Monthly Archives: April 2008

Joy Kogawa reads “Naomi's Tree” at Vancouver Kidsbooks.

Joy did a book reading last night at Vancouver Kidsbooks. 

It was a good event for the launch of  Naomi's Tree.  So good that all the books that had been delivered in advance to Kidsbooks sold out.  We were holding two extra copies, so I passed them on to two people who didn't have any.  They were both very thankful. 

One of them, an Asian women said she had met me before.  She was a cousin of Joy's, and we had met once at a dinner, then again at the Church when Joy's brother Rev. Timothy Nakamura came to speak.  It was nice to see her again, and I am glad that she had a book that Joy could sign for her, and take home with her children.


When Joy performed her reading, she told the audience of children and adults that she had fallen in love with a tree.  It was a special “Friendship Tree” – a cherry blossom tree. 

She explained that she had a special unbound copy of the Naomi's Tree.  She could hold it up and show the beautiful pictures by Ruth Ohi, while she read the words on the other side of the page.

It's a beautiful story that spans across an ocean, beginning in the “Land of Morning” – Japan, and travels over the Pacific Ocean  to the “Land Across the Sea” – Canada.  The story also spans many generations.  And along the way it also briefly tells about the internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2.

But the story is also about forgiveness, remembering and love. 

Joy and Todd

It's been almost 3 years since I got to know Joy during the May 2005, when One Book One Vancouver chose Obasan to become it's literary selection for that summer.  It's been a pleasure becoming friends with Joy, as we have shared the fears of her childhood home being threatened by demolition, and the joys of watching Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble's production of “Naomi's Road” – her children's novel as a mini-opera.  After the reading, Joy signed a copy for me.

Joy writes the the Afterword of the book, and writes

brother Tim and I were born in Canada, in Vancouver, B.C.  When I was
six years old in 1942, our family along with the entire
Japanese-Canadian community on the West Coast were classified as enemy
aliens and removed from our homes.  All our property was confiscated. 
Following WW2, the community was destroyed by the government's
dispersal policy, which scattered us across Canada.

On August
27, 2003, I discovered that my old family home, with the cherry tree
still standing in the backyard, was for sale.  On November 1, 2005,
which was dcalred Obasan Cherry Tree Day, Councilor Jim Green and I
planted a cutting from the cherry tree at Vancouver City Hall.  On June
1, 2006, after a short intense campaign, the Land Conservancy of B.C.,
with the help of the Save Joy Kogawa House Committeee, purchased the
house for a writers' center.  The cherry tree, sadly was fatally ill,
but a new Friendship Tree grown from a cutting of the old tree was
planted on the property.  To this day, children can visit the
Friendship Trees at Vancouver City Hall and at my childhood home, at
1450 West 64th Avenue.

would like to thank with profound appreciation the work of the Save Joy
Kogawa House Committee, the Land Conservancy of B.C., the writers'
organizations, school children, and others too numerous to mention.  Without the initial vision and
heroic labor of Anton Wagner and Chris Kurata in Toronto and
Ann-Marie Metten and Todd Wong in Vancouver, the house and tree would not have been saved
In particular, I wish to thank members of the Historic Joy Kogawa House
Society for their ongoing commitment.  Finally, I offer my deep
gratitude to my dear friend, Senator Nancy Ruth, whose action made all
the difference.

Check out pictures at

Naomi's Tree reading by Joy Kogawa at Kidsbooks

Naomi's Tree reading by Joy Kogawa at…

Ann-Sophie Mutter is a violin goddess: Enthralls Vancouver VSO audience

I first saw violinist Ann-Sophie Mutter in Montreal, April 1985.  She performed Beethoven s violin concerto with the Orchestre Symphonie de Montreal.  It was an amazing performance for the rising violin star 2 months prior to her 22nd birthday.  I went to the concert because it was my first time in Montreal and I thought it would be nice to see the symphony.  Mutter received standing ovations and played an encore.

That was a young artist who had made her debut with Herbert von Karajan at age 14.  Under the mentorship of von Karajan, at age 15 she recorded both the Beethoven Violin Concerto and the Beethoven Triple Concerto with a young Yo-Yo Ma.

