Tag Archives: Music

Greenbelt 2018 ‘Acts of the Imagination’

‘Seeds of creative imagination will grow forests of change’…

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Just been to my first ever Greenbelt Festival YES! It’s only been going since 1974, so it’s taken me a bit of time to get there. But having got there, y’know what, it’s a grand place to be. And especially because of the fact (not despite of!) I’d only been back in the country for 3 days. Should you find yourself living elsewhere in the world for long periods of time – and then on return, want an in-depth but all-expansive, see-everything, do-everything, learn-everything kind of immersive experience of the best that the UK church has to offer, then Greenbelt is THE place to go.

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Greenbelt describes itself as ‘a festival of arts, faith and justice. The best you’ve never heard of’. That’s kind of it. All those famous people (who I’d never heard of anyway) were all there. Doing their stuff, doing what they do best, whether it was a rock band, performance art, leading worship or a seminar or cooking, they were all there, and we all had a chance to learn from them, to see and to do.

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Greenbelt says ‘Our history is firmly rooted within a Christian tradition which is world-affirming, politically and culturally engaged. Ours is a belief that embraces instead of excludes. And, as such, the festival is an inter-generational celebration, inclusive and accepting of all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background or belief.’

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Which really means that everyone is welcomed. And it all takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend every year, and since 2013, has been held in the grounds of Boughton House, Kettering, Northants. That in itself is relevant. Only a few miles up the road is Corby, one of the many places I lived as a child. In those days, Corby was full of vast new housing estates, and from there, we rode our bikes into the local countryside, all around Boughton House, to and through all the neigbouring villages. But of course, we never went into Boughton House or even into the grounds. And so here I was, now, all these years later in 2018, camping in the very grounds of Boughton House. Whoopee!

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Yes, I admit it, Greenbelt is a bit of a culture shock. But of the pleasant kind. Mainly cos it’s so big and there’s so many people in such a huge area, that you can be as involved or as uninvolved as you like. You can go to everything or nothing. And you can see, learn and do as much as you like.

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A little rewind to last week, and I had left Kota Kinabalu, E. Malaysia very early on Monday August 20, heading for London. It was to be a long long long day that turned into night when the flight from Kuala Lumpur was delayed 2 hours, which meant missed connections. So after a night in a hotel in Dubai, finally I got to London on Tuesday afternoon. Collected a car on Thursday (very nice silver VW Polo) and set off for Greenbelt on Friday. Fortunately Greenbelt offer (via Camplight) packages for hire of a recycled tent, sleeping bag, mat and chair. So there I was all set up. This is my green tent in the foreground and the view from it. And very comfortable I was too!

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And the highlights of Greenbelt?

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On Friday, I went to see Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate. Amazing.

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On Saturday, I went to see Pussy Riot as they shared about their vision, motivation, their protests, time in prison – and answered questions. Really interesting. Learned a whole lot. Also saw the second half of their performance, ‘Riot Days’ on the Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, there was the big Communion Service, taking the theme of ‘Windrush and Carnival’, remembering, praying and celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival in the UK from the Caribbean of the ‘Windrush Generation’. By mid-morning it was pouring with rain, and continued all day. I was there, in all my rain-gear and umbrella, sitting outside in the pouring rain along with everyone else. Every festival needs some rain. Not too much, but some. It adds to the atmosphere. And rain, of course means mud. Loved it!

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On Sunday afternoon, went to listen to Rev. Winnie Varghese sharing about the Episcopal Church and #metoo. Very relevant.

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On Sunday evening, there was a USPG Solidarity Prayer Vigil with the Igorot peoples from the northern Philippines, via London. They started with dancing…

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And on Monday, I went to see Jo Berry and Pat Magee sharing their incredibly moving story of how they became friends through the most terrible of events. Jo Berry’s father was MP, Anthony Berry, who was killed in the IRA Brighton Bombing in 1984, and Pat Magee was the man who planted the bomb. These days they work together to promote peace and understanding in areas of conflict. Unbelievably humbling.

