Howard’s Blog

Kunming 2013 – Final Act and Epilogue

  • May 28, 2013

Time moves in strange ways when you're far from home. Tomorrow our 2 month sojourn in Kunming, City of Eternal Spring, draws to a close. We'll be on our way to Beijing for 3 days of sight-seeing and meetings prior to our flight home on June 1. We've done so much, made so much music,  experienced so many unusual things, eaten so many exotic foods, forged so many new friendships that it's hard to believe all this happened in just 2 months. So the weeks have flown by, but at the same time we feel as though we've been away for a year. If my reports have been a bit more intermittent than last year,...

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“May Day! May Day!” Celebration and a hint of SOS

  • May 2, 2013

It's Thursday, May 2, a frenetic 3 day May Day holiday is over, Kunming is finally enjoying some significant rainfall, and I'm sitting in our living room contemplating the events of the past couple of weeks. Oh my, oh my…it's been another round of surprises, most of them delightful, all of them endlessly fascinating. I don't want to rub your noses in it (all you Canadians who are just now finally getting a taste of spring), but the weather's been gorgeous here in Kunming! The bougainvillaea are in their prime right now, and it's hard to resist taking yet another photo! So what have I been...

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Peacocks, Passta, Pipes and Pipas!

  • April 18, 2013

OK, OK, put those red editing pencils away, you literary fusspots. That second item in my alliteratively-inspired title is not a typo! Read on - all will be revealed! In the 12 or so days since you last heard from me, we've experienced at least 12 weeks' worth of adventures and utterly new experiences. Let me begin by going back to April 9. That was our travel day to Mangshi, capital city of the autonomous prefecture of DeHong. ("Autonomous prefecture" is a designation given to particular regions in China having a high concentration of ethnic minorities. Yunnan Province, with its unusually...

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One Week in Kunming – Pentatonic Overload!

  • April 6, 2013

As I was contemplating a title for this blog posting, a few different ones came to mind. I'll refer to the various ones as I write. One week ago yesterday we arrived in Kunming to begin a 2 month residency with the Kunming Nie Er Symphony Orchestra. To say it's been eventful would be a vast understatement. The flight itself was pleasant enough, exceptionally smooth actually, but of course very long. We got to our apartment about 2am on Good Friday, got a few hours of fitful sleep and awoke to glorious weather. It's been stunning weather pretty much every day…highs in the mid 20s and lows in the 10-12...

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Kunming, China – Chapter Two!

  • March 26, 2013

Well, about 9 months have elapsed since my last entry here. Not that life has been uneventful, mind you. We had a delightful summer, some of it spent with relatives in the Lake of the Woods district. December was especially delightful for us this year. Our eldest son and his Taiwanese wife and their 2 daughters (aged 6 and 3) live in Taipei. I had been invited to conduct the Taipei Symphony Orchestra & Chorus in a Christmas concert on Christmas Eve. The National Concert Hall was completely sold out!   It's a world-class hall, and the orchestra and chorus proved to be more...

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Farewell to the Middle Kingdom!

  • June 29, 2012

As the doomsday preacher puts it ever so subtly, "The end is near!" After 4 momentous, experience-laden months filled with boundless pleasures and thrills and surprises, and a few setbacks and challenges, we are about to turn the page on what has easily been the most unusual chapter of our life so far. On Sunday we fly out of Kunming's spanking new airport (it opened just yesterday and is heralded as one of the largest and most advanced airports in all of China) to Taipei, Taiwan to spend a week with Anthony and Vanessa and our 2 lovely granddaughters. Then, on July 8, a very long day will bring...

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Ancient Chinese Curse Subdued by the Chinese Dragon!

  • June 21, 2012

OK, with a title like that, I have some splainin' to do! But I'm going to keep you waiting for a bit.  First I want to tell you about the utterly delightful and charming conclusion to my time with the choir and orchestra on the new (Chenggong) campus of the university. The orchestra, as I've mentioned on several occasions, has been struggling with the Mozart Violin Concerto #3 in G+ and the Beethoven Symphony #1. I decided that our final time together should be a "performance" of these 2 works, which is to say, we would actually play through these works from beginning to end. A few friends of the players...

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A Chinese Seventh Inning Stretch

  • June 10, 2012

This is one of the spectacular scenes that greets us whenever we stroll through the Green Lake park. We've grown to love this idyllic spot in the centre of the city. Last time I checked in I told you all about my wonderful week of rehearsals with the Kunming Symphony Orchestra. Let's pick it up there. Less than a week after the concert I got a call from Lu Hao Yin, the public relations manager with the orchestra. I've mentioned him before - he's a violinist and the only English-speaking person in the orchestra's administrative staff. He and the vice-director (the director was in Moscow on orchestra-related...

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A Week with the Kunming Symphony Orchestra – Shangri-La comes to Kunming!

  • May 27, 2012

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Although it is set in the mountains of Tibet, and is now being exploited for all its worth by the tourist industry, the term Shangri-La itself has come to be synonymous with paradise. Hence my title today. I have just completed a week of paradise with the Kunming Nei Er Symphony Orchestra! There is much to tell you! First a little background. When I first conducted the orchestra almost 13 years ago, it was known as the Kunming Symphony Orchestra. Some of you who were with Maggie and me for the International...

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Flotsam & Jetsam from the Good Ship (aka Chinese Junk) “H.M.DYCK”

  • May 16, 2012

It was with some trepidation that I decided to invoke a maritime metaphor in the title of my latest post from land-locked Yunnan Province. However, I was emboldened upon reflecting that Austria, a similarly ocean-free domain, boasts its very own navy! So here goes! To give some legitimacy to all these sea-faring notions, perhaps I should begin with a photo of a memorable boat ride we took just over 3 weeks ago during our Dali/Lijiang exposition (which Maggie has chronicled extensively in one of her posts). Dali (in the mountains, about 150 kms northwest of Kunming) is located on the shores of beautiful...

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