Concert ‘Ghibli Songs Tribute’ in Málaga – Summary

On Wednesday, May 22nd, the charity concert “Tributo Canciones Ghibli / Ghibli Songs Tribute”, in benefit of the schooling project for children in Nepal carried by the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, took place at the Sala Fundación Unicaja María Cristina in Malaga, Spain.


The concert offered a review of the best Studio Ghibli soundtracks and songs, commented by the expert author of Studio Ghibli books, Marta García Villar, with music arranged and performed by ‘Hey Listen! Music Band’, the pianist Magape, the singers Nuria Ortega and Marta Diéguez, and the choir Escolanía y Orfeón Preuniversitario de Málaga (the latter belonging to the Fundación Musical de Málaga) (read more).


Our collaborator Reme Diaz was present at the concert and bring us a special article as an exclusive for SoundTrackFest.

Concert ‘Ghibli Songs Tribute’ in Málaga - Summary


Happiness, according to Studio Ghibli

Vicente Ferrer used to say: ‘My happiness is everyone else’s happiness’. In a convoluted world with increasing dark forces, it’s almost mandatory being able to look at those who seek happiness and welfare for others.


We lived quite an example of this in the charity concert ‘Studio Ghibli Songs Tribute’, which was held in May 22th at the Sala Fundación Unicaja María Cristina venue in Málaga, to the benefit of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation (FVF) childhood project in Nepal. A sold-out event, with almost 370 seats filled with an emotional audience, sometimes cheery and joyful and sometimes in the verge of tears (of emotion).

Concert ‘Ghibli Songs Tribute’ in Málaga - Summary


After a delightful welcome video message from the girl Sita, a small group of FVF representatives took the stage. Among them was Shoma, once a sponsored child, today a grown woman, still working with the Foundation that changed her life years back. Reme Díaz, FVF volunteer from the Málaga delegation introduced the concert pointing at one of the keys for the evening, the dream of being children again through Studio Ghibli music and songs. Technical head in Andalucía, Extremadura, Ceuta and Melilla Christian Jongeneel fittingly related the ‘Castle in Heaven’ built more than 50 years ago in Anantapur (India) with Ghibli’s ‘Moving Castle’, to describe the FVF’s new path in Nepal. To wrap this introduction, Shoma told her own experience. It was a very moving speech, ever for Shoma herself, who barely could hold her tears back while the audience greeted her with their love.


The almost one hour and a half concert was programmed in five big blocks, leaving for once behind the more traditional, chronological Ghibli’s live setlist approach. Instead, the music we would enjoy that evening was scheduled thematically. That being said, the very first block ought to be ‘The first steps of Studio Ghibli’, opening with Nausicäa of the Valley of the Wind’s ‘Requiem’ and ‘Days Long Gone’, performed by the local choir school Escolanía y Coro Preuniversitario (sponsored by the Málaga Musical Foundation) and the pianist Magape. The 1984 film is considered to be the first to give birth the renowned Japanese animation studio.


The performance of ‘Requiem’, conducted by Mario Porras, was truly spectacular, also taking benefit of the venue’s formidable acoustics. Magape’s performance and arrangements for the whole concert were also outstanding. The setlist also had arrangements from pianist and singer Nuria Ortega and Mario Porras. One exception was The Tale of Princess Kaguya’s ‘Warabe Uta’ arrangement, which we’ll discuss later.

Concert ‘Ghibli Songs Tribute’ in Málaga - Summary


Nuria joined Magape and the choir for the second song, ‘Kimi O Nosete’ from The Castle in the Sky. Nuria’s voice and her ability to move the audience were the perfect ingredients to complete the choir, in a song which is truly a hymn for the legacy left by our ancestors.


The third piece was the instrumental version of ‘A Town With an Ocean View’ from Kiki’s Delivery Service, played by the Hey Listen! Music Band trio (pianist Magape, clarinetist Oliver and violinist Begoña). This song, with its always recognizable pizzicato, always gives an extra of optimism to any setlist. Coming up next, one of the most intimate moments of the evening: the cover version of ‘Le Temps de Cerises’ sung by Gina in the Adriano’s Hotel in 1992’ movie Porco Rosso. Nuria Ortega sat on the piano and gave us an elegant performance. This was the only non Japanese sung piece, as Nuria performed it in its original French version. Quite an achievement from all the performers in this concert, singing in other languages, and quite a treat for the audience too.


Once we recovered from the emotions we just lived, Studio Ghibli expert and writer Marta García Villar took the microphone to give context to the pieces we had just enjoyed, and also to the upcoming songs, selected to underline two concepts: nostalgia and childhood. Needless to say, the second block was dedicated to the songs which represent the playful, childish side of Studio Ghibli, ‘Sampo’ and ‘Tonari no Totoro’ from My Neighbour Totoro and ‘Gake No Ue No Ponyo’ from Ponyo On the Cliff By the Sea. In this segment, Magape and the choir were joined in the stage by a very special guest. The lovely 10-year-old singer Marta Diéguez just conquered the hearts of everyone in the room, also singing all pieces in Japanese. Maybe a new star was born that evening, given the loud and long applause the audience gave to the young performer. If we spoke about happiness at the beginning of this article, you can say that Marta’s smile and enthusiasm passed on to us.

