Confucius said Imagination is better than knowledge.
If you think the people living in Taiwan and craving some cultural activities are stuck with drumming and dragon dancing, think again.
October was a month in which I fed my craving for all things beautiful and I had loads to choose from. In this month I saw some world class performances all within 36 km of my home. My personal art and music festival started with The Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra from New York. Conductor Milen Nachev led this orchestra in performing a variety of pieces which included Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Sarasate as well as music by Asian composers like Yu Deng, Jing Xian, Yunyi Tan. It was interesting and refreshing to hear the classics with new sounds brought by the Asian instrument, the erhu.
Next was Lars-Thomas Holm of Norway conducting the Counterpoint Ensemble of Taiwan in a performance called The Sound of Fire and Ice at the Chimei Museum. While the audience was still asking for an encore I had to rush out to get to the opening ceremony of the 2018 Nan Ying International Folklore Festival. In nine days in 34 performances at 21 venues 18 countries showed off their traditional costumes, dances and music. All the performances that I saw were good and of a high standard but it was the Taiko troupe from Kukuoka University in Japan that got the audience on their feet every time they took to the stage. They were my favourite too.
A personal highlight was seeing The Vienna Boys Choir. They performed in the Tainan Cultural Centre main auditorium that was packed to capacity when Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra performed there. I was delighted to see that the hall was at least three quarters full for this performance. I left the hall feeling not in good spirits. As an expat one always guards ones feelings (subconsciously) and this evening I let my guard down thinking I’m just going to sit back, relax and enjoy beautiful music. I left with the throng and then I was outside alone, in the dark park surrounding the Cultural Centre, looking at all the bright signs shouting from the street at me that I’m in a foreign country. I was in no mood to return to my hotel room and being in a part of Tainan I do not know at all I had no idea where to find a place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine. So its off to Starbucks for a hot chocolate to go. I decided to explore the streets around the centre and then I got to the stage entrance to the hall just as the boys were leaving. I was so surprised to see the big crowd waiting there to take photos of the boys. And the boys, graciously waved and smiled and said hello and goodbye to all. When I got to my hotel room I went to my Facebook page to post something about the Vienna Boys Choir. The first (and only) post I saw was Eric Clapton with Steve Winwood and his band playing Can’t find my way home.
Then it was off to Khaosuing to see jazz musicians performing with a symphony orchestra. It was heartwarming and also not a surprise to find at least half of the audience were school going age students.
In the visual arts department there is also always a lot to see. I was privileged to meet the Dutch artist Bas Meeuws at the opening of an exhibition of his work in Tainan. He has much amused when I told him that of all his work on display there, there was only one that did not have a caterpillar. I insisted on being photographed with this very tall young man in front of that caterpillar-less art work.
At Chimei Museum Henk Helmantel, another Dutch artist, is showing his classically composed still-life paintings.
I also found time to see a Ten Drum performance with a storytelling element at the Ten Drum restaurant in Tainan. The restaurant and small theatre is housed in one of the three oldest buildings in Tainan and has been converted into a modern creative space. The show ends with a guided tour of the building.
A few days later I attended a full length performance of the Ten Drum group at the Ten Drum Village. Drumming, dancing and martial arts all rolled into one very powerful performance with lots of water flooding the stage and raining down like a curtain as part of the performance. A performance I would not forget.