When the Ju Percussion Group (朱宗慶打擊樂團) hosted its first festival of percussion music in 1993, it was called the Taipei International Percussion Convention (台北國際打擊樂節) and it proved to be a milestone in the development of percussion music in Taiwan. Today sees the opening of the seventh installment of the triennial festival, but with one significant difference: This year it has been renamed the Taiwan International Percussion Convention (台灣國際打擊樂節). While not the first time that the convention has hosted events outside Taipei, this year sees an unprecedented extension of festival events to venues in central and southern Taiwan, including a number of free concerts.
With 26 concerts over eight days in eight cities and featuring 13 groups from 10 nations, the Taiwan International Percussion Convention is a major event on the international musical calendar. It is able to attract groups ranging from Percussion Ensemble Okada, the oldest percussion orchestra in Northeast Asia, to hot ticket groups such as Strike Percussion from New Zealand, which recently burst onto the percussion music scene and composed music for The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
Taiwan has risen to prominence in the world of percussion music largely through the work of Ju Tzong-ching (朱宗慶), who on returning from his musical studies abroad first established the Ju Percussion Group in 1986, and perhaps more importantly for the development of percussion music in Taiwan, set up the Ju Percussion Music School (朱宗慶打擊樂教學系統) in 1992.
In an interview with the Taipei Times last week, principal percussionist Wu Pei-ching (吳珮菁) said that, in addition to promoting percussion music in the regular school system, about 20,000 students had passed through the Ju Percussion Music School since it was established. She said that this had helped create an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience for percussion music in the country, and was a contributory factor in the strong ticket sales for the concerts of this music festival.
What: Taiwan International Percussion Convention (台灣國際打擊樂節)
When: From today to May 28
Where: Concerts will be held at the National Concert Hall, Taipei City; selected groups will also be holding concerts in Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Sinjhuang, Jhongli, Hsinchu and Yuanlin
Tickets: NT$400 to NT$1,500 for concerts at the National Concert Hall, Taipei City, and NT$300 to NT$1,300 at other venues; a number of free concerts will also be performed at venues outside Taipei City. Tickets are available through NTCH ticketing or online at www.artsticket.com. (The opening concert by Ju Percussion Group today is already sold out)
On the Net: ushop1023.ecmaster.tw
“Many of the foreign groups we invite to perform here are amazed at the size of the audience that comes to see them perform,” she said. “For some concerts [in previous festivals], we have had an audience of 2,000, which might be as many people as the group performs to for the rest of the year combined.”
A couple of groups, such as the little-known PercaDu, a duo from Israel, are back in Taiwan on the strength of word-of-mouth publicity after dynamic performances
Taiwan has a long tradition of percussion music of its own, and Wu said that a great effort has been made by the Ju Percussion Group to incorporate traditional Chinese percussion music into the training of percussion artists. As a professor at the music department of the Taipei National University of the Arts (國立臺北藝術大學), among numerous other commitments, Ju has insisted that students make themselves familiar with the use of percussion in Chinese operatic traditions, including nanguan (南管) and beiguan (北管). According to Wu, this has given Taiwan percussion its own unique characteristics. Because of the depth of talent, many of Taiwan’s top composers have also produced works for percussion orchestras.
In the first three installments of the music festival, the participating international groups have been asked to perform a work by a local composer. Over the past 20 years, 57 compositions by local composers have premiered at the festival, and some of the works have become established parts of the repertoire of foreign groups, greatly enhancing Taiwan’s visibility on the international percussion scene.