And then I went to visit Boughton House. One of 4 stately homes belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch, it’s famous for its amazing art collections, beautiful gardens and cos it looks like Versailles. But, in the context of the 70th anniversary of Windrush, it is impossible to ignore the role of Britain in the slave trade, and even of Boughton House, and many other stately homes. Money flowed from their plantations in St. Lucia, presumably funding their extravagant lifestyle, art purchases, and house and garden renovations. Slaves from the Caribbean were brought to work in the house, a source of great pride at the time for the owners, symbolizing their own high status and great wealth. And here was Greenbelt in the midst of all that history. And yet, if you had to choose another venue, it’d be impossible to choose one that didn’t have similar associations. During World War II, the British Museum sent many of their treasures for safekeeping in Boughton House, the army took over the grounds, the US air force were stationed nearby, and by the end of the war there were 2,000 German POW soldiers living there too.

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Other highlights of Greenbelt were the discussions, seminars, workshops, concerts and art installations. Something for everyone…

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Christian Aid deserves a special mention for providing really yummy meals, asking only for a donation, and USPG provided lots of mission-minded activities.

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Meeting old friends was also a highlight. Especially grateful to Tim and his family who gave me delish Sunday breakfast and Phil who took me for Sunday lunch. Also Colin, Chuli, Michael and their families. And I mustn’t forget Church Mission Society, CMS, who had a stand, the CMS Mission Mystery House, which 4 of my CMS friends took care of all day long. They smiled non-stop all day, talked to everyone and still looked happy when I left on Monday lunchtime. These are the before and after photos, taken on Friday night and Monday lunchtime.  Still smiling.  Respect!

So if you get a chance to go to Greenbelt, then do go! Definitely worth it. A big thank you to all those who made it possible. And to those of my friends who were there, but who I only found out were there when I saw their photos on Facebook after they’d left, sorry we never met up. But then, what a lot we’ll have to talk about if and when we do meet up in the coming months!

Greenbelt was an oasis in the midst of daily life. Now back to reality. Been to East Grinstead, Rochester and now Deal, Kent. Listening to people sharing their stories of good things that have happened, and of course what’s gone wrong in the UK since I was last here (just don’t mention Southern Rail!), and what’s in fashion, and what’s out. Learning a lot!

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Thanks be to God for his many blessings and his provision.

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Onward and outward we go!

Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 and Paiwan 排灣族 Harvest Festival 豐年祭 @ Nantian Village, Daren Township, Taitung 台東縣達仁鄉南田村, Taiwan

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Yes, the Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 is THE trail to hike!  And especially when the sea and the sky are blue, blue, blue ~ like they were on Saturday ~ YES YES YES!

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The Alangyi Trail runs maybe 8-10 km along the S.E. coast of Taiwan, and walking it takes about 4-5 hours ~ from the very southern tip of Taitung County across into Mudan Township 牡丹鄉, Pingtung County, finishing at Xuhai 旭海 Village, famous for its hot springs and grassland.  The trail is significant in that it is the only section of the whole Taiwan coastline where there is no road. No road means no cars, no lorries, no coaches, no random tourists, no 7-elevens (always a sign of economic development!) ~ and to preserve the natural environment, the area is established as a nature reserve, and strictly managed.  But this only happened after years of protests and disputes about whether to build a road or not.  Fortunately wisdom prevailed, and the Alangyi Trail is just fantastic!

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Nowadays, only 300 people are allowed on the trail per day, permits are required, a guide is needed per 20 people and there are police on duty at either end of the trail.  During the summer, the temperatures are boiling hot, and there are few people hiking on the trail.  In fact, we only met one other group, 30+ youngsters from Changhua – going in the other direction.  Fortunately we had a nice breeze to blow us along!  A typhoon was slowly heading towards Taiwan, but still far off, and as often happens a day or two before a typhoon, the weather was really great (as I write this on Wednesday morning, 3 days later, the typhoon is roaring around outside as it passes northern Taiwan)!

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It is truly an amazing walk, with incredible views!  Is it easy?  Yes.  Is it difficult?  Yes. Both / and!  Much of the walk is right down near sea-level, along the upper part of the stony beach, but at the rocky promontory that is called Guanyin’s Nose 觀音鼻, everyone has to ascend 150m to go up and over the top and down the other side.  It is very steep, so ropes are supplied to grab onto, and there’s steps in some places.  But hey, the views are spectacular – and see the turtle-shaped rock down below!

