Monthly Archives: February 2012

Paul Yee reads at Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens on Sunday Feb 26

Paul Yee reads from his new book “The Secret Keepers” at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Classical Gardens.

Paul Yee is one of the most prolific Chinese-Canadian writers.  I first got to know Paul back in 1986, when he was chair of the Saltwater City planning committee – for a museum quality exhibit celebrating 100 years of Chinese-Canadian history in Vancouver.  Since then, he was won the Governor General's Award for his book “Ghost Train”.  In his non-fiction book, Saltwater City (revised edition) there is a picture from the 2004 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.

Check out the website for the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens
http://www.vancouverchinesegarden.com/calendar/feb2012.htm

The Secret Keepers
Book Launch

Sunday, February 26 | 2-4pm
at Hall of One Hundred Rivers
Music, Refreshments, Book Signing and Sale

Please join us! On February 26, Governor General's Award Winner Paul Yee will be at the Garden to launch his latest publication The Secret Keepers, a haunting novel set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the catastrophic earthquake of 1906.

Paul Yee, raised in Vancouver's Chinatown, is
one of Canada's most celebrated writers for young people. He is the
author of the prize-winning Saltwater City and other acclaimed books on
Canadian-Chinese culture and history.

Juno-nominated world music composer and musician Qiu Xia He will present a special Pipa (Traditional Chinese lute) performance at the book launch.

Check out the website for the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens
http://www.vancouverchinesegarden.com/calendar/feb2012.htm

Rest in Peace Alex Louie

Alex Louie, WW2 veteran & Chinatown business man, passes away
 Alex Louie, at the 2010 Remembrance Day ceremonies in Vancouver Chinatown.
Pastor Wesley Lowe stands on Louie's right, and fellow veteran Robert Kent on his left.
Sad
to hear our family friend Alex Louie passed away.
Alex made contributions to Chinese Canadian history as a WW2 veteran, and a Vancouver Chinatown businessman for both the Marco Polo Restaurant and Le Kiu import store.  Two of his daughters have made big contributions to Chinese history and culture too.  Alexina Louie is one of Canada's top classical music composers, and is a recipient of the Order of Canada.  Jari Osborne directed the film Unwanted Soldiers.
My father painted
the show cards for the Marco Polo Restaurant, and for Le Kiu store.
Alex was a WW2 vet, and the feature story in the documentary “Unwanted
Soldiers”. I noticed that he wasn't at the Remembrance Day ceremonies
in Chinatown this past November. Our condolences to his family… Rest
in Peace Alex, you've been a warrior for a long time.

Mia Stainsby, writes an obituary news article in today's Vancouver Sun.

www.vancouversun.com

Here is an interview with Alex Louie for the Chinese Canadian Military Museum oral history project http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/hr_cdnchinese/profile/louiea

 Here
is the link to the NFB film “Unwanted Soldiers” with interviews of Alex
Louie and many other veterans – produced by Alex's daughter Jari
Osborne http://www.nfb.ca/film/Unwanted_Soldiers

www.nfb.ca

This documentary tells the personal story of filmmaker Jari Osborne's father, Alex Louie.  Also some good interviews with Chinatown legend Roy Mah, creator and publisher of Chinatown News, and John Ko Bong.

Dave Samis has reached the summit of Mt. Kilamanjaro

Gung Haggis dragon boat team paddler, Dave Samis, has reached the summit of Mt. Kilamanjaro
P1280190
Dave Samis has just emailed me this picture of himself at the summit!!! as well as
another picture hiking up the mountain wearing his Gung Haggis team
shirt.

The group reached the summit on February 12th.

Dave has paddled with the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team since about 2005.  I first met him when I coached the GVRD 44 Cheeks dragon boat team around 2003.  We have been good dragon boat friends ever since, paddling in races together in Portland, Victoria, Vernon, Burnaby, Harrison and Vancouver.

This past fall he was training by hiking up the Grouse Grind once or twice a week.