In Vancouver last week, Mutter played Beethoven s violin concerto to a sold out audience.  She stunned the crowd with the exquisite phrasing and tone of her violin playing.  After the first movement, she smiled to the audience.  She was happy, and it showed as she swayed to the music with her eyes closed, wrapping the wonderful playing of the VSO around her in a musical embrace.

Mutter really believes that the violin concerto is not simply a showcase for solo violin, but a collaborative dialogue with the orchestra.  She really worked at creating a balance, watching conductor Bramwell Tovey for cues, as he watched her.  The audience was very appreciative, listening so intently and quietly that you felt all attention was on Mutter's violin.  And it should be… every note was perfect.  But it wasn't just the technical brillance that Mutter is famous for, nor her drop dead gorgeous strapless evening gowns she wears.  It was for her playing, that you could soak up each note and cadenza.  To me, it's like being enthralled.

Her only other previous performance in Vancouver had been in 1989.  I was there in the 2nd row, absolutely enthralled.  It's the only way I can describe her performance.  You absorb up every note and the music vibrates dances in it's aura.

In 2002, I drove down to Seattle to see Mutter perform at Seattle's Benaroya Hall for a concert recital with her favorite accompanist Lambert Orkis.  After the concert I was one of the few who made our way downstairs to the Green Room to have cd's signed.  There weren't many people in line, so we were able to have a short conversation and I invited her back to Vancouver, reminding her that so many people had looked forward to a planned 1995 recital that she had been cancelled due to her pregnancy.  She seemed pleased that we had traveled down from Vancouver to see her, and she said she would love to get back back to Vancouver.

On Friday night in Vancouver, there were probably two hundred people in front of the line for signings, at the Orpheum.  Even after signing autographs for 45 minutes, she was still ever so gracious.  Definitely my favorite concert violinist.

Very strange… in my music collection, I have the most Mutter cd's in the my classical collection, and Bruce Springsteen is the largest collection in pop/rock.  And I see them both in the same week.

Tonight: Joy Kogawa reads her new book “Naomi's Tree”

Joy Kogawa is reading her new book “Naomi's Tree” at Vancouver Kidsbooks

Naomissm.jpgDate:  Thursday April 10th, 2008
Time:  7:00pm

Kidsbooks: Author and Illustrator Events

Place: Vancouver Kidsbooks – 3083 West Broadway, Vancouver Please Note: Tickets are fully redeemable toward Joy Kogawa's books on the night of the event – 38kCachedSimilar pages

A Musical Evening with Joy Kogawa and Friends
Friday Apr 25, 2008

Tickets: To secure a seat, please email
Vancouver composer Leslie Uyeda presents two song cycles written to
accompany five of Joy Kogawa's most exquisite poems. “Stations of
Angels” will be performed by soprano Heather Pawsey and flutist Kathryn
Cernauskas, and “Offerings” by Heather Pawsey and pianist Rachel Kiyo
Iwaasa. These performances are the world premiere of both song cycles,
which were composed especially for these three artists. To complement
the musical performance, poets Joy Kogawa, Heidi Greco, Marion Quednau,
and Vancouver's poet laureate George McWhirter will read.

in the Historic Joy Kogawa House, this National Poetry Month event
takes place in Joy Kogawa's childhood home—a place that commemorates
both the brightest hopes and the darkest hours of Canadian history. The
house, representative of many properties owned by Canadians of Japanese
descent, was confiscated during the Second World War when its occupants
and 20,000 other Japanese-Canadians were interned. After a hard-fought
effort by The Land Conservancy and the Kogawa House Committee to save
the house from demolition, it is being restored, and beginning in the
spring of 2009, will host a writer-in-residence program.

Event supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets.

Contact Info:

Contact Name Head Office
Phone 250 383 4627
Click here to send an email

A Tartan Day dragon boat paddle practice… with bagpiper and proclamation reading

HAPPY TARTAN DAY dragon boat practice!

Photo Library - 2645

Michael Brophy holds Scottish flag, Todd Wong, Deputy Mayor Raymond Louie, bagpiper Joe McDonald – photo Georgia Thorburn

A very different kind of dragon boat practice today.

When I arrived, we passed out the tartan kilts, and the tartan sashes.  Because…

We had a City TV cameraman John Wilson come film our practice this afternoon.

