Review: Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night
a year, the World Poetry Reading Series at the Vancouver Public Library
colludes and collides with the alignment of Chinese New Year and Robbie
Burns Day, and is marked by the appearance of Toddish McWong. This
intersection is called Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night.
Sawyer and Alejandro Olea-Mujica are great friends to work with, as we
built a program to entertain our audience as well as inform them about
Chinese and Scottish traditions while serving up new Canadian writers,
proud of their Scottish and Chinese ancestral roots. Following an
introduction by Vancouver Public Library Community Programs Librarian
Barbara Edwards, piper Joe McDonald led a parade of the performers into
the Alice Mackay Room, around the back, up the side and across the
front. The original tune was appropriately titled “Gung Haggis Fat
Joe MacDonald, Ariadne
Sawyer, Alejandro Mujica-Olea, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Ian Mason of the Burns
Club of Vancouver – photo Deb Martin.
Introductions and welcomes were made by Todd Wong,
Ariadne Sawyer and Alejandro Olea-Mujica, who while acknowledging the
importance recognizing the multicultural holidays of Robbie Burns Day
and the Asian Lunar New Year, also recognized Martin Luther King Jr.
Day in the United States, and that Chile (Alejandro's home country from
which he was forced to flee in exhile during the Pinochet regime) just
elected a female president, to nice applause in the audience.
off the musical and poetical program were Todd Wong and Joe McDonald,
singing Loch Lomand. Unfortunately while they both knew the same
chorus – they had different versions of the verses in their head. But
it set a friendly tone for the evening, as the singalong words of
“You'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road,” set the stage
for Dr. Ian Mason, president of the Burns Club of Vancouver. Mason
gave a wee eulogy about the works and life of Burns, and gave good
examples of his work.
A Chinese fan dance was next on the menu as Yan Yan walked out in her
flowing costume and fan, set to contemporary Chinese music. It was a
wonderful demonstration of how cultural dance traditions could be
merged with contemporary music.
next read a ballad set to guitar music, “The Ballad of Gung Haggis Fat
Choy”, which described how we mix all the cultures together, like
making a stew or dinner banquet. Ariadne first created this work last
year, and it was so well recieved it was requested for this year.
Tinwei Lam, is a Scottish born lass of Chinese descent who came to
Canada at age 4. She read from her book “Intimate Distances” which had
been a finalist for the 2004 Vancouver Book Prize, and picked
selections that related to cross-cultural dating and relationships…
A Mongolian dance was the final performance for the
first half. Bright costumes and movements simulated Mongols riding on
horseback. This was followed by a short
intermission, where many people checked out books and cds for sale by
Joe McDonald and Todd Wong, leading a singalong…. – photo Deb Martin.
Joe McDonald gently played the tune “My Bonnie
Lies Over the Ocean”, bringing back the audience to their seats. Todd
introduced his children's poem-song about immigrants coming to Canada
titled “My Haggis Lies Over the Ocean, My Chow Mein Lies Over the
Sea.” Smiles rose on many faces as they all joined in for the chorus.
Todd explainined that he had been inspired to write songs and poems for
children by performers Rick Scott and Harry Wong who were going to be
featured artists at the upcoming Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns
Chinese New Year dinner. To close off my time on the stage, I informed
the audience that it was an amazing coincidence that on Thursday night,
the library would be hosting a tribute to the 250th Anniversary of
Mozart's birtdahy. Rick Scott's most requested song is his “Yo! Mo!
Concerto” where he does a rap tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I
next did my own rap tribute to Robbie Burns with his poem “To a Haggis.”
next introduced James Mullin, who read several of his poems which
created lovely peace imagery of wonderment. Mullin is the book manager
of Tanglewood Books, and hedraws on his Celtic heritage.
Alexis Kienlen reading her poetry – Alejandro and Ariadne listen intently – photo Deb Martin.
introduced Alexis Kienlen by asking if anybody had read Saturday's
edition of the Vancouver Sun, as I pointed out Alexis' guest turn at
writing “Bedside Table.” Kienlen took to the stage and read several of
her poems. She shared with the audience that she had lived in many
parts of the world, including Mongolia, and the performance by the
dancers had coincidently coincided with some poems about her Mongolian
experienes she had chosen for the evening. Kienlen also shared her
thoughts about growing up multi-racial in Canada, describing herself as
1/4 Chinese and 1/4 Scottish, with some french and english. Her poetry
was inciteful and very much appreciated by the audience.
off the program, the Chinese Dancers performed a final dance, Joe
McDonald and Todd Wong led a gentle rendition of “Scotland the Brave”
then Joe asked the audience to all stand and make a great circle
holding hands for the singing of Auld Lang Syne. Yes, it sounds
hokey… but people loved it. We could look at the smiles on
everybody's faces, with our arms crossed together.
The gang: front row: Ian Mason, Shirley Sue-A-Quan, Yan Yan, Angela
back row: Joe McDonald, Alejandro
Mujica-Olea, Alexis Kienlen, Ariadne Sawyer, James Mullin, Fiona Tinwei
Lam – photo Deb Martin.