Monthly Archives: July 2008

Gung Haggis paddles hard for 2nd place in Mixed C Championships Vernon Dragon Boat Race

Gung Haggis paddles hard for 2nd place in Mixed C Championships Vernon Dragon Boat Race

Gung Haggis group picture - photo Samis by you.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team: front row kneeling – Steven, Jane, Debbie, Todd, Marion, Julie, Tzhe, Stuart, Brooke; standing – Kristine, Pat (host), Jim, Ernest, Dave, Deb (host), Hillary, Wendy, Jonas (back), Ashleigh, Tony, Alissa, Richard (back), Gayle, Mary, Stephen (back), Raphael, Dan.

Winning vs Fun….  Vacation vs Serious Competition.

We put FUN first… and “WINNING at all costs” last, with Haggis somewhere in between…..

Jim Blatherwick and the team - photo Brooke Samis

Jim and Jonas warm up with the team.  Lots of kilts worn by team members Marion, Stuart, Todd, Tzhe and Jim! – photo Brooke Samis

Julie, Ashleigh and Brooke - photo Dave Samis

Drummer Julie, 3 year veteran Ashleigh, rookie initiate Brooke – all happy to be on the team and in Vernon – photo Dave Samis

Gung Haggis passing the swimming dock - photo Brooke Samis by you.

Haggis team paddling out past the dock, Todd steers dressed in kilt
with Julie as drummer dressed in Hawaiian style grass skirt. Our hosts,
Pat and Bill Martin's waterfront home where many of us stayed and where
we held team bbq Saturday night, is in the background  – photo Brooke

We were in C Championship semi-final… on Sunday morning.  We were boat #3.

It was exciting with all the wind swept waves in the tourquoise green waters of Kalamalka  Lake, like paddling in Hawaii.

“Hawaii 5-0 paddling,” I yelled out to the team.  “Lean out, paddle hard – just like outrigger paddling!”  We did a start piece and a power series.  We turned the boat around with our back to the wind to await being called to the start line.

Wind kicked up…. all boats called to start line…  Boat #2 turned sideways and was hit by
a broadside wave, and gently tipped over.  All paddlers in the water….  Chase
boats on scene.  All boats recalled to start line.  Races delayed for
an hour afterwards….

Races started up again at 12 noon, after winds died down.
I steered…  water is still bouncy….  can't hold the boat on
course.  Boat veering right.  Let it run… hold the boat.  Boat beside us narrowly passes us.  Gain control.  Start again… 
We are way behind 3 of the teams, but we still pass a team on far right.  We feel good about our finish, we recovered well.  I feel I made the right corrections for controlling these keel-less Dynasty boats from Calgary.  Despite the steering mishap, our time was a decent 2:45.25.  We are set for the next race.

Gung Haggis team recovers from steering mishap.  Todd is steering as the boat bounces across the tops of wave swells.  Drummer Julie gives the team directions to keep them going. – photo courtesy of  Ben Lee.

C Finals – we are boat #2 in Lane 1. (all teams are moved one lane over.)
Water not as bouncy.  We know we can do well.
good start.  Neck and neck with lane boat #3 in lane 2.  They are the
Red Hot Chili Peppers from Kelowna.  I know the drummer and steers from
the inaugural  Vernon races in 2005.

Still neck and neck…  Julie called a power series, and we moved up a
seat, just passing the team on our right.  Were we first? or second
now?  There was another team in the middle lane. I called a finish, and
the team dug deeper.  We called out our favorite cue word, “More, More
More” – inspiring us to reach more, dig deep more, give more power.  It
was close.   We crossed the finish line.  We we 1st?  Were we 2nd? 
Were we 3rd?

We headed to the beach.  We talked to our team mates who didn't paddle – but watched the race, and our friends. 
“2nd… unofficially,” they told us.  Team Rift Raft was 1st… but we were gaining on them… another 50 m, and we would have had them.

A good hard race.  The boat stayed straight.  We powered hard.  Our paddles were deep.  We got 2nd place in the C Championship with a time of 2:28.29, just 2.1 seconds behind the first place of 2:26.19 by Rift Raft.  Yay!

We were signed up for the 3rd annual demonstration water-ski pull.  The team that pulls a water skier up for the longest time… wins registration for next year's Greater Vernon Dragon Boat Race.  2 years ago, none of the successfully teams managed to pull their water skier – but our skier (Ashleigh) popped up the fastest before she lost control.  Last year we tried again, but no pop up for Ashleigh.

