Sun, Apr 06, 2003 - Page 3 News List

German orchestra cancels concerts due to SARS scare

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center Director Ju Tzung-ching (朱宗慶) yesterday announced the cancellation of seven performances by a well-known German orchestra for contemporary music -- Ensemble Modern -- because of the threat of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

"We have been organizing this event for a year. However, we still had to call it off because the sudden outbreak of the disease disturbed our plan," Ju said at a press conference yesterday.

According to the center, 17 members of the 57-person orchestra flew to Taipei from Frankfurt, through Seoul on March 28. They had performances scheduled in Taiwan from last Friday to next Friday.

But the Department of Health's Center for Disease Control (CDC) discovered a suspected SARS patient on the same flight and notified the musicians to begin the required 10-day quarantine last Wednesday, which forced them to cancel their performances.

However, on Friday, the CDC announced a new regulation which said that passengers can only be subject to a 10-day quarantine if any of the passengers aboard the same aircraft develops SARS-related symptoms two days after taking the flight.

The result of the musicians' health exam showed that they are not infected. They were released on Friday evening.

"It is an unforgettable experience for us. We were very scared when we learned that we took the `wrong' plane since we might be infected," said Karsten Witt, the orchestra's founder and manager.

"However, we're glad that all of us were have been proven healthy and we will definitely come back to finish our performances in the near future," he said.

Witt said that they took advantage of the quarantine period and composed a new piece for a quartet which is called SARS.

"It is still a rough trifle but we will play it next time when we come back," he said.

Cathy Milliken, the orchestra's oboist, said that the two-day quarantine was quite an experience for her.

"I was practicing, reading and resting in my hotel room during the quarantine," she said. "Being able to do something I like doesn't happen every day since we are often busy traveling for performances."

Ju said that the 17 musicians are leaving today but they are planning their next performances in Taipei already.

"Probably next January," Ju said. "It is really a pity that we cannot enjoy their music this time. But they will come back."

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