Many people thought I was a little crazy going as far away as Taipei for Christmas, but as it turned out it was one of the most memorable and wonderful Christmasses for me on record.
Taipei is a very impressive city, a very modern in places and towered over by the world's largest building Taipei 101. I was fortunate enough to go right to the top of this, and if you ever get the chance to do this once in your life please do it. It also has the fastest elvator in the world !!
I was also given a guided tour of the famous Palace Museum housing many of China's finest historic treasures. I walked through huge monumental gardens in the centre of the city, witnessed a fire in an old apartment block, tasted some incredible food that I would probably never dare try in the UK.
I flew via Hong Kong, and it was the first time I'd ever touched down there. And it was the first time I'd ever given a concert on Christmas day. But what a wonderful time it was and although the monuments and buildings were impressive my longest abiding memories will be of the wonderful people in the Taipei Symphonic Band and the many euphonium students that came to visit me during my time there.
The night before we actually played some low brass Christmas carols at the English pub in town, and I think there are some You Tube videos of this which you can find by searching: Steven Mead in Taipei, or looking on my facebook site
When I wasn't practicing or rehearsing with the band I was teaching, and despite one or two language difficulties, it was simply wonderful to be able to work with these enthusiastic and dedicated students. I took photographs of all of them and it gives me great pleasure to include them here. My chaperone for my stay was the talented trombone and euphonium player, who also happens to be the chief executive officer of the band, Yi-Wen Tsai.
As well as driving an Audi TT at great speed, he was the most convivial and entertaining host, taking me to some of the finest eateries in Taipei. I have so much to thank him for.
The band did a wonderful job accompanying the two main solos of the concert, Peter Graham's In League with Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Philip Sparke's Harlequin. The concert hall attracted a large crowd and a most appreciative one. I signed autographs for over an hour in the foyer of the concert hall. Every time I thought I'd nearly finished Yi-Wen told me there were still about 60 people lined up around the outside of the hall. He asked me if I wanted to stop and send the people away, but of course it was impossible and they were so kind and good natured. I think I had my photograph taken with each of them.
I am delighted to say that all the students who had lessons were also at the concert and despite the fact that it was difficult to communicate linguistically it was clear that a strong bond developed between us. I wish them all well in their future careers and hope I can keep in contact with them and help them along their musical journey.
My students in Taipei:
The acoustics of the old concert hall in the centre of Taipei made it such as satisfying experience, it seemed almost made for the euphonium. The band were focused and energetic and accompanied better that I couldn't even to hoped for.
It was really the perfect visit and coming so close to the end of 2009 round off what has been a very busy, eventful, at times stressful, but exhilarating year.
In the days that followed I briefly touched down in the UK before going on to two wonderful towns in the south of Calabria at the foot of Italy. There I gave two concerts with two different bands (although many of the musicians played in both), both to capacity audiences in cold churches. The cultural differences couldn't have been wider but again i was working with wonderful people with a passion for music and performance and who play because it is the most important thing in their lives. You can watch the entire 2nd concert ‘live', from Cinquefrondi at this link: http://www.livestream.com/cinquefrondi_channel/video?clipId=pla_e5289109-5c37-4c11-a820-ca6c4c2bafca This was the band's first formal concert, and was much appreciated by the audience who were standing 4 deep at both sides of the church. (The pieces I played there were: Memory (Rob Ayres), Carnival of Venice (Arr.Harry James), Pantomime (Philip Sparke), Napoli ( Bellstedt) and encores !!!
I'd like to say a very big thank you to maestro Angelo di Paolo for organizing this for me, and especially to the musicians of the bands in Oppido and Cinquefrondi, and in particular my wonderful translator Giselle.
I got home on December 31 at 10.00 PM, stayed awake till the new year, with a head full of wonderful memories of my musical friends.
Happy New Year to everyone.