While Chiayi City (嘉義) is mostly known as the gateway to Alishan tea plantations and other tourist hotspots, the city government has also been trying to establish itself as the nation’s marching band capital — a status that was probably cemented yesterday as the annual Chiayi City International Band Festival (嘉義市國際管樂節) got underway with groups from home and abroad strutting their stuff through the city’s streets. The sounds of tubas, flutes and drums filled the air — some in perfect pitch and a few off-key but nonetheless festive.
It’s not Carnegie Hall and it’s not Woodstock, but if you like the sights and sounds of high school marching bands walking down a noisy, banner-filled street with thousands of spectators lining the sidewalks, the Band Parade Carnival — the highlight of the festival — on Dec. 29, beginning at 2pm, is the place to be.
The parade along Chungshan Road (中山路) in the middle of downtown Chiayi promises, weather-permitting, an outdoor carnival of sound and sight, from big brass bands to marching drummers, and everyone will be dressed in colorful uniforms and festive costumes.
“The festival has given Chiayi a new image, and it has a good future,” said Excilion Tsai (蔡淳任) of the Cultural Affairs Bureau. “The music has never sounded so good.”
Tsai added that the city expects upwards of 200,000 visitors during the 12-day event.
The festival, which began yesterday, runs until Jan. 1 with concerts throughout Chiayi, indoors and outdoors, morning, noon and night. The indoor concert series takes place at the Chiayi Concert Hall, while the outdoor series are at Chiayi Cultural Park (文化公園) and Jhongjheng Park (中正公園).
For aficionados of world music and Russian culture, do not miss out on this year’s two featured foreign bands — the Republic of Tuva Government Wind Orchestra and the Moscow Sax Quintet from Russia.
The Tuva Brass Orchestra band members will ride on horses at the Band Parade Carnival. It will be in proud display of their Tuvan culture as horse-riding warriors — as well as cattle and sheep herdsmen galloping across the steppes in their southern Siberia homeland of Tuva, which is a Russian Federation Republic bordering Mongolia.
They and the Moscow Sax Quintet will perform at the outdoor and indoor concert series during the festival.
For Nell Monash, a 26 year-old-woman from Tuva who has been studying for a master’s degree in tourism marketing from National Chiayi University for the past two years, seeing her nation’s band performing in Chiayi will bring her a small taste of home.
“I can’t wait to see my own people playing our music here in Taiwan,” she said. “And I’m glad that Chiayi people will get a chance to hear our orchestra, too.”
This year marks the 21st year for the internationally renowned annual music gala. Chiayi Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) was in Taipei to invite people to partake in the two-week music party.
City of Marching Bands
“Chiayi City has successfully built up its international reputation as ‘The City of Marching Band Music’ around the world,” Huang said.
The mayor added that the festival’s 80 bands are scheduled to variously perform at 71 events throughout the two-week festival.
“It’s a rare chance to see these foreign marching bands. We invite everyone to join us.” she said.
For complete festival details and a list of bands and locations, go to (Chinese, English and Japanese):cabcy.ehosting.com.tw/web/band/index.asp.