Visiting orchestra pays musical homage to Taiwan's diversity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 3:48am


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Story Island

National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan

Amphitheatre, Academy for Performing Arts

Taiwan's top orchestra made its Hong Kong debut with a multi-media presentation showcasing musical styles as diverse as the island people it features.

The continuing "Taiwan Month" brought the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan to Hong Kong for the first time in its 28-year history on Wednesday evening. The ensemble of 50 plays mostly traditional Chinese instruments, adding Western bass strings, timpani and other instruments for solos.

The group's mellow sound quality perfectly matched the heart-warming story they told about Taiwan and its people.

Story Island is a combined musical and video documentary about 14 ordinary people reflecting on their careers and families in various parts of Taiwan. The musical performances alternated with short films about these individuals, who include farmers, hostel-keepers and aboriginals. Themes such as simplicity, harmony and warmth are as abundant in the film profiles as in the music. This intimate picture is the work of composer CinCin Lee, winner of the 2005 Golden Horse award for best film music. To create Story Island, she spent three years travelling around Taiwan picking up folk tunes and the feeling of life at grass-roots level. The orchestration is light, but effective and diverse, bringing in a Western flute, guitar, violin and aboriginal vocals as needed.

The concert began with an elderly farmer couple in Taidong, weeding the fields as a bamboo flute melody, repeated by strings and pipa, created an idyllic scene.

When a lawyer, who is also a mother of two, appeared on the video, violin and flute took charge. Next came rhythmic tribal music, telling the story of two professionals starting up a small business in the countryside.

In another passage, the reminiscence of a retired rural teacher were reflected well by plucking on the yue-qin, a circular fiddle, against mellow strings.

The audience cheered wildly when aboriginal guitarist Baobu Badulu appeared in person - just moments after they had watched a film about his former life as a street person in Taipei. His amazing solo skills, all his own invention, redefined guitar playing.

Another highlight was Voices of the Tribe, a traditional tune of the Amis people. The progressive rhythm, and crescendo leading to the voices, were superbly done. Little wonder the song was repeated in the encore, in response to rapturous applause from a full-house audience.