For centuries, the Alangyi Trail was used by the local indigenous peoples to get from place to place along the coast.  The local indigenous people in that area are mostly the Paiwan People 排灣族 (pause here while you open that link to the Wikipedia site to read about the Paiwan People – it’s fascinating)…. Wonder if in years gone by, they enjoyed this stream as much as we did at the end of the trail?  Yes, we got soaked, but it was oh so refreshing!

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My good friends from Advent Church, 選櫻 (Hsuen-Ying, Grace) and her husband 生豐 (Sheng-Feng, Simon), invited me to join a group of their friends (mostly Grace’s former high school / college classmates and their families – all very lovely!) who they had invited to spend the weekend visiting Grace’s home village of Nantian, in Daren Township, Taitung (台東縣達仁鄉南田村).  This is Grace and Simon… as romantic as always!

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Grace is Paiwan, Taiwan’s second largest indigenous group, and Simon is Amis, Taiwan’s largest indigenous group – who mostly live further north in the Hualien area.  These days there is a certain friendly rivalry between the different tribes / groups ~ although in the past, things were not always so friendly!  Both Grace and Simon work at TamKang High School, Tamsui (as did 2 others in our group), and the school has a teddy bear mascot that travels around with them all over, including on the Alangyi Trail!

Nantian Village is the southernmost village in Taitung County, and runs along a single road between the mountains and the sea. Most people coming to Taitung from the west coast do so over the mountain road from Pingtung, this is the first area they reach on the east coast.  For cyclists on the round-Taiwan circuit, it’s a welcome relief to get over the mountains and down to the coast. But the only people passing through Nantian itself are on their way to the northern entrance of the Alangyi Historic Trail.  Within a few minutes of starting the trail, there’s a river, and that is the border between Taitung and Pingtung – and it is just over that river that the police have a checkpoint to check permits.

And what else is going on in Nantian?  Well, there’s fish farming, mainly for shrimp, there’s a camp site, small guest houses, a cement factory out on the main road, 2 Presbyterian churches, and a beautiful stony beach.  In the past, the stones were big and well-rounded, so people collected them up and carved them for sale.  These days, apparently the coast has changed, the sea level is rising, the stones are much smaller, and well, it’s not easy to make a good living.  Many of the local people have moved away to the cities looking for work – and return for festivals, and some in their retirement.

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Some scenes of Nantian and the local area, starting with the chief’s stone…

There’s an interesting bamboo art work installed there too, ‘The Vector of the South‘ 南方以南 ~ the bamboo looks like waves coming up from the shore, over the seawall and across the fields….

Grace’s elder brother, who we call ‘Da-Ge’ 大哥 (literally ‘big brother’) returned to the family home 10+ years ago, after quite some time in northern Taiwan, to take up his responsibilities as one of the chiefs of the Paiwan Tribe.  He is just so lovely!  He kept us entertained with stories, songs and jokes, and he and his wife are such committed Christians, sharing their faith, testimonies, choruses and music with everyone!  They, together with relatives and members of the village, welcomed us into their lives for the weekend ~ they were just so hospitable and generous.  By inviting us to join their village for the weekend, we could learn so much about their culture and traditions, and they were able to get some income from taking care of us ~ such visits are officially known as (starting with their Paiwan name), ‘Jakisuvung Cultural and Educational Eco-Tourism’ 家給蘇豐文教生態旅遊.  We stayed in a local guest house (B&B), which was run by the lady who was our guide for the Alangyi Trail, and whose younger sister was Grace’s former classmate!

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The Paiwan Harvest Festival 豐年祭 is an annual event in many Paiwan communities, celebrating a successful millet / rice harvest, and copious amounts of millet / rice wine are on offer!  It involved a whole weekend of activities in Nantian Village, starting on Saturday morning with the official opening ceremony when VIPs from the local government, the elected official representative from Taitung County Council, tribal chiefs and many others came along. There was dancing and singing too….

The main event of the day was the archery competition ~ wow, they are so skilled!  Every village has a team and they were all there, competing all morning.  Women, men, old, young, everyone took part; apparently they practice for hours – and it shows!

