Fri, Jul 11, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Drumming up a storm

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ju Percussion will be rounding off its belated spring tour this weekend before embarking on a mammoth project with Taiwan's leading dance troupe, Cloud Gate, in late August.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JU PERCUSSION

After returning from a whistle-stop tour to Moscow, where it participated in an international music festival earlier this week, Ju Percussion's (朱宗慶打擊樂團) busy summer schedule is set to continue in the coming weeks.

The group will be under the spotlight again on Sunday, when it puts the finishing touches to its SARS-postponed tour, with a concert at Hsinchu Municipal Performance Hall (新竹市立演藝廳).

Entitled, Hear Spring (聞春), the belated spring tour sees Taiwan's foremost drummers cooking up a multicultural blend of percussion with its Oriental flavored Legend of the White Snake (白蛇傳) and its Samba loaded Latin Carnival (拉丁嘉年華).

Along with treating audiences to a heap of Asian and Latin vibes, the ensemble will also be premiering its Drumming No.7 for Six Percussionists (打擊樂六重奏:第七號鼓樂) and its breakthrough work, Box, that sees 10 drummers creating percussive resonance on wooden boxes of varying shapes and sizes, as well as their own bodies.

"The program is one of very contrasting styles. While White Snake, which was written by our composer in residence, is based around the classic Chinese mythical tale, Box is contemporary work both in presentation and musical content," explained a spokesperson for the group.

Founded in 1986 by Ju Tzong-ching (朱宗慶), the group consists of 11 musicians and one resident composer. The ensemble's original takes on traditional Chinese percussion and its unique ability to combine Oriental and Western instrumentation and drumming has gained the group worldwide recognition.

It is at home, however, where the ensemble has proven its real percussive mettle, time and time again. Along with establishing the now annual Taipei International Percussion Convention in 1993, the group has been at the forefront of musical education.

Establishing the first Ju Percussion -- Music School ten years ago, the ensemble now has 18 such schools nationwide. The institute boasts an alumnus of roughly 60,000.

The belated spring tour might be coming to an end, but the ensemble's work is only just beginning. In the weeks ahead preparations for the group's much lauded collaboration with the internationally acclaimed dance group, Cloud Gate (雲門) will begin in earnest.

As part of the 30th Anniversary celebrations of Lin Hwai-min's (林懷民) dance group, the percussion ensemble has been invited to join the dance company for a special re-vamped version of Lin's ground breaking epic, Legacy (行草).

Set to premier at the National Theater (台北國家戲劇院) at the end of August, the re-dux version of Legacy is a combination of choreography and percussive rhythms which tells the history of Taiwan and how and why the Chinese first came here over 300 years ago.

Originally premiering on Dec. 15, 1978 -- the day the US severed diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing -- the performance raised questions apropos Taiwan's identity,and is still seen by many as the watershed production which shaped the nation's contemporary dance scene.

"It's obviously a great honor for the group to have been invited to perform with Cloud Gate as well as being something that we are all looking forward to," continued the spokesperson. "It's proven quite hard work, but the exceptional performance will make it all worthwhile."

The Ju Percussion ensemble will take to the stage of the Hsinchu Municipal Performance Hall (新竹市立演藝廳) at 7:30pm on Sunday. Tickets cost from NT$300 to NT$800 and are available at the venue. The hall is located at 17, Tungta Rd, Sec 2, Hsinchu (新竹市東大路二段17號). Tickets for Cloud Gate's 30th Anniversary Concert, featuring Ju Percussion, at the National Theater, cost from NT$400 to NT$2,000 and are available directly from the CKS Cultural Center's box office. As Cloud Gate performances are always guaranteed sellouts tickets should be purchased well in advance.

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