This year, the winds picked up again soon after the finish of the Mixed Adult A Championship.  We were standing in line, waiting for the water-ski pull meeting, when white cap waves accompanied gusty southerly winds.  The water ski pull was soon canceled.

We headed to the beer gardens for the medal ceremony.  The women's races were announced first.  Unfortunately, the C Finals didn't have medals, as race organizer Shawn Samol explained this would be rectified for next year.  B Finals and A Finals were next announced.  The Extreme Currents women's team from Kamloops were the top women's team for the 4th year in a row.  Mana Wahine, a 2 year old women's team from Chilliwack came 2nd.

Next the C Championships were being announced.  Several of our team members moved closer to the stage, as we were ready to accept our medals.  We made sure everybody wearing a kilt was there.  Shawn Samol again explained that they didn't have medals for the C Finals and that it would be rectified for next year.  They did announce the winners.  3rd was Red Hot Chili Paddlers from Kelowna who were DQ.  2nd was Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  1st was Team Rift Raft.

Mixed B Finals were won by Calgary Racing Club, Fluid Motion was 2nd, with SDR – Shaggin' Dragons Reloaded coming 3rd.

The A Finals were very exciting and very close.  Sudden Impact Black came first by a micro-second of  2:09.47 vs. 2:09.61 for Pacific Reach 2 (winners for previous 3 years in Vernon).  Extreme Currents from Kamloops beat out Topmade Fusion with a time of 2:14.50 vs 2:14.88

Gung Haggis paddlers all had lots of fun.  That's what counts.  We paddled 3 races + the 1000m demonstration race where we came first after passing 3 teams.  Today we were on the water 3 times, where our 1st race was cancelled because of high winds, after a team tipped into the water after being hit broadside by a wave.  Our 2nd race where I lost control of the boat in windy conditions that made it hard steering with the waves, but regained control for a good finish… and our 3rd race where we went neck and neck to the finish line with Red Hot Chili Paddlers on our right, passing them but coming a very close 2nd place to the boat in lane 4.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team paddles Vernon: wins 1000m mini-Guts& Glory race

The Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team passed 3 teams on their way to the finish in the 1000m Mini-Guts & Glory C Division.

GHFC  2008 by you.

Todd Wong steers the Gung Haggis dragon boat team, with Julie Wong as drummer.  The team is heading to their 2nd 200m sprint race. photo courtesy of Dave Samis.

We are having an INCREDIBLE time up here in VERNON….

The weather is beautiful, the sand is hot, the water is cooling.  And we visited the Grey Monk winery before attending the Vernon dragon boat race meeting on Friday night.

Today we paddled 4 races and had a blast. 
200m  0:58.80
200m  0:56.64
500m  2:31.34
1000m with turn 5:57.690

It was challenging as we are not used to racing 200m sprint races.   Our first 200m sprint was frantic, as we struggled to get used to the Dynasty dragon boat from Calgary.  Our 2nd sprint race was much better.  We got race jitters out of the way… and we improved from a 0:058.60 time to 0:56.30.  We improved by almost 2 seconds, but we know we could still do better.

Our 3rd race was a 500m race, and somehow after the 200m sprint races… this 500m seemed impossibly l-o-n-g.  Our rate was too high, and we struggled.

We came into the 1000m race, knowing we really enjoyed it last year. 

We raced 5 boat heat.  500m, turn around, race 500m back.  Boats proceed one at
at time, 10 seconds apart. 

We were boat #4.  We set a nice easy pace… that allowed us to reach out further.  Pretty soon we were catching up to the boat ahead of us.
We passed boat #3 in this
mini-Guts and Glory race, as we approached the turn, then then passed
the #2 boat on the turn.  We challenged the #1 boat in the lead… in
the final 100m… spooked them
good… and crossed the finish line FIRST!

There are 18 Women's Teams
There are 18 Mixed Adult Teams
We are headed into Mixed Adult C Finals.
First race at 9:15 tomorrow morning.
Mixed Adult C Championahip around 12 noon.
Then we will enter the Water Ski Challenge.

GHFC boys 2008 by you.