We even had a go ourselves, though we only shot from half the distance – and still managed to miss, ha ha! But Grace, who said this was her first time to try, got a bull’s eye, first time.  Actually it’s not a bull, it’s a mountain pig!

And then we all went off up the river, through the river in fact, wading upstream until we came to a clearing where we had a really fun Paiwan-style barbecue.  In fact, 3 days later and I can still smell that smoke all over!

The following day, the community spent the morning killing and preparing the pig, and certain other ceremonies.  The main event of the festival for us was on Sunday evening. Just beforehand, the heavens opened, the rain came down, and they decided to relocate to the village community centre. Da-Ge’s wife and the ladies of the village had been cooking all afternoon, and there were huge amounts of delicious Paiwan-style food. “Must try everything”, they said. Just don’t ask in too much detail what everything is – and remember that nothing in that mountain pig goes to waste!  Ah, I had a great time!

Most of the people were there in traditional Paiwan costumes, and we had flower head rings….

And there was dancing.  There’s always dancing at festivals, and we joined in too.  I filmed the following video for 5 minutes before I got down and joined the end of the line!  Do watch – and keep an eye on the blue bucket of millet / rice wine 小米酒 in the middle of the table, and the ‘waiters’ who go around serving everyone!

And this was the final dance – just for the community themselves… watch to the end, but I had to stop filming at the final minute, I was laughing so much!

On Monday morning, our group had a chance to visit Da-Ge’s home and try on some of their traditional Paiwan costumes.  There is apparently no special significance to the colours, blue, red, black – it’s personal choice.  We also had a chance to wear the chief’s headdress, which is, oh, so heavy!  The rules are that at ceremonies and festivals, only the chief and his family can wear the headdresses, but in their home and for photos at other times, anyone can try them on.  So we did!

We also visited a massive huge tree, Bischofia javanica (considered sacred, hence the red ribbon).  That’s where we learned all about the local ecology and more.  Teddy came too!

What else?  Well, actually I had arrived a day earlier than most of our group, and together with Grace and Simon, the 3 of us went to visit the newly-opened social welfare center run by the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross 聖十字架慈愛修女會 (known as the Maria Theresia Social Welfare Foundation 財團法人台東縣私立天主教聖十字架瑪利德蘭社會福利基金會) in Shangwu Village 尚武村, Dawu Township 大武鄉, which is very near Nantian ~ in fact it was in Dawu that Grace went to junior high school.  And the first person we met when we arrived at the center there was one of her old classmates. Ah it’s a small world!  This is their church and fruit growing in the garden. The fruit is Morinda citrifolia, known as cheese fruit / vomit fruit / starvation fruit, and I can tell you it is totally 100% disgusting!

In December 2016, St. John’s University and Advent Church raised NT$ 325,000 (US$ 10,000) as part of our annual fund-raising project and donated it to the sisters (see that blog post here) for their ministry.  They were planning to convert their kindergarten classrooms into a day care center for elderly local people.  Thanks be to God that the work is completed, and the official opening ceremony and mass was held on June 16, 2018.  We couldn’t go to the ceremony, but we were able to visit on Friday instead.  They are still waiting for the final permission from the local authorities to be able to use the new buildings, and we had a tour – they are so light, bright, well-equipped and fully furnished.  It was so good to meet Sr. Miljenka Schnetzer 宋玉潔修女 again, she arrived in Taiwan from Switzerland in 1979, and has been in Shangwu since 1992….

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We also visited the famous train station at Duoliang 多良, famous because if you stand there long enough a train will come out of the tunnel and pass by – such a pretty photo-op ha ha!

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And then there were the sunrises over the sea – 2 of them in fact.  On Friday we got up and left at 4:30 am to see the sunrise from the high viewpoint…

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And then again on Monday morning, when there was more cloud – the only sign that the typhoon was coming.  Great that we could still see Lanyu and Lyudao Islands from up there (but too far away to appear in the photo)….

One of the main highlights of the whole weekend was meeting Grace’s family, especially her big brother and his wife and family.  I had dinner at their home on Friday evening.  They are so friendly and welcoming!  This is Da-Ge and Simon…

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And yes, we spent a lot of time laughing!  Da-Ge’s wife told me that on the chief’s headdress there are some tufts of red hair, and yep, sure they’re there – and very red!

