As soon as he entered his garden he stopped. He heard the happy ringing of the bells and saw the apothecary dancing around in the garden with sleeves and laps flying in the air. Taro did not know how to address him. All at once he became so happy that he, too, began to dance.
  11. The Monk’s Sadness
    An hour passed, a second – the pharmacist still hadn’t arrived, and Taro did not return either. The old monk shook his head, and he grew sadder and sadder. Even more so, as a second mononoke now found him and stayed around him, too.
  12. Jiro is Called
    Finally, he called his second disciple, Jiro, and ordered him, “Go to the pharmacist Mohej and tell him to give me back my silver bells. And if you meet Taro on the way, tell him to be ashamed of not obeying his teacher.”
  13. Jiro’s Errand
    Jiro ran as fast as he could.
  14. Third Dance of Lightness
    When he came to the apothecary’s house he heard a happy ringing and, to his astonishment, he saw the apothecary and Taro dancing in the garden. And even before he could decide whether he should first reprimand Taro for his neglect or warn the pharmacist to return the gong, he too turned around in circles and forgot the world.
  15. The Monk’s Desperation
    Yet another hour had passed and soon yet a second one. The sun was already leaning towards the horizon. But neither the pharmacist nor any of the two students showed up. The old monk was at a loss to explain this to himself. Since also the third mononoke had found him in the meantime, he had become sad as he had never been before. Finally he could not stand it anymore.
  16. The Monk’s Journey
    He put on his sandals and went on his way to the pharmacist’s home himself; of course surrounded by the invisible mononoke.
  17. The Monk’s Transformation
    Even before he stepped into the garden, he heard the soft ringing of his beloved wind chimes and happy laughter. And the next moment he saw the pharmacist and his two students holding hands. They were dancing, to the left and then again to the right, and a blissful smile lay on their faces. The mononoke panicked and fled. The monk shook his head and did not quite know how to explain what happened. But he did not wonder long. Suddenly all sadness vanished, his feet began to hop on their own, the monk smiled at the apothecary, handed one hand to Taro and the other to Jiro, and then all four of them were dancing.
  18. Finale: General Dance
    The corps de ballet joins. General dance of lightness and happiness.

[1] Spirits in Japanese classical literature and folk religion that are said to do things like possess individuals and make them suffer, cause disease, or even death.