Howard's Blog

Tomorrow’s the day!

  • February 22, 2012

Tomorrow, Feb. 23, marks the beginning of a new adventure for Maggie and me. We are beginning a 4 1/2 month stint in Asia. Our first stop is Taipei, Taiwan (via Hong Kong) to visit Anthony (our eldest), his wife Vanessa and our two beautiful granddaughters, Gertrude (Trudi, aged 5) and Isabel (Izzi, aged 2). Long daily walks, hours in the local playground, and lots of cuddling pretty much make up the agenda. Then, on March, we fly to Kunming, China which will be our home until the end of June.

I have been invited to teach and conduct for a full semester at the Yunnan Arts University in Kunming. Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southwest China, is a beautiful city of 6 million. Not far from Vietnam, Laos and Burma, it sits in a valley at an altitude of 1900 metres above sea level, which means the summer is temperate. The local cuisine is excellent, the wine less so, although strides are being made in the vinicultural department as well. We have found a lovely apartment in one of the most desirable parts of the city. An espresso maker and high speed internet (not to mention 3 bedrooms, kitchen and laundry facilities, big TV) should keep us content for the 4 months we’ll be there.

The university has 2000 students in the music faculty alone. There’s a brand new campus, out of the city quite some distance. The music building, which we saw during a brief visit to Kunming last October, has 370 piano-equipped practice rooms! My assignment will be to conduct the university choir (an excellent 55 voice ensemble), to organize and conduct a university orchestra, and to teach conducting. I’m hoping to do the Mozart Requiem as the major work with the choir. I’d like to tackle the Mozart G+ violin concerto as well as the Beethoven first symphony with the fledgling university orchestra. Of course they’ll have to learn the Mozart Requiem as well. Maggie will be coaching the choir in the mysteries of Latin and English, neither of which they’ve sung before.

In 1999 I was invited to participate in an International Festival of the Arts in Kunming. At that time I worked chiefly with the Kunming Symphony Orchestra. I had brought my touring choir, Consort Caritatis, with me, and we did what turned out to be just the 2nd performance of Handel’s Messiah in the history of the People’s Republic of China! It must have made an impact, because now, more than 12 years later, during our brief visit, musicians would come up to us and start humming the Hallelujah Chorus or any one of the most familiar Messiah excerpts. When the KSO learned that I would be back in town, they immediately invited me to conduct their May concert. The repertoire…Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 1, Dvorak New World Symphony, and a new work which Chinese-Canadian composer Chan Ka Nin (U of T) is writing for the occasion. In fact, Ka Nin will be travelling to Kunming for the concert!

All of which means that I will be busy, and that’s exactly how I like it. Maggie and I both plan to write about our experiences, so, if you’re interested, you can share it all with us in a vicarious kind of way.

That’s it for today. Packing’s almost done. Tomorrow, 15 hrs. non-stop to Hong Kong! See you when we get to Kunming, if not sooner.

1 Comment on Tomorrow’s the day!

  • labshoff says:
    February 22, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Cool blog Howard! Safe flight.


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