It's a tradition that a picture of team members be taken in the waters of Kalamalka Lake.  Tzhe is on the far left wearing his kilt, followed by Jonas, Dave, Todd, Ernest, Raphael, Jim, Tony and Stephen.  The girls asked the boys to show some leg, and this was the result – just before the boys all fell in the water!  Tomorrow we'll show you a pictures of the Gung Haggis girls in the water! – photo courtesy of Dave/Brooke Samis

Check out our Vernon races from 2007 & 2006

on Sun 29 Jul 2007 07:30 PM PDT

on Wed 01 Aug 2007 03:09 PM PDT

on Wed 16 Aug 2006 12:23 PM PDT

Sorrry…. we tried to work something out… but it didn't happen,.
We will see you on Tuesday 6pm.

Theatre Under the Stars: Anything “Jesus Christ Superstar” can do, “Annie Get Your Gun” can do better

Annie Get Your Gun and Jesus Christ Superstar are the two musicals appearing at this summer's Theatre Under the Stars at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.

Jesus Christ Superstar and Annie Get Your Gun – in repertory
produced by Theatre Under the Stars
July 9th to August 16th 2008
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park, Vancouver BC

It's always the sign of a good show when you spend the next day humming
and singing the songs from the show you saw the night before.  I loved
the movie soundtrack for Jesus Christ Superstar, as it was one of the
first records I ever bought.  I remember seeing Annie Get Your Gun on
television when I was young, and of course “There's No Business like
Show Business” is an Irving Berlin classic song.

Jesus Christ Superstar opened on July 9th, and Annie Get Your Gun
on July 10th alternating evenings for this Vancouver summer tradition. 
The first started off as a concept album before being presented as a
rock opera, while the 2nd is a traditional Broadway musical. Each very
different but both filled with very familiar songs. Irving Berlin was a
mainstay for popular music in the 1930's and Annie Get Your Gun is
pretty well a musical masterpiece.  Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote Jesus
Christ Superstar early in his musical career, long before his Phantom
of the Opera masterpiece.

Jesus Christ Superstar opens with the character Judas feeling that Jesus is going down the wrong path in his ministry, affected by the huge rising popularity.  This sets the dynamic tension between the two pivotal characters.  Songs in the first act are memorable with “Everything's Alright” and “I Don't Know How to Love Him.”  Costumes are contemporary as soldiers carry rifles instead of spears, and allusion is made to current political tensions in the Middle East.

Mat Baker does a splendid job as Jesus.  He sings well and carries himself believably with compassion.  Adam Charles seems to play Judas as a punkish angry young man, which short changes the depth of love that Judas has for Jesus. Tamara Vishniakoff has a strong voice, and plays a credible Mary Magdelene but she rushes her beautiful aria of “I Don't Know How to Love Him.”  The first act closes with Judas' decision to betray Jesus. 

Annie Get Your Gun opens with the “Buffalo Bill's Wild West” show coming to town where the show's sharp shooter Frank Butler challenges anybody in Cinncinati Ohio to a contest.  Young Annie Oakley shows up from the backwoods as a sharp shooting country bumpkin and ends up falling in love with Butler without realizing that it is him she will be facing in the shooting contest.  This sets up a competitive rivalry that dooms their romance but also drives them together.  Songs such as “No Business Like Show Business” and “They Say it's Wonderful” are standards that will bring back familiar memories even if “The Girl That I Marry” was sung by Kirsten Dunst in Spiderman 3.

Meghan Anderssen is spectacular as Annie Oakley, and Warren Kimmel strongly plays her foil Frank Butler.  While the show plays up its campy humour, everything seems to fit perfectly.  Anderssen as the backwoods Annie sings “Doin' What Comes Natur'lly” and “You Can't Get a Man with a Gun” with a no-holds-barred intensity. 

Jesus Christ Superstar's spare set is used well simulating both temple interiors and exteriors, but the overall blocking of the cast is stilted and doesn't utilize the stage well. A round turning stage in the middle is used to good effect for scenes when Jesus is approached by the lepers, and well as the ensemble pieces such as Hosanna.  Contrarily, Annie Get Your Gun features a lush set with large curtains that simulate both a circus big top and later a New York ballroom.  The turning stage reveals its true purpose under the big top of Wild Bill's Wild West show.

The second act of Jesus Christ Superstar is dark as it focuses on Judas' betrayal and the crucifixion of Jesus.  King Herod's Dream is a campy highlight that portray's Herod as a “king of  bling” gangsta pimp. And while songs like “Could We Start Again Please” and “I Only Want to Say” are powerful ballads, much of the music is bombastic 4/4 rock and funk, which does not make a nice relaxing evening in the park.