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She said that those tufts of red hair represent the hair of the foreigners who had had their heads chopped off by the Paiwan people in years gone by, when they arrived on the Taiwan coast to invade and attack the people here.  The Paiwan were a headhunting people, and always kept some of the hair as a mark of pride.  It’s true.  That was really what was happening along the Alangyi Historic Trail all those centuries ago.  It might all look very scenic and beautiful now, but in those days it was not a place where visitors were assured of a warm welcome!

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Wikipedia says, “In the past the Paiwan had a fearsome reputation as head-hunters. When Paiwan warriors returned home from a headhunting foray, the women would gather together in front of the courtyard to welcome their heroes and would sing songs of triumph. The heads of their enemies were then hung on stone pillars in front of which were displayed wine and offerings.” The Japanese, Americans, Dutch, Spanish all came to Taiwan – either to invade and attack, or they were trying to pass by the island on their way elsewhere but got shipwrecked in a typhoon, and many of them were attacked and killed.  Check out the Rover Incident of 1867 and the Mudan Incident of 1871, the latter took place in Mudan, which is at the Pingtung end of the Alangyi Trail.  It led to the Japanese invasion of Taiwan in 1874, and eventually Taiwan came under Japanese rule  from 1895-1945, during which the Japanese tried to control and subdue the indigenous peoples, leading to endless conflicts, armed uprisings, massacres – and resulting in even more oppression.  Many indigenous people, including Grace’s family (in the time of her great-grandparents and grandparents) were forced to relocate during the Japanese colonial era – they moved from Pingtung to Taitung, eventually settling in Nantian.

The Dutch are famously remembered in Taiwan as having red hair (here in Tamsui we have Fort San Domingo, known as 紅毛城, the ‘fort of the red-heads’, originally built by the Spanish and then seized by the Dutch, and rebuilt by them in 1644).  Hence the tufts of red hair in the headdress!  So we spent all weekend laughing together about whether I was gonna get my head chopped off before we left on Monday – and wondering whether I’d live to see another day!

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But Da-Ge assured me that now that Paiwan people are Christians, love has conquered all.  No longer do we need to kill each other, but we can live and work together in peace.  We’re all one family, of whatever tribe – and even whatever colour hair!  That’s the main theme of the song sung at the festival, where everyone joined hands to dance. These days even the shaman’s traditional rituals associated with the harvest festival are replaced by prayers to Almighty God, giving thanks and asking for God’s blessing, and all in Jesus’ name.  And here we all are, one family!

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So, Grace is from a Paiwan family and Simon is from an Amis family.  Nowadays, such marriages are very common.  In Advent Church, I like to tease Grace and Simon as being the most romantic couple in the church ~ they are members of the church choir, and they have quite some competition from other choir couples for that title!  But these two still win the prize ~ every day they are like they just got married.  And they just really like each other so much…. so adorable!

Thank God for a wonderful weekend of gracious people, deep culture, rich traditions, beautiful scenery, amazing weather, delicious foods, safe journeys and lots of laughter.

Thanks to Grace and Simon for all their leadership and organization, to all our group for their willingness to learn and to fit in with everyone and everything, and to Da-Ge and his wife and family for their warm welcome and kindness to us.  It was truly inspiring to see how God is working in one family, in one community, in one people, in one small corner of Taiwan, to His honour and glory!

‘Love and Peace’ Thanksgiving Concerts 愛與和平感恩音樂會: Welcoming the Lawings to Taiwan!

Wonderful visitors, wonderful friends of the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ these last 10 days we’ve really enjoyed a feast of music welcoming Bill Lawing and his wife, Cynthia from Davidson College, N. Carolina, USA, and Cynthia’s sister, Gloria from Rollins College, Florida  – and some of the younger ones in their family too!

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The Lawings are passionate about their music and just love performing.  And smiling for the cameras.  And talking and meeting everyone.  So natural – yet so experienced, so professional – yet so down to earth, so talented – yet so humble and modest.  Everybody in Taiwan loves them, and from what they said, seems like they love everybody here too!

