Solo piano in Taiwan (part 1 of 2)
Just got back from an exciting few days on my first visit to Taiwan. My ties with Taiwan are fairly strong historically: my mother’s father was a diplomat originally from Mainland China (he served as China's first Ambassador to Canada in 1942), but after the Communists took over in 1949 ended up representing Nationalist China in the United Nations Trusteeship Council and later also served as Ambassador to Mexico. But this was actually my first trip to this beautiful and welcoming country (though I’ve been of late inching ever-closer to the place of my mother’s birth, mainland China, with recent performances in South Korea, my 6th trip to Japan, and earlier performance in Hong Kong, so the general region is definitely becoming increasingly familiar)…
The entire affair was organized by a presenter named Hung Chia-Hung and his girlfriend Josephine, and they did an admirable job of promoting this premiere event of their company Rigel Arts.
One of the first things I did once getting there, in fact, was to attend a press conference they had put together, at which I also played a couple of pieces for the invited press. Sure enough, by first thing the next morning, the day of the concert, there were pictures of me in all three main daily newspapers, and by that evening the 900 seat auditorium at which the concert was to take place was almost completely sold out (also conspicuous, as evidenced in some of the photos below, were large posters of me put up all over town - a bit strange to see my image everywhere bu it definitely got the word out :-))
I had also been approached quite a while ago about performing and/or recording with a great native Taiwanese violinist Chi-pin Hsieh (who plays regularly in a fantastic violin/piano duo with his wife, pianist Kaiya Chang), and so I was pleased to finally meet him and perform with him as my special guest as part of the concert.
Rehearsing with Chi-pin in preparation for evening’s concert
At the beginning of the 2nd set, Chi-pin, with whom I had first rehearsed only earlier that afternoon, joined me on stage for our own personal (and often manic!) takes on Monk’s “Well You Needn’t”, as well as “Just Friends” and a fast blues composition of Chipin’s entitled “Green Tunnel”. From our first notes we truly spoke the same language and ultimately had a wonderful time interacting at-the-moment with each other and really pushing the proceedings musically. It was truly a memorable experience (and one that may perhaps make it onto CD in the future), and I was humbled by the enthusiasm of the audience. Afterwards they even lined up for CD signings in droves (against a backdrop of those omnipresent posters again!) and I was treated to a reception right at the concert hall location sponsored by the Canadian Trade office, complete with a welcoming Canadian flag hung up for good measure.
The next day, I presented a master class at the university at which Chipin and Kaiya teach, with much help from them not only on their respective instruments (at one point, all three of us jammed together on two pianos/violin, plus a keen and talented saxophonist student from the audience..)…The entire event was translated as we went along into Chinese (which gave me the unusual opportunity of having actual time to ponder and ultimately consider adding to or amending what I just said as Chipin or Kaiya busily translated!) The audience was keen, and the initial 2 hours planned for the workshop eventually stretched into 3 and a half hours, once we started taking their eager questions towards the end.