And a bagpiper, my friend Joe McDonald, walked over from the Skytrain
station, while we were doing our warm-up under the covered gazebo.

Photo Library - 2630

Raymond Louie holds the proclamation, while Joe McDonald plays his bagpipers – photo Todd Wong

We had a proclamation reading ceremony with the deputy mayor of
Vancouver, city councilor Raymond Louie.  Raymond used to paddle
dragon boats, and he shared a story, how on a day – just like today. 
with a bit of wind, and a bit or rain… he went out on the boat with
his team the Vancouver Sun Strokers.  And they capsized just beyond the
Cambie St. Bridge.

I told a story about Vancouver s Scottish heritage goes way back to the
first mayor in 1886 – Malcolm Alexander  McLean… way back to the
first Prime Minister in 1867 – Sir John Eh MacDonald…. way back to
the first Governor of British Columbia – James Douglas in 1858.

Tartan Day was first celebrated in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1986 to help celebrate Canada s Scottish heritage. 

In 1993 Tartan Day was proclaimed in B.C.

In 2002, Sean Connery leads 10,000 bagpipers through the centre of New York for Tartan Day.

And in Vancouver…. nothing…. for Tartan Day…. until this past week.
Tartan Day was proclaimed in Vancouver City Council

I asked Raymond Louie to explain how it happened.  He said there were a
lot of e-mails between us, and he credited me for making it happen, as
I emailed my connections in the Scottish cultural community, and had
the proclamation draft written by Ron MacLeod, Chair V of the SFU
Scottish Studies program.  The motion was made by Heather Deal and
seconded by Raymond.  Deputy Mayor Louie then read the proclamation.

Joe McDonald played another song on his bagpipes.  It was raining. 
People were smiling, and taking pictures.  It was Pam s first practice
with us, and she had kilt on (does she really know what she is getting
into).  It was wonderful for team spirit.

Photo Library - 2656

Photo Library - 2657

Joe McDonald pipes the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team down to the dragon boat for their special Tartand Day Sunday practice – photo Lena Yamulky

We organized the team above the dock, and we were led down the ramp to
the docks by bagpiper Joe MacDonald.  We climbed into the boat.  And as
the paddlers backed the boat out, I unfurled the Scottish flag,
attached to the hockey stick.  The tv camerman was filming us… and it
looked real good.

Then somebody spotted team member Steven Wong, just coming down the
dock.  Question.  Do we continue backpaddling, or come in for Steven. 

We are an inclusive team.  Steven is a big part of our team.  We
paddled back in, waited for him to get a pdf, find a seat in the boat,
then paddled out for the camera again.

Photo Library - 2664

Photo Library - 2663

Bagpiper Joe McDonald plays the pipes, as the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team loads the boat – photo Lena Yamulky

The flag unfurled beautifully.  When we started paddling forward, and
the flag flew nicely.  As we gained speed, it flapped strongly. 
Wheee!!!! Big smiles on our faces.  Great Fun for Tartan Day.

It was a good practice.  The rain stopped for the most part.  We
paddled pretty strongly with 23 paddlers out past David Lam Park.  We
did some technique exercises, backs and fronts, and kept the boat
moving.  We were back just after 2pm.  A shorter practice than usual –
but pretty good for a cold rainy day.

Following the practice, we had a leadership council meeting at the Wolf & Hound pub over on West Broadway.

Looking forward to seeing the everybody out on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Vancouver Tartan Day

See pictures on Flickr:  Vancouver Tartan Day

See more on

Tartan Day will be celebrated with kilts on the Dragon Boat this Sunday April 6th.

For immediate release

April 5th, 2008 

Tartan Day will be celebrated with kilts on the Dragon Boat this Sunday April 6th.

This past week on
April 1st, 2008, the City of Vancouver passed a motion proclaiming April 6th
to be Tartan Day in Vancouver, to celebrate and recognize it's deep
Scottish roots and heritage. Vancouver's first Mayor in 1886, Malcolm
Alexander McLean was Scottish.  Tartan
Day is meant to celebrate Canada's Scottish heritage and was first
proclaimed in Halifax in 1986, while BC proclaimed it in 1993. 

There will be a 2pm Tartan Day
proclamation reading at Vancouver's Creekside Park at the Dragon Boat/
False Creek Ferry docks beside Science World, in Vancouver BC.