Here’s Bill, Cynthia and Gloria after their concert last night at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei with Bishop and Mrs. Lily Lai, Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, Rev. Philip Lin and Ms. Linda Lin, and Ms. Amy Lin…

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Anyway, on to the music – we had Bill on his trumpet, Cynthia and Gloria on the piano ~ and away we went!  This was their concert finale and my overall favouritest piece, This Little Light of Mine ~ recorded at St. Timothy’s Church…

While they’ve been here, they’ve performed a whole range of music at 2 concerts, 2 church services and 2 kindergartens.  What an honour it was to welcome them and listen to their music and watch them play.

This is a very short excerpt from ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’….

After a 16-hour non-stop flight from New York last Thursday, May 24, they arrived very early in the morning in Taipei, and after a traditional Taiwan-style breakfast, they went straight into practicing at St. John’s Cathedral.  Their stamina and enthusiasm were amazing.  And not just for music ~ Cynthia’s other great passion in Taiwan is the food.  The more local the better.  Street food expert extraordinaire!  So after practice at the cathedral, off we went straight to their welcome lunch with cathedral clergy and friends.  Ah, it was a busy morning!

Cynthia and Gloria were brought up in Hong Kong, where their family were members of St. Paul’s Church, whose rector was Rev. James T. M. Pong – he was also their close family friend.  He left St. Paul’s in 1971 to become Bishop of Taiwan, and in 1974, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Taiwan Episcopal Church, Bishop Pong invited Cynthia to come and give a concert tour all round Taiwan.  Those were the days of no a/c, just windows open and fans blowing – and just think, it was high summer!  This is Cynthia and Gloria at the diocesan office outside the room named in memory of Bishop Pong, and his photo.

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One of those concerts that Cynthia gave in 1974 was in Tainan Theological College, where Bishop Lai was then a student, and he remembers attending – and shaking her hand!  Fast forward 37 years to 2011 – and then 2014, and Cynthia was so pleased to be able to come back to Taiwan, along with Bill, offering their musical talents and skills to perform in a series of concerts.  So this is their third trip together and this time, they’ve brought some of their family too.  Ah, how we loved them all!

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Their first concert was at 2:00 pm on Saturday May 26 at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung, the second a week later, at 7:00 pm on Saturday June 2 at St. John’s Cathedral.  Both concerts were co-sponsored by the Taiwan Episcopal Church and the Christian Tribune 基督教論壇報 – and  were on the theme of ‘Love and Peace’ 愛與和平感恩音樂會, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 823 Artillery Bombardment, part of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, which saw about 480,000 artillery shells dropped on Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen.  It is some of these artillery shells, that, through Bishop Lai’s vision, have been made into artillery shell crosses, symbolizing the transformation of objects of war and hatred into objects of love and peace, hence the ‘P’ in the middle of the crosses.  This is Bishop Lai and Bill holding one of the original artillery shell crosses, and Cynthia holding the piece of marble that she picked up in Taroko Gorge when they visited in 2014, and which Bishop Lai has faithfully watered every day, and is now blooming with small green ferns.  In 2014, Cynthia promised that when it bloomed they would come back to Taiwan to perform again ~ and so here they are!

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The artillery shell crosses were on sale at each concert – here is Gloria and Daniel selling them at the cathedral…

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Bishop Lai and Mr. Luo from Advent Church have composed a hymn, ‘Raise High, the Transformed Artillery Shells Cross’ which we sang at the beginning of each of the concerts.

At St. Timothy’s Church, the first 2 verses were sung as a solo by Ms. Lynn Liu, and accompanied by Cynthia on the organ, then in the final verse by Bill and Gloria too.  This is the hymn, sung in Chinese.

This is Lynn with the Lawings afterwards…. so great!

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St. Timothy’s rector, Rev. Richard J. C. Lee shared Cynthia’s story with us, he also welcomed us all and Mr. Timothy Cheng, Christian Tribune CEO to speak.  Then the concert started, and we all relaxed, and enjoyed the variety of music on offer.  It was beautiful!

