Chiho Sunamoto (14/03/1959 - 12/11/2018)
Chiho moved to the UK in the late 1980s and quickly became an integral part of the nation's music scene, always lighting up every stage with her fun, vivacious nature and superb music. Together with organist Jon Smith, who she married, they played countless concerts, always regarded as amongst the best heard. She passed away far too soon. Here we remember her musical life...
Chiho Sunamoto was described as the Vanessa Mae of the organ and keyboard world, bringing a breath of fresh air onto the keyboard scene. Originally from Matsuyama, in the South of Japan, Chiho began by learning the piano at the age of 3, from there progressing at the age of 9 to the local Yamaha Music School to learn the art of organ playing. During Chiho's time at St. Katerina University, where she studied opera singing, piano and classical organ, she became one of the youngest people to pass Yamaha's top exam, Grade 3 Music Diploma.
Twice Chiho was a finalist in the Yamaha Electone (organ) Festival, which led to offers of work from Yamaha as an overseas demonstrator and contracts with two of Japan's major TV stations where she composed and performed for a variety of shows.
After leaving University, Chiho continued to tour as an overseas demonstrator for Yamaha, performing in 42 countries. In 1986 she settled in the North East of England and continued to perform both nationally and internationally. Alongside her concert appearances, she taught organ and piano, and remains the only female in Europe to hold Yamaha top exam passes in Piano, Organ and Music Fundamentals. She was often called upon to judge international music competitions.
Since being based in the UK, Chiho released 10 CDs, 9 cassettes and a video featuring a range of music. She also released several software discs and music books for Yamaha.
Notable public performances include:-
Edinburgh Festival, Becks Theatre London, Blackpool Tower Centenary concert broadcast live on Radio 2, the Bridgewater Hall Manchester, and the Fairfield Hall, Croydon. She enjoyed being featured in the Channel 4 TV documentary series about the organ, entitled "Howard Goodall's Organ Works".
Chiho played the latest top of the range, state of the art, all singing, all dancing electronic Yamaha Organs and Clavinovas, that one minute sounded like the Berlin Philharmonic and the next like Deep Purple. She sangs like an angel and had a smile that would melt Mount Fuji! Her love of music and performing, combined with her sunny personality, guaranteed that anyone attending one of her performances would have an enjoyable time. Her diverse musical tastes included classical composers through Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff to Frank Sinatra, ensured there was always something for everyone in her performances.
She is much missed.
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