The second act of Annie Get Your Gun opens with Annie and Frank on two separate continents in two different Wild West shows after an aborted marriage proposal.  But by chance, the two groups come together in New York. Annie is a much more mature and worldly woman, singing “I've Got the Sun in the Morning and Moon at Night.”  The action culminates in the immortal song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”

Intercultural content for JC Superstar harkens to the clash between religions and cultures, and how both Pilate, Herod and the Church of the time all felt threatened by the rising popularity of Jesus.  The United Nations charter of Human Rights did not exist at the time to assert “peaceful right to co-existence” and we all know what happened to both Jesus and Judas, end of story.

Annie GYG was re-written to expunge its dated view of First Nations people.  Songs like “Colonel Wild Bill” and “I'm An Indian Too.” have been dropped.  Chief Sitting Bull is a wise elder that gives Annie advice.  And… there is an intercultural romance between two performers of the Wild West show, that is threatened because the young woman's older sister doesn't like the fact that her younger sister's suiter is of mixed heritage being half First Nations… (okay they say the word Indian in his show).

It's hard to compare two very different shows.  JC Superstar has
dancing go go girls and Annie GYG has corset and fishnet clad circus
performers.  JC Superstar has a soaring ambitious musical score with
screaming guitars, and Annie GYG has a swing orchestra with soaring

But while Jesus Christ Superstar somehow felt still unfinished and in need of another week's rehearsal, Annie Get Your Gun showed up on opening night with both guns blazing, and deservedly earned actor Meghan Anderssen a standing ovation.  Her energetic slapstick acting is perfect for the role. If there's only one night to go to Theatre Under the Stars, then go see Annie.  But be warned, with either show, you will be humming the songs the next day.

Fireworks and Godzilla music? that's just weird….

Godzilla music was used for the Canadian entry for HSBC Celebration of  Light Vancouver fireworks competition on Wednesday July 23.

I sat in front of Kitsilano pool along the sea wall, as the “radio warning” told citizens that the city was under attack, and to stay indoors.  It was exciting.  Radio stations all day had been saying that Godzilla movie soundtrack music would be used by the Canadian fireworks entry Archangel Fireworks for the HSBC Celebration of Light.

I brought my big boom box because music on a good speaker system is important for a good synchronized fireworks show.  I am constantly surprised by the numbers of people who don't bring music.  At English Bay Beach, the sound delay is frustrating if you are further away from the speakers, because it the synched-up sequences are all delayed.
We marvelled at the synchronizaton of the opening music… were the the single chords supposed to be foot steps?  As a single burst of light timed with each chord?  Cool…

Was the Godzilla monster approaching?  What was happening? Were there  airplanes attacking the monster or ground troops when the march type music came on?

The music left me empty… it was hard to relate to if you didn't know the story.'

Maybe I should have printed out the program from the website that listed some of the song titles such as

  • Godzilla Rises from the Sea
  • Mechagodzilla 2
  • Monster Battle March
  • Giant Bees
  • Storm Over the Sea
  • The Giant Crab

The program left a lot to the imagination, and I was yearning for something that could connect more emotionally with the audience.  I imagined what the fireworks would be like if Star Wars music had been used, or a James Bond score. 

My favorite fireworks music has often been classical.  Familiar stuff like William Tell overture (Lone Ranger Theme), Sabre Dance, 1812 Overture.  I started imagining what the fireworks would be like if they based the theme on the movie Fantasia with Bach's Tocatta in D Minor or Beethoven's 5th Symphony, or Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice.

A good fireworks event should not only have good choreography and synchronization, it should have music that the audience can relate to emotionally.  I can remember years ago listening to China's first fireworks presentation with  Chinese music… which was generally lost on a non-Chinese audience.  The attention wanders… and the audience is lost.  China's program this year will feature a wide diversity of music, some with Asian themes, some by Western artists.

But the best part of the music was the final sequence… sort of a traditional feel-good romantic fan-fare where good conquers evil and all the people in the city are saved.  After the fire works were over, a lot of people around us thanked us for bringing the portable stereo.

Too bad the Godzilla music fizzled.  It started off so promising…

Harry Aoki Tribute concert is a wonderful multicultural music event and establishes the Aoki Legacy Fund for St. John's College, UBC

Harry Aoki is a musical legend.  He has a strong vision about music, and how it crosses boundaries and builds bridges to help enrich both culture and society, as well as personal lives.

