Strings of Unity in Taiwan 2015

STRINGS OF UNITY: 4th International Rondalla/Plucked String Festival

20-26 October 2015/ Yilan, Taiwan

With the full support of its municipal government under the leadership of Mayor Chiang Tsung Yuan, Yilan City in Taiwan succeeded in undertaking the project of hosting the Fourth International Rondalla/Plucked String Festival, Strings of Unity, under the auspices of the Yilan International Art Festival. The project was officially agreed upon by the City Government of Yilan and the Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Mr. Vincent Li, director of the Formosa Melody Music Center, carried out the task of putting together the different components of the whole event with the help and partnership of the Philippine implementing staff.

The Participants

The call for participation to the Festival was answered by Twinkle, a five-member guitar ensemble from Japan; the Quartette Phoenix from Russia; the Hope to Hop Africa from Uganda; the Prasarnmit EthnoMusic and Dance Group from Thailand; the Jempol Jenthik Orkes Keroncong from Bandung, Indonesia; the Flamenco Duo of Adolfo Timuat and Alejandro Hernandez from Spain; the Dalmoon, a three-ladies string ensemble from Korea; and the Parvaz from Iran. The groups from Taiwan in the line-up of performers were: the Chai Found Music Workshop, the I-lan Chinese Youth Orchestra, the Sonar Chamber Choir, the Formosa Melody Music Center Plucked String Ensemble, the Lan-Yang Taiwanese Opera Company, the Hanyang Beiguan Troupe, the Ylan Elementary School String Orchestra, and the Hui Yin Zither Ensemble, who all played for the different parts of the festival. From the Philippines, three rondalla groups joined the event: the Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble of the City of Silay (Negros Occidental province), the Lucban Pahiyas Community Rondalla of Lucban (Quezon province), and the University of the Philippines Rondalla (U.P.) from Metro Manila.

The Performances

The formal concerts were held at the Yilan Performing Arts Center (YPAC) in Yilan City, as well as at the auditorium of the Chinese Culture University (CCU) in the city of Taipei.

Concerts

The diversity of the different groups in terms of performance techniques, repertoires, and music was evident in the entire festival.

The Quartette Phoenix’s highly polished, precipitous and virtuosic craftsmanship was contrasted by the spontaneous, exuberant and irrepressibly rhythmic singing renditions of the Hope to Hop with the unique sounds of the ngombi and kora instruments. The Japanese group Twinkle was a four-women and one-man ensemble playing four types of western guitars with impeccable finish, juxtaposed with the earthy rendering of the Indonesian popular keroncong with different strummed instruments made of bamboo. The Korean group Dalmoon with the ajaeng imitating the human voice and supported by the haegum and the komunggo, greatly differed from the fiery strumming of the Flamenco Duo, the folk music from the Karen people from Thailand, and the Philippine rondallas which played equally varied repertoires of western classical and popular music, as well as Philippine compositions and arrangements. The Taiwanese Sonar Chamber Choir lent their choral repertoire to the instrumental performances, which also featured vocal renditions like with the Jempol Jenthik Orkes Keroncong group, and the Prasarnmit Ethno Music Ensemble.

The Closing Concert took place at the Yilan City Stadium, with an audience that filled to capacity the ground floor. The main highlight of the closing ceremony, as in all the past Festivals, was the performance of the Strings of Unity Ensemble made up of all the participating groups. They played four pieces: Kuriri and the premiere of Kudlung-An, both composed and conducted by Ramon Santos; Diu Diu Dang and two Taiwanese Folksongs arranged by Ramon Santos and conducted by Jack Chen.

Outreach performances

13 outreach performances were given in different venues, many of which were schools: at the Kai Xuan Junior High School, the Lu Doung Industrial Vocational High School, the Fu Xing Junior High, the Li Ze Elementary School, the Yilan Elementary School, and at the Yilan Junior High School. The ensembles also performed in such institutions as the Sheng Jia Min house of the mentally disabled and in two retirement homes. 4 concerts were held at the Diu Diu Dang Park which is frequented by local and international tourists as well. These concerts were able to reach an entire cross-section of the population through these venues.

International Conference and Workshop

The three-day conference-workshop was organized at the Chinese Culture University (CCU) in Taipei, a partner for this component of the Festival. Three main keynote speakers were featured: Huang Cheng-Ming, who spoke on the development of Taiwanese music, Dr. Chien Shan-Wa who gave a presentation on the plucked strings of the aborigine people, and Dr. Ramon Santos who discussed on the evolution of the plucked string in the world.

The afternoon workshops were led by Michael Dadap, Adolfo Timuat, and Jay Sarita, who brought tools and parts of a bandurria to talk about the most recent findings on the manufacture of bandurrias. As part of the workshops, there were lecture-demonstrations given by the different participating groups in the Festival, namely: the Dalmoon, the Flamenco Duo, the Hope to Hop Africa, Jempol Jenthik Orkes Keroncong, Kabataang Silay Community Rondalla, the Lucban Pahiyas Community Rondalla, Prasarnmit Ethno Music Group, the Quartette Phoenix, the Twinkle Guitar Ensemble, and the U.P. Rondalla. Evenings were devoted to the performances of the groups who conducted the workshop on the day.

Exhibit

Title: “Cuerdas: Shared world, connected lives”

Mounted at the lobby of the Yilan Performing Arts Center, the exhibition had 3 major themes. While it presented the history of Philippine rondalla, and also the history of the plucked string of the world, its main highlight was the musical traditions of Yilan, Taiwan. This third theme, for which in-depth archival research and field study were conducted, expanded on the religious music, the localization of the Chinese music tradition, on beiguan music, on the Taiwanese opera, the puppet theater and not only on the recent musical history of Yilan, but also on the aboriginal cultures of Taiwan. A special homage section was dedicated to Teacher Chang Yue-e, a music teacher who nurtured a whole generation of prominent musicians from Yilan including Vincent Li, Huang Cheng-Ming, Wu His-chun, Chu Wen Wei, and Fu Yung-Ho.