When the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus started up 35 years ago, all of its 50-odd members were amateurs, rehearsing after work in school classrooms and other free locations.
Over the years, the group has become one of the most prestigious choruses in Taiwan, with around 500 members, including 150 amateur singers.
PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES
Taipei City Government honored the chorus on Saturday by renaming Plaza 7 of the East Metro Mall under Zhongxiao-Dunhua MRT Station the "Taipei Philharmonic Chorus Plaza." The government designated the space for the group's rehearsals and performances.
Chorus director Tu He (
"The chorus represents civil society and the profoundness of music," Tu told the Taipei Times after the ceremony at the plaza.
Tu formed the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus Foundation in 1988 to collect funding for the chorus, hoping to create a world-class choir that could become a symbol of Taipei much as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra are symbols of their home cities.
He has also founded the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra, the Children's Choir, the Youth Choir and the Philharmonic Chamber Choir with the goal of promoting music to a variety of age groups throughout Taiwan.
Under Tu's leadership, the Taipei Philharmonic Chorus has performed Taiwanese folk songs such as The Spring Breeze (
Tu has also invited local composers to create original pieces for the chorus.
Buddhist Requiem by Chien Nan-chang (
Pieces such as Aboriginal folk songs and Malan Mountain Girls have also impressed audiences in more than 30 countries.
Sun Wen-kai (孫文凱) of the Atayal tribe, who is a soloist in the Philharmonic Chamber Choir, said he was proud to perform Taiwanese songs in international settings.
"Aboriginal songs, Taiwanese songs and other songs from our land are beautiful and I share the choir's goal of being a musical ambassador for the nation," he said.
A passion for music and a love of Taiwan draws Sun and others from all walks of life and a wide variety of career paths to forget their everyday tasks and focus on rehearsal every Thursday night.
"I remember a doctor who had his beeper with him in the classroom and had to rush off to the emergency room during rehearsal. I am always touched by people's dedication," Tu said.
There are also elementary school teachers from Ilan and Hsinchu counties who make hours-long train trips to and from Taipei each Thursday just to participate in the chorus, he said.
The Taipei Philharmonic Chorus Foundation arranges performances around the world and runs an annual camp since 1993 that brings together outstanding performers from Taiwan and abroad to broaden their horizons and hone their skills.
In recognition of the group's contributions, Lee Yong-ping (
Tu hoped to turn the venue into a spot for cultural gatherings for locals and foreigners alike.
"Hopefully our future performances at the plaza will make Taipei a better place in that music performances will be easily accessible and enjoyable, just like in Paris or in New York," he said.
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