Aoki stands beside his musical friend Themba Tana and holds his special
gift from the evening, a yellow cedar paddle carved by Chief Cedric
Billy, mast carver of the Squamish Nation.  Harry has a long time
respect for First Nations heritage.  – photo Todd Wong

Last Sunday's Harry Aoki Tribute concert July 20th, at the Firehall Arts Centre
not only highlighted Harry's musical legacy through a wonderful
multicultural music event, but it also established the Aoki Legacy Fund
for St. John's College, UBC.  Here's the program write-up for The Aoki Legacy Fund:

Harry Aoki, musician/composer/ethnomusicologist, ahs devoted most of his life to the presentation of world music and intercultural dialogue to promote harmonious diversity in society.  Ted Aoki, universtity teacher/scholar/philosopher, has devoted his career to progressive education for intercultural understanding.  The Aoki Legacy Fund is to be used in support of the Aoki vision, through sponsoring or co-sponsoring events that use muisic, dialogue and other cultural productions, for the explicit purpose of celebrating and promoting intercultural understanding.

The musical program featured many musicians and friends, with some such as mezzo-soprano Liya Ahmad flying in from Edmonton, and pipa player Xiao Yu flying in from Florida to perform.  Long time Aoki supporter Cath Bray flew in from Nova Scotia.  There was also a very special surprise appearance from Harry's brother Ted Aoki, who arrived from Edmonton.

Harry Aoki was featured at this year's Vancouver International Jazz Festival, participating in the JazzStreet presentations at the Vancouver Public Library on June 10th.  Another highlight for Harry this year was performing “Star Dust” on his harmonica with the Dal Richards big band at the Britannia  High School Reunion in May 2008.

Harry Aoki performed at the first public open house event at Historic Joy Kogawa House in September 2006.  Harry had been a big supporter of the “Save Kogawa House campaign,” . – photo Deb Martin

I have known Harry since 2002, and he gladly performed at some of our awareness-raising or fund-raising events for Joy Kogawa House, as well as attended our literary events.  It was a real honour to participate in the Harry Aoki Tribute concert with so many wonderful musicians such as CBC radio journalist Margaret Gallagher, oboeist Janine Oye, drummers Thema Tana and Albert St. Albert, pianist Alison Nishihara, cellis Kira Van Deusen, and shakuhachi player Al Ramos.

Harry has been producing an event held at the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre, called First Friday Forum.  He brings together musicians and stories and songs from ethnically diverse cultures, and demonstrates the links between them. 

The first half of the tribute concert started off with emulating the format of these forums,  by inviting all the performers on stage to perform a musical soundscape.  Themba Tana and Albert St. Albert played percussion to start a musical journey around the world, that represented music and stories from the world's 5 major continents.  Margaret Gallagher followed by singing the celtic song  “Danny Boy”, followed by an Indonesian song titled “Putri Gunung” accompanied by Sutrisno Hartano who played an Indonesian gamelan instrument.

“Moo Li Hua” is a traditional chinese song known as “Jasmine Flower”, was played by clarinetist Janine Oye and accordionist Todd Wong.  I had a lot of fun practicing this traditional song with Janine, as we played it first by alternating 8 bars of music, then by playing a musical game of tag, as Janine followed my playing, two bars behind me to create “a round.”

Highlights of the event included:
A reading of “My Enemy” by Duncan Shields in English, and Chigusa Sherry Barnes in Japanese, while Janine Oye and FFF Friends accompanied them performing a Harry Aoki composition “Yoko's Theme.”

“Bachianas Brasilieras” sung by mezzo-soprano Aliya Ahmad with Kira Van Deusen on cello and Alison Nishihara on piano.

Last Import - 24 Todd Wong plays “Dark Eyes” – photo Deb Martin

“Harry loves Romanian and gypsy music,” I told the audience.  I once asked him if he could attend a concert with me, and he told me “No… I have to go on a cruise, with Gypsy musicians.”  For Harry I played the traditional song “Dark Eyes.”

Co-MC Jan Walls recited the words to the Hoagy Carmichael song “Star Dust,” as Harry went to pick up his harmonica and returned to centre stage.  Ken Keneda accompanied Harry on piano, as Harry performed a very touching harmonica solo of  “Star Dust” – one of Harry's favorite songs.  You can hear a You Tube performance of Harry playing “Star Dust” at the 2007 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, accompanied by Jaye Krebs on piano.

It is hard not to have met Harry, and been touched both musically and personally by him.  I think of Harry as a courageous man, who at age 21 left Vancouver in 1942 on his own, to avoid being forcibly sent to the  Japanese-Canadian internment camps during WW2.  He couldn't take his violin with him, but he took his harmonica.  Harry knows that he can reach people through music, and his life has become a tribute to end racism through musicians playing together, and people learning about intercultural cross-boundary similarities of the world's musical cultures.