The proclamation will be read by Vancouver
City Councilor Raymond Louie, who is deputy mayor for the City of Vancouver for the month of April.  Louie helped coordinate and second the
motion for City of Vancouver.  Ron MacLeod, Chair V, of the SFU Scottish Studies program helped draft the motion.

Immediately following will be a “Tartan Day”
dragon boat paddle by the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  Some
paddlers will wear kilts, and a Scottish Flag will be flown from the
dragon boat.  While many members of the team have Scottish or Celtic
ancestry, only rookie paddler Martin Carr was born in Scotland.

Councilor Louie has worn the tartan on previous occasions such as the
January 27th 2008 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner. He previously paddled
dragon boats for 4 years and helped to assist the first Taiwanese
Dragon Boat races in Vancouver in 2003.

The Gung Haggis Fat Choy
dragon boat team is coached and organized by Todd Wong, aka Toddish
McWong, creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year
Dinner.  This inter-cultural cross-fusion event has run for 11 years
and inspired a CBC television performance special and a Gung Haggis Fat
Choy Festival at Simon Fraser University.

For more information
contact Todd Wong
h: 604-987-7124
c: 778-846-7090

– 30 –

Tartan Day (April 6) proclaimed in City of Vancouver, April 3

Tartan Day for perpetuity in Vancouver, recognizing Vancouver's Scottish heritage!

We gathered at the Council Chambers foyer with Mayor Sam Sullivan and city councilors for our this photo.  Bagpiper Allan McMoridie and Darryl Carracher of the Scottish Cultural Centre joined us for the ceremony.  The motion had been brought forward by city councilor Heather Deal.

Tartan Day proclaimed! standing l-r:  Tim Stevenson – city councilor, Darryl Carracher – Scottish Cultural Centre, Heather Deal – city councilor, Allan McMordie – JP Fell Pipe Band, BC Lee – city councilor, George Chow – city councilor, Todd Wong – Gung Haggis Fat Choy, Kim Capri – city councilor with Mayor Sam Sullivan.  Photo courtesy of Sven Buemann  City of Vancouver

I brought the tartan sashes and extra kilts that the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team wears for paddling and kilts nights.  Tim Stevenson held up a kilt for the picture, and Kim Capri donned the mini-kilt.  Sashes were taken up by Sam Sullivan, George Chow and BC Lee.  Heather Deal wore her own tartan skirt.

Here is Mayor Sam holding the proclamation with Councilor George Chow, Darryl Carracher, Todd Wong, Councilor Heather Deal and bagpiper Allan McMordie.  Photo courtesy of Sven Buemann City of Vancouver

Later in the evening, our Kilts Night gang met at Doolin's Irish Pub.  Allan brought his entourage, but forgot his bagpipes.  Graham McNicholl showed up with 2 more contingents of the Vancouver Tartan Army.  Kiltmakers Rob Macdonald and Terry Bear Varga joined us too!  Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team members Joy, Raphael, Tzhe and Leanne were on hand, as we danced to the music of the Halifax Wharf Rats, following the Vancouver Canucks loss.  At the first music break, we read the Tartan Day proclamation from the stage.

Next Tartan Day activity
Gung Haggis Fat Choy Tartan Day dragon boat paddle
Sunday 1:30pm
on water 2-3:30pm
Dragon Zone @ Creekside Park
just south of Science World – above the ferry/dragon boat docks

Vancouver Sun: Every day is Tartan Day for devoted kilt maker

Kilt maker Rob McDonald and I first discovered each other when we were both interviewed for a Vancouver Courier article Hearts in the Highlands about Robbie Burns Day by Fiona Hughes.  We finally met at a Kilts Night event at Doolin's Irish Pub. 
Rob's website is
He regaled us with stories from his days in the Seaforth Highlanders
where he first learned to make kilts.  This man is full of great
entertaining stories.

Rob came out to last year's Tartan Day Kilts Night event, and helped bring out lots of kilts and mini-kilts for the Kilt fashion parade, organized by Terry Varga.  With Tartan Day being proclaimed in the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Sun writer Chantal Eustace interviewed Rob about the etiquette of making and wearing kilts:

Every day is Tartan Day for devoted kilt maker

The province's annual nod to Scottish heritage is no big deal for Robert MacDonald, for whom the leggy garment is a way life

Vancouver Sun

Chantal Eustace,
Vancouver Sun

Published: Thursday, April 03, 2008

Whenever he can, local kilt maker Robert MacDonald likes to wear his Scottish heritage on his hips.