I videoed some excerpts of their concert in Kaohsiung.  Ah, I loved it!  A few I’ve put on You Tube.  Two short excerpts are here for you to enjoy ~ though I have to admit, I don’t know what pieces they are excerpts of, but hey, I like ’em.  Listening to music is a bit like enjoying nature, you can appreciate all the flowers and trees around you without needing to know the names of ’em all ~ well, that’s my idea anyway!

The concert at St. Timothy’s Church welcomed all our clergy from southern Taiwan, and many church members, some from every church.  In fact after the concert, each church group came up for photos together with the Lawings.  Everyone was so appreciative, and especially the youth group who’d come all the way from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi, 2 hours drive north!

And a group photo of everyone at St. Timothy’s Church concert…

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Then off to dinner later that evening, hosted by Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang and the leaders of St. Paul’s Church, it was so so so delicious!  On the right is Mr. Di, who provided so many photos and live broadcasts throughout the concert and service.  Really appreciative of his help!

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On Sunday May 27, Bill and Cynthia also played 4 pieces during the service at St. Paul’s, starting with a prelude on the steps of the church. This is St. Paul’s Church before the service ~ that guy on the bike just happened to appear at the right moment!

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This was the Lawing’s main piece, played after the creed, I think it is also my most favourite of all!

They were also presented with small gifts in appreciation…

And of course, we all had a group photo after the service!

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Then off they went to Taiwan’s southernmost tip, Kenting, with Rev. Richard Lee and his family, and I went back to Taipei.  Seems like they had a great time there – then to Tainan where they played at the kindergartens and had a fun time with Rev. Philip Ho and his wife, Nancy at Grace Church. By Saturday, they were back in Taipei and we went to visit Bishop Lai for tea-drinking, always one of the highlights of their visits to Taiwan!

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And so to St. John’s Cathedral concert, held last night, and a similar programme to the one at St. Timothy’s Church.  So I got to hear them twice, ah, a double blessing!

We finished with presentations – Bishop Lai gave Bill, Cynthia and Gloria a small artillery shell cross each.  Then a group photo, as always!

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Today the Lawings were playing at Good Shepherd Church, and then leaving Taiwan to go on to the next stage of their travels.  For us, we have many wonderful memories of their visit, and especially their music.  It was great to welcome the younger members of their family too, they enjoyed exploring Taiwan.  Hoping they’ll all come back again soon, but in the meantime, we say goodbye with hearts filled with gratitude and love.

Thanks be to Almighty God!

Pop idols @ Taiwan-Style!

Been doing a bit of research among some of our students in the 15-17 year age group to find out who their pop idols are ~ part of my English conversation classes, so bringing you up to speed, here goes!

Top of the list by far for everyone are the boy bands from S. Korea – all brought together on TV talent shows and promoted by the mega-entertainment industry that is so big in S. Korea.  And currently top of the list of all of them is BTS.  Super Junior is long over, now it is BTS.  Our girls say the BTS group of 7 are all SO handsome, and their singing and dancing are all SO amazing.  To excel at all those 3 things is what qualifies them as No. 1.  And they are the reason for half of all Taiwan girls aspiring to learn Korean language.  Forget English, Korean language is the way to go!  They told me to check out the BTS You Tube video ‘DNA’, so here it is – I particularly like their use of colour – how’s this eh?!

For the boys, the equivalent is the Korean girl band, Sistar, all so ‘sexy’, and their singing and dancing are all so good.  They recommend you check out ‘Shake it’, and you’ll see why they’re so popular.

The other popular Korean male is Lee Jong Suk, actor and model who comes in the category of ‘very handsome’ as well as for his acting ability.

So is it all Koreans?  Not completely, but largely, well, yes!

Chinese idols are Jing Boran –  apparently a ‘cute’ and ‘handsome’ singer and actor; Kris Wu – ‘handsome’ actor, singer and model, and Andy Lau from Hong Kong, famous for singing and acting and for being ‘handsome before’ (when he was younger, that is!).

Then there’s American and Canadian idols, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Bon Jovi, The Chainsmokers.

There’s a Malaysian singer Shila Amzah who has an amazing voice, I’ve checked out her videos – she sings in Chinese, and yes, she’s good.