Janine Oye, Harry Aoki Sherry Tanaka, Bev Nann, Todd Wong – photo Todd Wong

Janine Oye, Harry Aoki, Chigusa Sherry Barnes, Bev Nann and Todd Wong, share a moment with Harry after the concert as all the performers and the event organizers went for dinner at the Congee Noodle House. video of SUCCESS “Walk with the Dragon”

“Walk with the Dragon” is one of Vancouver's biggest Stanley Park events.  It is an outdoor fundraiser for SUCCESS.

Here's a great video of the event, by VJ Becky  with a interviews with SUCCESS executive director Tung Chan.

DSC_8072b42903 - Overview VIP TENT - 2-foto pano 2

Check out my friend Patrick Tam's pictures on his flickr site.

According to news reports, over 13,000 people attended, raising more money than last year to help this immigrant support service organization.

Earlier this year I had bought a 12 foot long dragon that we used in the St. Patrick's Day Parade… and I thought it would be great to bring down to the “Walk With The Dragon Event.

I have never attended the event because unfortunately, I am usually out of town or dragon boat racing. 

I was planning on attending this year, but had to move the Gung Haggis dragon boat team practice into the morning because I was a performer for the Harry Aoki tribute event in the afternoon.

Oh well… there's always next year

3 accordions Saturday morning at the Vancouver Folk Festival… I am in accordion heaven!

Lots of accordions at the Vancouver Folk Festival on Saturday morning.
Kiran Ahluwalia

It is a beautiful sunny morning at Jericho beach with drifting clouds giving some respite to the late morning festival goers at the Vancouver Folk Festival.  My girlfriend and I bicycled over to the Jericho Beach Park site.  As we lock up our bikes we listen to Kiran Aluwalia and Maeve Mackinnon are performing at the Mother Tongue workshop at stage 3.  We walk in past the children's area and watch Chibi Taiko performing Japanese taiko drums on stage.


We make our way over to Stage 4 where Spirit of the West is setting up with LAU, an acoustic trio – but one of Scotland's most innovative traditonalist musicians.  This workshop is called Celtic Connections.  Each group plays a turn.  Spirit of the West opens with “Another New Year's Day.”

LAU opens with some easy banter about the band finding it way too early to play in the morning.  It is actually only 11:25… but “way to early, even in Scotland.”  They play a gentle accoustic suite of songs that morphs into a chaotic frenzy.  Martin Green is hammering his 48 button accordion in time with rhythmic guitarist Kris Drever, and fiddler Aidan O'Rourke.  Too bad the sound system guys haven't woken up yet to balance this mix.

Spirit of the West

Spirit of the West introduces guest fiddler Kendel Carson from the band Outlaw Social,  She makes a great addition both musically and visually.  They perform a song titled “King of Scotland” that celebrates the passing of Idi Amin.  Tobin Frank is playing his 120 bass piano accordion.  Geoffrey Kelly plays his flute with runs that are impossibly fast and rhythmic.  Incredible.

Del Castillo

We walk over to stage 6 where the American flamenco-gypsy band is playing.   It is a
high-energy Chicano band that sings in Spanish, combining old-school
Gitano with nuevo flamenco and churning polyrhythmic percussion.  They really have the audience going.

Over at stage 5, DNA 6 is hosting Sounds of the City with Delhi 2 Dublin.  Lots of rap hip hop but when the 2 bands work togther, the celtic fiddle of Kytami and sitar player Andrew Kim make it very world fusion.

Charanga Cakewalk

Walking back to stage 6, we follow the full sounds of accordion with a wonderful rhythmic beat.  Charanga Cakewalk is busy inciting the audience to dance.  They are described in the program as “a pan-Latin American martini of equal parts traditional instruments and deep urban grooves.”

Red Chamber

On the way walking out of the park, we discover Red Chamber is playing.  I am always amazed at the fast string plucking of the Chinese instrument called the Chinese zither.

Then I spot Spirit of the West co-founder and flautist Geoffrey Kelly grabbing a coffee.  I introduce myself, and we chat about the time he performed with The Paper Boys for the CBC television performance special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”  It was the first ever music video ever filmed in The Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens. 

“We had a lot of fun,” Kelly recalls, “Jim was great on Chinese flute too.”