“I'd say it's an integral part of who I am,” says MacDonald, adding that he is more comfortable in a kilt than in trousers.

has nothing to do with the fact that Tartan Day — the province's
annual nod to its Scottish heritage, part of a global celebration of
Highland culture — is this Sunday.

me a kilt is just something I grew up with, like a T-shirt,” MacDonald
says when asked about Tartan Day. “That's like saying, let's celebrate
T-shirt day.”

It doesn't concern him that the holiday, recognized in B.C. since
1993, hasn't taken off in the local Scottish community with the same
gusto as Robert Burns Day.

“I wish [Tartan Day] well but I can't
say I'm rooting for it on the sidelines like a cheerleader,” MacDonald
says, seated at the kilt-making table in his Vancouver home, where he
sews his made-to-order creations. “I'll be fine if it takes off and
I'll be fine if it doesn't take off.”

After all, there is a year-round demand for his tartan creations.

Read the rest of the story:

The tools of the trade for kilt-maker...View Larger Image View Larger Image

The tools of the trade for kilt-maker…

Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Province: Vancouver to embrace Tartan Day on April 6

Here's the first public media acknowledgement that Tartan Day is officially happening in the City of Vancouver.
Indeed, the city of Vancouver, province of BC, and country of Canada – all trace it's historical beginnings to Scottish pioneers.

Vancouver's first mayor was Scottland born Malcolm Alexander McLean, elected in 1886.  BC's first governor was born of a Scottish father in Guyana, then raised in Lanark, the Scottish market town where the Scots Parliament was first held and where William Wallace used to live.  Canada's first Prime Ministers was Sir John A. MacDonald, born in Edinburgh. 

But today in Canada's most Asian city, where BC traces it's Chinese ancestry to 1858, it's year of conception as a British colony, the charge to create a Tartan Day recognition is led by multigenerational Canadians of Chinese ancestry, Todd Wong and Raymond Louie.

Vancouver to embrace Tartan Day on April 6

Christina Montgomery,
The Province

Published: Thursday, April 03, 2008

lads and lassies have until Sunday to press their kilts and dust off
their sporans for the city's first official Tartan Day.

will declare today that Vancouver is joining a long list of cities
around the world that celebrate their Scottish roots on April 6.

idea of hopping on the international Tartan Day bandwagon was the
brainchild of Todd Wong, who founded the local phenomenon known as the
Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.

event, which marries Chinese New Year with Robbie Burns Day at the end
of January, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.

declaration comes at the urging of Vision Vancouver councillors Heather
Deal — still livid over her Macdonald clan's defeat at Glencoe in 1692
— and Raymond Louie — who claims to be a MacLouie, despite his
Chinese heritage.

Deal says the idea is to add a
Scottish-flavoured salute to the city's Celtic roots, already
acknowledged with an annual St. Patrick's Day parade, Celtic festival
and the Gung Haggis dinner.

Wong is expected to make an
appearance at the ceremony in council chambers, accompanied by a
traditional piper. The 47-year-old fifth-generation Chinese Canadian
says he came to love all things Scottish — including Robbie Burns —
in 1993, when he volunteered at a Burns dinner at Simon Fraser

Tartan Day proclamation ceremony at Vancouver city hall: 1pm April 3


1:00pm, April 3rd
Vancouver City Hall
Council Foyer (upstairs)

Allan McMordie of the JP Fell Pipe Band is bringing his pipes and full kit.

We will meet at the foyer to City Council Chambers (upstairs)
at 12:40pm   (20 minutes prior to a 1pm ceremony).

We are making up this ceremony as we go…
1) piping opening
2) Mayor reads proclamation
3) recognize the Scottish and tartan community organizations and individuals attending
4) City Council piped into their next meeting/ piping closing.

Hopefully this event plants the seeds for a Tartan Week of celebrations….  “for tomorrow and so on forever”

See below for the City of Vancouver Tartan Day Proclamation

Tartan Day (April 6th) proclamation passed today in City of Vancouver