The Taipei Philharmonic Chorus is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Revisiting some of the chorus’ most significant milestones over the past four decades, the chorus, led by conductor Chiu Chun-chiang, featuring soprano Chen Mei-ling, and backed by the Taipei Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, will present a nostalgic concert titled “Passing on the tradition and revisiting classics.” The program includes US conductor Robert Whitman Procter’s (1927-1979) Choral Fantasia, an arrangement of Chinese art songs, and Taiwanese composer Chien Nan-chang’s Symphony No. 2 Naluwan.
Procter was recognized as a key figure in Taiwan’s choral and music education in the 1970s. His students include Taipei Philharmonic Foundation artistic director Dirk DuHei, composers Chien Nan-chang and Pan Hwang-long, and many other important contemporary Taiwanese musicians. Besides being a choral conductor and a composer, Procter was also an organist. To pay homage to Procter — who passed away at the early age of 52 — for his contribution to the art of choral music in Taiwan, the first half of tomorrow’s concert will present his Choral Fantasia, composed in 1978 and dedicated to DuHei. In this piece, Procter made arrangements of four famous Chinese art songs, namely “Homeland Nostalgia,” “I Live at the Headstream of the Yangtze River,” “Spring Moaning,” and “The Great Wall Ballad,” incorporating traditional Western harmonies and orchestration.
DuHei said that Procter’s Choral Fantasia uses the musical phrase of the lyrics “The Great Wall stretches 10,000 miles” from the song “The Great Wall Ballad” as a continuation of the chorale motif, and then based on the chaconne musical form, he gave the song a modern sound. DuHei said the last time Taipei Philharmonic Chorus performed Choral Fantasia was over a decade ago, because the piece is so difficult and complex.
Chien has worked with the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus for years. His work Symphony No. 2 Naluwan was first performed in 2006 and will be performed in the second half of the concert. It is another large-scale aboriginal choral symphony following The Maiden of Malan. The composition is based on Taiwan’s rich and diverse aboriginal music tradition, and Chien also added human voices mimicking the calls of various creatures and Chinese xiangsheng, or comic dialogues, adding an element of humor to the piece.
Both Choral Fantasia and Naluwan are based on songs. Although sections of the songs in each work are independent from each other, they are similar to movements in a symphony with strict compositional structures. The performance of the two works awakens a sense of nostalgia for the past 40 years, and shows the audience that after four decades, the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus remains full of vitality, passing on its art to the next generation.
In a separate event, the Taipei Philharmonic Foundation is to hold the nine-day 2012 Taipei International Choral Festival, with an opening concert featuring Chien’s large-scale choral and Chinese orchestral work titled The Twelve Signs of the Chinese Zodiac, having its world premiere at the National Concert Hall on July 28. Conducted by Cheng Li-bin, the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus will collaborate with the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan to present the much-anticipated new work, the first work featuring elements of Chinese orchestral music in the festival. For more information, please visit www.tpf.org.tw or call 02-2773-3691.
(Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times)