P1280156
Here's a picture of Dave Samis wearing his Gung Haggis Fat Choy team shirt.  He says:
“The gold coins don't show on this GHFC shirt because my backpack straps are in the way.”

P2050064



“This was taken on day 2 of the climb when we were still in the sub-alpine areas.”

Dave now reports that after the summit climb on Feb 12th, they have done a Safari since and have tons of photos.  I asked him to take a picture of himself wearing his Gung Haggis team shirt, while next to a gazelle, elephant or lion – but to please not get eaten or trampled.

He hiked up with dragon boat paddlers from the Dogwood Nothin' team
Follow their journey here:

http://kilimanjaroclimbers.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/at-the-summit-2/#comment-39

20120212-103332.jpg

We
have our first photo of our group at the summit! Not all are present,
as a smaller group summited 20 minutes earlier and had to descend.
He hiked up with dragon boat paddlers from the Dogwood Nothin' team
Follow their journey here:

http://kilimanjaroclimbers.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/at-the-summit-2/#comment-39

20120212-103332.jpg

Chelsea Hotel is an inventive presentation of Leonard Cohen songs

Chelsea Hotel is inventive and theatrical – and probably more fun than a Leonard Cohen concert!


Adrian Glynn McMorran (The Writer), Marlene Ginader (The Lover), Steve Charles (The Sideman), and Lauren Bowler (Sister of Mercy) perform many dramatic and musically diverse collaborations of Leonard Cohen songs during “Chelsea Hotel” at the Firehall Arts Centre – photo David Cooper, courtesy of Firehall Arts Centre


Chelsea Hotel featuring the songs
of Leonard Cohen

Dates and
Venue
8 February – 3 March 2012, 8pm, (2pm Weekend matinees
& 1pm Wedmatinees) | Firehall Arts Centre

Conceived and Directed by Tracey Power

Artistic Direction by Donna Spencer

Music Direction by Steven Charles

Performed by Rachel Aberle, Lauren Bowler, Steve Charles, Benjamin Elliott, Marlene Ginader, Adrian Glynn McMorran
DATES: February 8 to March 3, 2012

8pm, 2pm (Weekend matinees), 1pm (Wednesday matinees)

Today is opening night of “Chelsea Hotel” at Firehall Arts Centre –
featuring songs and poetry of Leonard Cohen…. AND the ACCORDION is a
featured instrument… actually it is the first musical instrument to play in
this amazingly theatrical production.  There are constant visual surprises for the audience.  And there are musical surprises too.  Three
males and three females take turns on up to many different instruments
including violin, cello, double bass, electric guitar, electric bass, drum kit, acoustic guitar, keyboard, ukelele, tambourine, and kazoo…

I saw Chelsea Hotel on Friday Night – the first performance… a world premiere – preview version… and LOVED IT.  I have had Leonard Cohen ear-worms in my head all weekend, as I listened to my Cohen cd's trying to figure out the titles of the songs that were included in the production.

There have been many musicals made of songs by specific songwriters.  Mama Mia by ABBA… Jersey Boys is based on the music of The Four Seasons… Uptown Girl is the music of Billy Joel.  And way before that, musicals were made of George Gershwin and Cole Porter songs.  All of these have a story arcs, and dialogue to develop the plot lines.

But there is no invented dialogue in Chelsea Hotel, nothing but the songs and poetry of Leonard Cohen.  Director Tracey Power has conceived and created a theatrical presentation that moves seamlessly from song to song with interspersed words of poetry.  The drama is in the storytelling of the songs.  The dynamic tension is in the body language and the faces of the performers.  The story is in the words of each song, as they speak of love, break ups, regret, hate, and reconciliation.  And somehow it all works.