Hmmm…. maybe The Paperboys with Geoffrey Kelly will be featured guests at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner?  It could happen…. The line up is always about what inspires me, and who I meet in my travels.

Odd Couple – Friendship with an Asian style twist on the Neil Simon play

Oscar Madison and Felix Unger come alive on stage at the Richmond Cultural Centre – but in Asian bodies?

The Odd Couple
Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre

Directed by Raugi Yu
Produced by Joyce Lam

July 17-27, 2008
Richmond cultural Centre, Richmond

August 13-21, 2008
Roundhouse Performance Centre, Vancouver

I swear I could hear the voices and body actions of the famous and acclaimed actors Tony Randall or Jack Lemmon as Felix, or Jack Klugman or Walter Matthau as Oscar in the well-loved play or tv show.  But holy cow, they are in Asian bodies on stage!

“The script and the writing is very strong,” says director Raugi Yu, when I asked him if he or the actors had studied the movie or videos of the play or TV show.  “The actors are wonderful in it…. at one point I asked them if they wanted to go with accents, and they really got into it.  It just flowed.”

Five Asian men and one Caucasian man speak in New York accents, playing a Neil Simon play for a Vancouver audience.  Felix is played as a new immigrant to North America and represents more traditional Asian traditions vs Oscar the multi-generational North American born Asian who is more North American and consequently the slob.

It's a bold vision put forward by producer Joyce Lam, who actually
called Neil Simon's lawyers to ask if they could translate the classic
play into Chinese language for sur-titles and change some of the words
to fit the transposed Asian immigrant theme. 

“They didn't care that we were translating it, but they wouldn't let us
change the words.” said Lam who is very proud of this production.

They boys meet regularly for their poker game, and it is in this setting that the drama unfolds.  Heck, it could be almost be mah jong… but then they would have too many for a foursome.  As each character walks on stage, a different type of Asian music announces their arrival.  Traditional Chinese for Felix, Japanese pop for Oscar.  Bad Asian karaoke for another character.  Rock 'n' Roll for the White guy.  It's a different twist, but it helps to add character layers and remind the audience that a very different “Odd Couple” is being presented.

The acting is solid by Ron Yamauchi as Oscar, and Jimmy Yi as Felix.  These actors have the skills to perform the characters, but Asian actors never get to play such roles because traditionally they are not cast for traditionally “white” characters.  But if you live in North America, most of the roles become supporting characters or stereotyped cliches of Asians.  Bravo to Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre for purposely taking a classica Broadway play and re-visioning it for a potentially large pan-Asian audience in Metro-Vancouver.

Carmine Bernhardt and Lissa Neptuno play the sexy English neighbors upstairs, named Gwendolyn and Cecily Pigeon.  These two characters help create tension between Oscar and Felix and highlight the different attitudes not only between traditional and multi-generational values towards dating, but also between marriage and divorce.  Bernhardt and Neptuno bring a vital energy to their performances with their flirtations and silly giggles.  They act coy and suggestively in a way that no man could resist.  You almost wish you could be on stage with them, with the attention they pay to Oscar and Felix.

Bravo to Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre for pushing the racial boundaries of Vancouver theatre once again.  With limited resources, VACT is saying “Why can't we do this?” and turning colour blind casting and perceptions on it's head.

I look forward to VACT's future presentation of Rogers & Hammerstein's musical set in San Francisco's Chinatown, “Flower Drum Song”, which broke down racial stereotypes about Asians while reinforcing others.

Check out the latest trailer for The Odd Couple on YouTube, filmed during rehearsals for the upcoming Richmond production.

Todd Wong & David Philip perform at COPE summer BBQ at Vancouver Rowing Club

Todd Wong brought his accordion repertoire from the CUPE 391 Library Square strike line to the COPE summer bbq at the Vancouver Rowing Club

It was a sold out Thursday night for the COPE annual summer BBQ at the Vancouver Rowing Club in Stanley Park, on July 17.

Who showed up?  Why there was COPE city councilor David Cadman, MLA
Adrian Dix, MLA David Chudnovsky, Vision city councilors Heather Deal, George Chow, Tim
Stevenson, COPE parks commissioner Loretta Woodcock, COPE school board trustee Allan Wong, and Vision
mayoralty candidate Gregor Robertson. There were also lots of candidates such as recently declared Council candidates Andrea Reimer, Kerry Jang, Meena Wong and Parks Board candidates Stuart Mackinnon, and Aaron Jasper + parliamentary candidate Don Davies.

