Howard's Blog

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.

As close to heaven as you're likely to get on planet Earth!

As close to heaven as you’re likely to get on planet Earth!

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!

Taipei's National Concert Hall, one of the world's great concert venues

Taipei’s National Concert Hall, one of the world’s great concert venues


It’s a world-class hall, and the orchestra and chorus proved to be more than up to the task. Highlights included the Poulenc Gloria, the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Christmas Carols, and of course the Nutcracker Suite.


Dress Rehearsal in the National Concert Hall, Taipei, Dec. 24, 2012

Dress Rehearsal in the National Concert Hall, Taipei, Dec. 24, 2012


The concert was a huge success. The audience responded with a roaring standing ovation and even the local officials seemed genuinely pleased.

Post-concert flowers from the Mayor of Taipei

Post-concert flowers from the Mayor of Taipei


For us the big bonus was that we got to spend Christmas with our family in Taiwan.

Izzi, 3, and Trudi, 6, with their Oma following a Christmas brunch at the Regent Hotel in Taipei

Izzi, 3, and Trudi, 6, with their Oma following a Christmas brunch at the Regent Hotel in Taipei


On Dec. 26, at 11:30pm we bade a tearful goodbye to our Taipei darlings and boarded a flight for Seattle, arriving there about 5:30pm the same day to celebrate a late Christmas with the rest of our immediate family.

Tomorrow we fly back to China to begin another chapter in our Asian saga. You may recall that last May I conducted the Kunming Nie Er Symphony Orchestra in one of its regular subscription concerts. That resulted in my being invited to do a 2 month residency with the Kunming Nie Er Symphony Orchestra. I will have them all to myself, both the large orchestra and, ostensibly, a chamber ensemble as well, for all of April and May. I’ll be responsible for preparing several concerts with each group, the repertoire to include a couple of major Chinese works. I’ve been told that I will be very busy, and that is exactly the way I like it. Just this week I learned that about 2 weeks from now (!) we’ll be flying to DeHong to do a concert there. DeHong is a region of Yunnan Province in the very southwest corner of the province. Actually, it juts right into Myanmar, and, I’m told, is about 3400 meters above sea level. The people there are apparently more Burmese and Tibetan than Chinese.

We’re extremely fortunate in that we’ll be living in the same Kunming apartment we had last time. It’s large and modern and airy. Mind you, it’s a 5th floor walkup (80 stairs!), so we’ll get our exercise, especially upon our arrival about 2am on Good Friday, when someone (guess who that might be!) will have to carry all our luggage up those 5 flights. But it will be good for us, I think. As one of you said to me in a recent email, by the end of our stay, our calves will be cows!

Maggie is looking forward to meeting with her English students again, and she also hopes to take some classes in Chinese cooking. We look forward very much to meeting our Kunming friends again and to exploring the many haunts (restaurants, parks, shops, markets) we came to love last year. Most of all, we are expecting the unexpected. In China, you just never know what will happen next. “The best laid plans of mice and men” was never more true than in the Middle Kingdom!

Both of us will be writing about our experiences, so keep checking in here from time to time if you wish. Maggie’s blog can be found at In either case, you have the option of “subscribing”, which simply means that you’ll get an email notification whenever there’s a new post.

Happy Easter and Passover, everyone! Talk to you again soon after our arrival on Friday.


1 Comment on Kunming, China – Chapter Two!

  • operajoseph says:
    March 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Dear Howard and Maggie,

    How nice to be reading your travelogues once again! You have to keep doing this every spring :-)

    Have a great time in Kunming.

    All best,
    Joseph So


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