Like the musical Chicago, these performances are part fantasy and part memory recall.  The character called The Writer (Adrian Glynn McMorran) is trying to write at his desk and having difficulties.  The inventive set is piled high with crumpled pieces of paper.  The Writer is having writer's block in a room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City (where Cohen lived for awhile).   He groans and crumples up another piece of paper to throw it against the wall.  Suddenly a man pops up playing a tune on an accordion… and thus the interior workings of The Writer's attempts at song writing began,  The Writer recalls a woman in his life – and a female performer steps onto the stage singing about their relationship.  Then next another musician steps onstage for accompaniment, and another woman who joins in the singing…

Steve Charles (guitar), Benjamin Elliott (accordion), Marlene Ginader (violin), Rachel Aberle (voice), photo David Cooper, courtesy of Firehall Arts Centre

The songs are strangely familiar, as they take their turns like old shirts from a long forgotten box of clothes.  They are comfortable, and in a variety of musical styles and arrangements.  Some songs are old like Suzanne or Lover Lover Lover.  Many are from Cohen's middle period of the 80's and 90's such as I'm Your Man, Tower of Song, First We Take Manhattan and Hallelujah. 

The production is sooooo playful.  There is a carnival cabaret atmosphere, with the performers all wearing whitened faces and exagerated costumes.  Benjamin Elliot's character is called The Magician.  Musical Director Steve Charles is performing as The Side Man.  The arrangements vary from solo instruments to string trio, acoustic folk stylings, to full-on rock and roll.

I found the
musicianship to be surprisingly good… the performers pick up
their instruments and play them when you least expect it.  Rachel Aberle and
Lauren Bowler as The Sisters of Mercy,  both have amazing presence and create dynamic and sexual
tension with Adrian Glynn McMorran's The Writer and the audience.  Marlene Ginader is innoculously beautiful to watch.  She first seems to float down from the mountain of
crumpled paper after appearing first as musical supporting cast on violin, and her character The Lover, takes on increasingly important dynamics.

Friday night was the first audience performance prior to Wednesday's Opening Night on Feb 8th.  I thought the production flowed well.  There was a standing ovation for the performers.

Chelsea Hotel is a fun production.  There are constantly visual and musical developments happening as well as the interaction of the characters.  The songs are entertaining in themselves – both for lyrical beauty, irony and humability.  My recommendations are:
1) don't sit in row A on the floor – there is a row AA in front of you that obscures your view. 

2)
don't sit in the audience far left side.  It is hard to see some aspects
of the stage and performers – that are hidden by a set design.

Marlene Ginader (The Lover), and Adrian Glynn McMorran(The Writer) sing their hearts out to each other, after loving, hating, resenting, pining, forgiving each other to find resolution. - photo David Cooper, courtesy of Firehall Arts Centre

see other links about Chelsea Hotel:
http://www.straight.com/article-596306/vancouver/chelsea-hotel-brings-cohen-songs-life

Chung Collection archives has a picture of my grandmother

My grandmother mentioned that there was a picture of her and her family in the Chung Collection, listed under Yip Sang family.

“12
Children” are part of the 14 children that belonged to Kate &
Ernest Lee.  Kate was the eldest daughter of Rev. Chan Yu Tan.
All
the children were born in Canada.  My grandmother was born in Victoria
in 1910 – this July, she will celebrate her 102nd birthday.


back row:  (baby Ella?), Arthur, Howard, Mabel, Gordon, Esther, Helen, Henry

front row: Edith, Beatrice, Daniel and Ruth

Younger children not in picture or identified Leonard and Doug

Presently still surviving are:
Mabel, Ester, Helen, Edith, Ruth, Leonard and Doug

Helen Lee was a featured interview in the
CBC Documentary “Generations: The Chan Legacy
Mable Lee was a
featured interview in the NFB film “Tribe of One” – a movie about
Arthur's daughter Rhonda Larrabee, Chief of Qayqayt First Nations
Daniel Lee, has been featured in many films about Chinese Canadian veterans.
Edith and her husband's farm outside of Toronto was sold to become a parking lot for Wonderland Amusement Park
Gordon's son Gary, was also a featured interview in “Generations: The Chan Legacy
Howard,
Daniel, and Leonard all served during WW2 for Canada.  Daniel was a
founder of Pacific Unit 280 veterans and received many veteran service
awards and medals. Here is a good story of his contributions.

