The dinner got kind of scary this year… I was expecting 300 up from 200 from last year in 2002… then I counted everybody… and it was close to 400. I phoned up the restaurant on Sat morning and told them to add 10 more tables. We served 39 tables for 390 people. The Scots drank lots [ROLAND's NOTE:not sure who you mean by 'the Scots' 🙂 , we were all Scottish and we were all Chinese that night and we are all Canadian, right?] and sometimes weren't quiet enough for some of the performers. The sound system faded out 3/4 of the way back. I think our sound advisor thought that the 2 large speakers would carry to the back… Normally but not with people eating… occasionally talking… and singing along…
The dinner was truly a great success – you'd love the music… we all have fun. We join in on each other's songs… or ask each other to join in. Give me a sheet with chords I say… I'll just play the chords. We have a great jazz bassist. Harry Aoki who grew up in a Canadian Internment camp for Japanese… He claims a Romanian Rhapsody saved him as he learned how to play it on mouth harp. Harry was interviewed on CBC's national “Sounds Like Canada” radio program on January 23. Harry performed 2 traditional Scottish tunes with his good friend Margaret Gallagher, who also works for CBC Radio Early Edition.
In 2002, Margaret came and I asked her to read her piece from RicePaper Magazine titled “This is a Hapa House.” It is all about growing up in her Chi-rish household. Margaret is Chinese Indonesian on her mothers side and Chinese American father. After singing our traditional chorus of “When Asian Eyes Are Smiling”, we followed with a chorus of “When Chirish Eyes Are Smiling,” just for Margaret.
I was also interviewed with Shelagh Rogers about Gung Haggis Fat Choy which aired on Wednesday, January 22nd. Shelagh is a hoot! When I walked into the Roundhouse makeshift studio, she started waving to me as soon as she saw me… and I had never formally met the woman yet! I told Shelagh about the dinner's origins and about how the interacial fusion really represents Canada to me, especially as all my cousins on my Mom's side had married White-Canadians. Shelagh really really wanted to attend the dinner – but couldn't due to having to fly back to Toronto. She did promise to attend for 2004.
This year we got some good radio promo on CBC radio and CITY TV. I was featured on a program called DiverseCITY as a panel discussed “What is White” then I was on the show CITY Cooks – explaining the concept and dishes for “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.” The restaurant owner Victor Li actually cooked two dishes! Jelly Fish and beef lettuce wrap. Joe McDonald, my piper also came along with me and played on the show while we cooked!
Making up the Gung Haggis houseband were returning musicians Pat Coventon, Karen Larsen, pd wohl, plus my friend Ula Shines as assisting host. Pat has been a key music block providing the soundsystem and the keyboards since 2000. He peformed an original composition titled “Asia Blue”. With pd and Karen, they performed a version of the Proclaimers “I Would Walk 500 Miles” with their own chorus of “Eat Haggis Eat Haggis Eat Haggis cos its good for you!”
A musical highlight was 12 year old Alex Sachs who described himself as ½ Chinese, ¼ English and ¼ Welsh. Alex performed a solo piece on violin, then we performed a duet of Brahms Hungarian Dance No.5 with a spontaneous band accompaniment. He performed very well considering a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, tambourinist, and tabla drummer joined us on stage, although the polyrhythms of the tabla threw us off a bit at the beginning we recovered well.
People did ask why Hungarian Dance at a Chinese Robbie Burns Dinner? I explained that it was half way between China and Scotland and that the Huns in Hungary originally came from ancient China. They accepted that answer. Fast thinking on my part.
People kept saying to me – “Your parents must be proud of you.” Right… proud that their first-born son dons a skirt and plays accordion in public both at the same time! Hah! (Both my parents did attend the dinner – they put together 3 tables this year- up from one 1/2 last year).
Then I go and tell the audience that all the first primeministers of Canada were Scottish, and that one day soon… I would really like to see a Chinese Canadian Prime Minister… people cheered then I admitted that I have invited all the Scots to my dinner purposely to intermix with the Chinese, so hopefully we can elect somebody with both Scottish and Chinese bloodlines – because that will probably give us a chance.
Then I ask if there is anybody in the audience that is Chinese or Scottish and is dating or married to the other… People put up there hands….
“See it's started already…” I point out… then I say hi to my childhood friend Susan Chow who married a Scottish-Canadian who got married in a kilt, and I ask if it's alright to tell everybody she's expectin'… A cheer and round of applause goes up from the audience….
The things my friends put up with from me….
Peace & Blessings…. Todd
ps check out vaneats.com for a review of the Gung Haggis dinner
“Dreams are made, if people try.” – Terry Fox
Todd Wong, Terry's Team member since 1993.