Questions & Answers: Yoshiko Tsurutu

Musician Yoshiko Tsurutu sets up her marimba at St Paul's Cathedral yesterday for her Arts...
Musician Yoshiko Tsurutu sets up her marimba at St Paul's Cathedral yesterday for her Arts Festival Dunedin performance today. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Marimba Duo

Q What is a marimba?

It's like a xylophone and it's 3m long with wooden keys. It's the biggest of the keyboard percussion instruments. My marimba has the widest octave range in New Zealand.

Q When did you start learning to play the marimba?

When I was 9 years old in Japan. I came to New Zealand in 2004 and realised there was no dedicated marimba player and there are a lot in Japan. I decided to specialise in marimba because nobody else was, but there was no market for it, so I'm trying to create a market by promoting the great instrument.

Q Is it difficult to play?

You really have to move to play it. It's long so you can't reach keys on either side from the same spot - it's fun and exciting.

Q Is it easy to set up?

It's very physical. It takes two hours to set up the instrument and it's so heavy we have to drive the marimba between concerts. You have to set up the night before a performance, otherwise your hands are too tired to play.

Q Can you transport it on a plane?

They are too heavy to fly with. My marimba weighs more than 150kg and [fellow percussionist] Jeremy Fitzsimons' marimba weighs more than 300kg, so we drove a van from Wellington.

Q How long have you been in the duo?

I met Jeremy in 2007 when he was my teacher at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington. I'd always wanted to play with him but I left to live in Austria for two years to study my masters and now finally I can play with him.

Q Have you played a marimba in a church before?

Yes, the acoustics help a lot. A place with high ceilings is a very good place to play.

Marimba Duo is on at St Paul's Cathedral at 1pm today.

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