Asia, August 2013

Prologue: Race to Taiwan, and Typhoon Holiday!

Not all trips to Taiwan are created equal. Dylan booked his travel on points: Suba paid full-freight for hers. Thanks to the points, Dylan ended up with a completely different routing. But, the trips started at exactly the same time: 1pm. The planes were even within a few hundred feet of each other at the terminal in Toronto. The race was on!

So, let’s look at each person’s trip…

SUBA had her neighbouring seats (and a few others around) empty. Nice and relaxing.

DYLAN’s plane left 45 minutes late, and had a broken in-flight entertainment system. Made the 14-hour first-leg seem, well, long. At least he slept through a good piece of it.

SUBA landed in Shanghai, had a few hours layover to collect and recheck her bags, and was off to Taipei.

DYLAN landed in Beijing, and after some fun with the immigration officers, managed to get to his next destination: Hangzhou. Yep, still one more leg. At least Dylan had a friend at the airport.

SUBA landed on time, with the fine folks at the Vocal Asia Festival there to shuttle her to the hotel.

DYLAN, with his second flight delayed by an hour, was frantic that he’d miss the next flight. Fortunately, it was also delayed… by 75 minutes.

So, the winner was:

1. SUBA: departed Aug 19, 1pm. Arrived: Aug 20, 9:30pm

followed by…

2. DYLAN: departed Aug 19, 1pm. Arrived: August 21, 12:05am

… with a late showing by…

3. DYLAN’S LUGGAGE: departed Aug 19, 1pm. Took an unexpected vacation in Beijing. Arrived: August 23, 2pm.

Not only this, but we arrived to the news that the government had declared a “typhoon holiday”, with all official business and flights cancelled (and all but a few enterprising businesses closed) for the following day. This included the opening night concert (which, fortunately, we weren’t performing in) also cancelled, and many Festival participants stranded in various other countries. It’s a good thing we had decided to arrive a day early: had we chosen otherwise, we might not have made it there at all!

27 hours (39 hours on the clock), door to door. This was the reward.

The next day (well, night… we woke up at 7pm) was spent in a jetlagged haze, checking out the interesting delights of Taoyuan.

Demented signs like this make Dylan so happy. Expect to see many more pictures like this.

 

Wait. What?

 

We had no idea what this was… but had to buy it. Later, someone told us it was “ginseng medicine”. We sure felt better after drinking it…

Chapter One: Vocal Asia Festival

 

The 100-foot-long monster banner at the Taoyuan Performing Arts Festival, held at the…

 


We first met Vocal Asia members Christine Liu, Bing-Bing Liu, and chairperson Clare Chen when we performed at the London A Cappella Festival in 2012. They enjoyed our performance, a connection was made, and plans to bring us to Asia were in the works. By August 2013, it came to fruition.

Contemporary a cappella music is quite new in Asia, and is fast growing in popularity. The Vocal Asia Festival brings amateur and semiprofessional groups from all over Asia to learn more about the artform from folks such as ourselves, the amazing group Rajaton from Finland, Peder Karlsson from Sweden, as well as Mia from Taiwan and Kaichiro Kitamura from Japan.

For several days we gave masterclasses on circle songs and improvisation, live looping, south Indian singing, and teaching music by-rote. We also gave private coaching sessions to several groups from Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

 

We also gave a concert on the final day, on a (typhoon-free) outdoor stage.

There were many wonderful moments throughout the Festival, but if we had to name a few, it would probably be…

1. Jamming with Kaichiro Kitamura

Our friend from the Swingle Singers, Kevin Fox, first showed us a video of Kai doing vocal jazz percussion at a jazz club in Japan. Rather than the usual a cappella scenario, he was the “drummer” for an instrumental band. His chops, time, and vocabulary were so good, and so jazzy, we couldn’t tell if there was a real drummer on stage or not. We knew (especially Dylan, who does vocal jazz drumming himself) that he was someone we’d want to meet. Sometime during the Festival, Kai suggested we should jam… and before we knew it, he had arranged for us to do something onstage at one of the evening concerts! We chose a pretty complicated Chick Corea tune called “Spain”, did a runthrough in the hallway about an hour before the show, and performed it. We’re pretty happy with how it turned out… and now the FreePlay Duo became the FreePlay Trio!

2. The Japanese Middle School Boys

We never got their name, but they stole our hearts. 15 teenage boys, all around 13-14 years old, had their own a cappella group in school, and decided to make the trip to Taiwan to learn more about a cappella music. They were attentive, enthusiastic, and came to almost all of our masterclasses. Our favourite was probably this guy:


who had great rhythm and dance moves (you should see his Michael Jackson moves!) We’re also pretty sure that he was the inspiration for this movie character:


3. Taiwanese Mini-Pops

They sounded fantastic, doing mostly Asian pop music. But what really knocked us out were the costumes…

Green lederhosen, purple bowler hat. Awesome.
Many thanks to all the fine folks at Vocal Asia: Christine, Zoe, Clare, and the countless volunteers and staffers, who helped make it a wonderful time for artists and participants alike. A special shout-out goes to Sophie, our own personal assistant, wrangler, and overall sweetheart!


Well, that was the work. Stay tuned for the play! Next up: Taroko Gorge.

Leave a Reply