Here is a group of wannabe politicians for the Vancouver civic election: 1. Gregor Roberson –
Vision Mayoral candidate
2. Sarah
Blythe – Park Board candidate
Aaron Jasper – Park Board Candidate, 4. Meena Wong – COPE City Council candidate, 5. David Eby City Council candidate  – photo Patrick Tam

Labour Unions were also represented.  Attending were David Walker the new BCGEU president,  Bill Saunders president of the Vancouver District Labour Council, and CUPE 391 Vancouver Library workers.


The CUPE 391 table featured vice-presidents Laura Safarian, Inder Pannu and Library shipper/film maker David Philip.  Fellow CUPE 391 library workers not in the photo are Mark Whittam, Margaret, and yours truly Todd Wong – photo Patrick Tam

CUPE 391's presence was very special because not only did the Vancouver Library Workers sponsor a table, they also represented a good portion of the featured entertainment with Todd Wong (of Gung Haggis Fat Choy fame)  also newly elected to the CUPE 391 executive as member-at-large.

DSC_777742628 - Adrian's kenote speech – photo Patrick Tam

MLA Adrian Dix speaks to the sold out event, as keynote speaker.  He addresses the inequalities in the city. He also shared a secret with the NDP friendly crowd – but I can't reproduce it here, because he didn't want to share it with the media… not just yet.

DSC_765642516 - MC Carlo BODROGI – photo Patrick Tam

Carlo Bodrogi did a fine job MCing the
event. I discovered that he is half-Phillipino and the other half is Jewish and Hungarian…
very Gung Haggis, as I explained to him the term “Hapa” which is a
Hawaiian term that means “half Asian”

DSC_781142662 - Todd WONG's act– photo Patrick Tam

Todd Wong reprised selections from his “Library Square strike-line repertoire” as David Philip shared his films made during last year's CUPE 391 Vancouver Library Workers strike.  Todd shared stories about what it was like on the strike line, as CUPE 391 made media headlines and waves in the labour movement because of their creative and innovative strike line activities, which included “flying bicycle pickets,” knitting groups, musicians, video films, and a writer's reading series – organized by Wong. 

“The accordion and music made it easier to interact with the public,” said Wong telling tales of the songs he would play as pedestrians made their way to the ballet, the hockey game, or attended “Word on the Street” literary and book fair. 

Philip's videos demonstrated not only the creativity of CUPE 391 picketers, but also the resolve to deal with the stress and challenges of a 3 month strike.  They are filled with anger, compassion, humor and the strength of human spirit. 

Rachel Marcuse was event organizer, and she said “People told me it was the best entertainment we've had yet at our events,” as Wong was able to blend together the art forms of music and video with the politics and pathos of the strike line.

Watch some of David Philip's videos on you tube:

DAY 43

See more of Patrick Tam's pictures at:

Going to a Music Fest this weekend? Vancouver Folk Fest… Surrey Fusion fest… Whistler Music Fest…

Too many music festivals this weekend…  But I will be at the Vancouver Folk Fest

There is the Surrey Fusion Festival and the Whistler Music Festival on this week…

I think I will keep things simple and stay in Kitsilano, and bicycle over to the Vancouver Folk Fest at Jericho Beach.

There are always lots of interesting cultural fusion performers as well as traditional performers.  In particular I am looking forward to seeing:

Spirit of the West on Saturday night.  These celtic-tinged Canadian iconic foot stompers feature Geoffrey Kelly on flute, whistles, bodhran, guitar, etc.  Kelly appeared in the “Gung Haggis Fat Choy” CBC television performance playing penny whistle alongside The Paper Boys, in the opening sequence.

Kiran Ahluwalia, famous for peforming lush ghazals and lively Punjabi folk songs.  I once saw her performing in the Jazz Opera “Quebecite,” written by George Elliott Clark and D.W. Jackson (who is half Chinese-Canadian).

Delhi 2 Dublin will blend traditional melodies from Ireland and Northern India with hip hop and bhangra beats.

Red Chamber is a Chinese music ensemble led by multi-instrumentalist Mei Han, and features Zhimin Rhu on roan (she was also in the CBC “Gung Haggis Fat Choy” television performance special performing as part of the Silk Road Music Ensemble).

Madagascar Slim blends American blues with African rhythms… 

LAU a formidable union of three of the finest and most innovative exponents of modern traditional music in Scotland today.

Maeve Mackinnon A diverse Scots and Gaelic repertoire joined to a beautiful and distinctive voice.