You can browse the Chung Collection digital archives here:
http://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm4/index_coll0803-7.php?CISOROOT=/coll0803-7

Also Check out the Chung Collection blog:  http://chung.library.ubc.ca/news
they referenced my blog as having  “written some nice personal reminiscences and a round up of news articles here.”

Chuck Davis' “History of Metropolitan Vancouver” mentions a Robbie Burns Dinner in Vancouver Chinatown

Chuck Davis' “History of Metropolitan Vancouver” mentions a Robbie Burns Dinner in Vancouver Chinatown

I am sorry to say that Chuck Davis never attended a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.

The
following entry in “The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver”,
1935, ISBN 978-1-55017-533-2 (2011 edition) at page 151 states as
follows:  (brought to my attention by David J. Bilinsky)


(entry for 1928)

ALSO
AUGUST 25 A statute of the famed Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-96)
was unveiled in Stanley Park by the Rt Hon. Ramsay Macdonald, the former
British Prime Minister.  The bronze and granite statute is an exact
replica of one standing  in Burns' birthplace in Ayrshire, Scotland
(Local Scots annually mark Robbie Burns Day on January 25, but it was in
the 1930's that fervour was particularly marked.  Even the Chinatown
Lions' Club organized an annual Burns dinner, complete with haggis
served with a sweet and sour sauce.)

Chuck and I knew each other though… I first encountered him many times at the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, where he would often come to do research.  Later, I became involved with Chinese Canadian historical events and issues, and our paths would cross.  One time, we had a lengthy chat about the Janet Smith murder case, when a Scottish nanny was killed in Vancouver, and a Chinese house boy, was wrongfully accused of the murder, then later acquitted.

photo – photo Todd Wong
But Chuck did came to speak to the Vancouver Library workers during a historic
1st time ever strike – when I invited him to come out.  He was always very proud
that his book “The Vancouver Book” was the 2nd most stolen book at the
Vancouver Public Library.
photo – photo Todd Wong
I had organized an author's reading series for the CUPE 391 strikeline, inspired by 2 reasons.
1) Victoria author Terry Glavin had wanted to do research at VPL
2) a lot of community groups such as the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra had booked the
community rooms at VPL, and could no longer have a space to do public programs.

photo
This picture was takenin 2009, to mark the 250th birthday of Robbie
Burns.  We also did a virtual wreath laying in “2nd Life” – organized by
Dr. Leith Davis – director of Centre for Scottish Studies SFU – who had
just flown into Vancouver YVR from Scotland, and came straight to our
ceremony.  That night at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner – she declared
it the best Burns Dinner she had ever attended – having spent the
previous week in Scotland attending many Burns Suppers.

Read the story of the event here:
250th Anniversary of Robert Burns recognized with poems at statue in Vancouver's Stanley Park

The Chinatown Lion Club dinners began at the Bamboo Terrace Restaurant
just over 50 years ago.  They continued for many years, many of them organized by
Vancouver lawyer Chuck Lew, but dwindled in recent years.  I attended
one of the dinners at Floata – possibly in 2009. We did a one time
merger…  maybe in 2010.  I asked Chuck about creating a 50th
Anniversary Robbie Burns Chinatown dinner for Vancouver Chinatown Lions
Club – but I don't think they ever had one…  He told me that it was
getting harder to organize… and even had asked me about organizing the
dinner for the Chinatown Lions Club – which I declined, in order to focus on Gung Haggis Fat Choy events.

For the record – Chinatown Lions Club always served the haggis
traditional style with sweet and sour sauce (or some kind of Chinese
sauce).  They never ventured into fusion cuisine.  Gung Haggis Fat Choy
dinners have created a number of haggis-fusion-cuisine dishes –
including: deep fried haggis won-tons, deep fried haggis / seafood
dumplings, haggis won ton soup, haggis spring rolls, steamed haggis /
shrimp dumplings, steamed haggis / pork dumplings, haggis lettuce wrap.