Concert ‘Ghibli Songs Tribute’ in Málaga - Summary


The third block was built around Ghibli’s so-called masterpieces, those everyone knows and has seen at least once. After a new introduction by Marta García, we entered this gargantuan block through the instrumental theme ‘The legend of Ashitaka’ from The Princesss Mononoke (1997), performed by Hey Listen! Music Band. The sad and also epic feelings of this piece made the way to the main theme of the movie, ‘Mononoke Hime’, masterfully performed by Music Band, Nuria Ortega and the choir. The tragic notes of the song left the audience overflowed with emotions.


It was the time for the second masterpiece, the 2001 Academy Award winner Spirited Away. A true milestone for the Japanese studio, it was described by Marta as a journey into self-discovery and the values of effort, courage and compassion, all of them very kin to the goal of the event.


The importance of Spirited Away in Ghibli’s legacy was reflected in three representative songs: ‘One Summer’s Day’ in an instrumental version played by Hey Listen! Music Band, and ‘Futatabi’ and ‘Itsumo Nando Demo’ by singer Nuria Ortega and pianist Magape. Both female performers perfectly balanced the innocence and delicacy of childhood with the power of love and the spirit of brotherhood.


The masterpieces block was wrapped with a delightful instrumental cover version of Howl’s Moving Castle’s ‘Merry-Go-Round of Life’ by Hey Listen! Music Band. The audience waved their heads to the delicate waltz rhythm, in a soft and needed change of pace, as if we needed to lighten our spirits, just like the main character of the movie.


After another short video about the FVF Project in Nepal, we jumped into the fourth block, titled ‘The fate of Studio Ghibli. Beyond animé and Hayao Miyazaki’. At this point, we questioned our own legacy when we are on the top and who will pick it up from that moment on. Marta García presented three ways to reflect on that thought, with three productions which probably hadn’t been played live before. At least we can say these songs aren’t on the most played Ghibli live setlists.

Concert ‘Ghibli Songs Tribute’ in Málaga - Summary


The first way was ‘Teru’s Song’ from Goro Miyazaki’s Tales From Earthsea. A nostalgia-filled piece, just like we discussed before, with again a moving performance by Nuria Ortega, first a capella and then on piano. Maybe the movie was not a successful Ghibli production as expected, but this song, although unknown by many, left us breathless.


The next surprise was the song ‘Kokoro no Kakera’ from the videogame Ni No Kuni. The soundtrack for this RPG saga is composed by Joe Hisaishi, an all-time Ghibli collaborator. It was really unexpected, but we were deeply moved by the story of a little boy who wants to reunite with the spirit of his mom, through friendship, courage and bravery coming from his heart. Those ‘fragments of a broken heart’ sung by Nuria and played with great energy by pianist Magape were truly one of the highlights of the concert. Magape’s arrangements and colossal talent really stood out in our opinion, especially with a not very known piece.


To end this block, we traveled to The Secret World of Arriety with ‘Arriety’s Song’. This movie was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, a serious contender for Miyazaki’s succession, if it had not gone to create his own Company, Studio Ponoc. The soundtrack was composed by Cécile Corbet, the first time it was written outside Japan. The passionate and also elegant performance of Nuria on piano and vocals was another magical moment of the concert.


Obviously, the last block was about goodbyes. In 2013, The Wind Rises was supposed to be Miyazaki’s last movie. The song “Hikouki Gumo” left behind the smoke trails of the work of a lifetime or, as Marta García pointed out, a premature death, a lonely walk, rising to the high in the sky, a whisper lost in the wind. Nuria Ortega translated those words into feelings with an intense rendition of Yumi Arai’s original song from 1973, with Magape on piano.


A very sad goodbye was the death of Isao Takahata. The cofounder with Miyazaki and Yoshio Suzuki of Studio Ghibli passed away in 2018, after giving us his last movie ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’, a testament of his genius, so different from Miyazaki. It’s also rare having pieces from Takahata movies in Ghibli’s concerts, mostly focus on the work of Hisaishi for Miyazaki’s movies. This was also the first and last collaboration between Takahata and Joe Hisaishi. A marvelous soundtrack with Eastern figures, from which we could enjoy two pieces. The instrumental and minimalistic ‘Supple Bamboo’ played by Nuria Ortega and ‘Warabe no Uta’ (arranged by Josu Elberdin). The latter is a nursery rhyme with the special involvement of the choir above the piano melody from Magape, which turned into a sad goodbye through Nuria’s sober performance, again a capela, again leaving is stuck in our seats. At the end of the piece, a big, startling silence was followed by a great ovation.


Before the end, a short pause (definitely shorter than the pause Miyazaki took before making his latest movie). The FVF delegated handed diplomas to acknowledge the artists for their generous and altruistic contribution to this magical evening. Aitana Hernández (aka ‘Art of Hyukiee’), the artist behind the brand image of the concert and local volunteer Reme Díaz were also greeted by the FVF delegation.


The perfect way to wrap up the concert was the premiere of the awarded new movie by Hayao Miyazaki, ‘The Boy and The Heron’. All performers except Marta Diéguez and the Escolanía took the stage to treat us with an amazing version of ‘Chikyuugi’ by Kenshi Yonezu. After that, a standing ovation for everyone who made possible this emotional journey through the songs and music from Studio Ghibli.

Concert ‘Ghibli Songs Tribute’ in Málaga - Summary


This enthusiasm for all things Studio Ghibli, shared by everyone who gave their talent for this charity event, knowing everything was held for a good cause, filled everyone’s hearts with joy and all kind of emotions. Despite everything, just as Vicente Ferrer once said, ‘everyone has in our hearts a strength that pushes us to help someone”. And if it is through music, even better.



Article by Reme Díaz

Pictures by Sergio Sánchez & Nany Lavado