So what about Japanese idols?  Japan is famous for anime (computer animation) videos, and the most famous idol of that genre seems to be Hatsune Miku, a fictional anime character of a 16-year-old girl with ‘long turquoise twin-tails’ and an amazing singing style – ‘a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application’ – her official video is here… check it out!

And so what about homegrown Taiwan idols?  Are there any?  Our students have a really hard time thinking of anyone famous in Taiwan who they regard as an idol!  So finally, dragging it out of them, I have finally found four:  J J Lin 林俊傑 (based in Taiwan, but actually comes from Singapore!) whose singing is great but he is apparently neither cute nor handsome, Show Luo 羅志祥 whose singing and acting are good, but also apparently not very handsome, the group S.H.E whose 3 girls all sing and dance – and apparently beautiful too, and finally, Julia Wu 吳卓源 who has an amazing singing voice, and sings in Chinese, but turns out to be from Australia, and lives in the USA – anyway, here she is!

So what makes a pop idol? Looks is the big one, followed by skills in acting / dancing / singing – the more skills the better.  And if you write your own songs, well that’s an extra idol bonus!  But idols all come to an end, either fading with age or misdemeanor, or for Korean boy bands because they have to go off to military service, and while they’re gone, along comes another boy band to take their place.  But for the time being, it is BTS.  When I ask if these BTS boys have girlfriends, I am assured that they wouldn’t dare, because all the fans would be so upset – they can get girlfriends later, after they stop being so popular!

Anyway, hope I’ve brought you to speed a little with what’s going on in the world of pop idols, Taiwan-style!

St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei 60th Anniversary Thanksgiving Concert!

A whole year of 60th anniversary celebrations at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei was brought to a very fine and very fitting end yesterday afternoon ~ with a special thanksgiving concert, with choirs and music groups from Good Shepherd Church, St. James’ Church, Christ Church, and of course St. John’s Cathedral.

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There was St. John’s Cathedral Choir….

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Good Shepherd Choir….

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St. James’ Church Choir…..

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And Christ Church….

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We had short 3-minute speeches (well, 3 minutes was the allocated time, which caused much laughter – as some definitely went on just a bit longer!) from former deans and clergy in charge of the cathedral, Rev. Michael Liu, Rev. Samuel Lin, Rev. Elizabeth Wei and last of all, Bishop David J. H. Lai.  VIPs were all sitting in the 2 front rows ~ this was the front right row, with Rev. Samuel Lin in the foreground, then senior warden Mrs. Marjorie Kuo and her husband, Mr. Winston Yu, then Rev. Elizabeth Wei and her husband Rev. Peter Chen, and Dr. Huang!

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Visitors came from all over, including a special group from the Gideons, here they are with our new dean, Very Rev. Philip Lin and his wife, Linda.

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All the choirs and musicians had put in hours and hours of practice, and in the case of St. James’ Church, hours of travel too – despite leaving at 8:00 am, with 2+ hours of travel, 2+ hours of rehearsing – all wonderfully conducted by Rev. Lily Chang, and still they were so awake and full of energy!

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All the choirs and groups deserve medals for producing the most beautiful music and for singing and playing so happily!  Some do deserve an extra-special mention ~ the fastest non-stop action group was the St. John’s Cathedral Praise Dance Team, the most innovative were the St. John’s Cathedral Sunday School who had a yo-yo performance from Daniel in the middle of their song, the coolest were Good Shepherd Choir in their jeans and white shirts, the most inclusive age-wise were Christ Church, whose ages ranged from about 5 to adult, the ‘wow, stop-in-your-tracks-must-listen-to’ group were the men’s section of the cathedral choir singing the opening lines of ‘What a Wonderful World’, the most versatile must be the orchestra group who stepped up and down onto the stage several times – and always got it right, and of course Joanna, the lovely cathedral organist who played solos and accompanied groups and choirs all afternoon, running back and forth from organ to piano – she and the cathedral choir conductor were amazing – here they are, the 2 of them looking so calm and relaxed as always!

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The final song was ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, a most appropriate way to end the concert, and to prepare for Advent, starting today.  This was performed by the collective choirs of St. John’s Cathedral, Good Shepherd Church, Christ Church and St. James, and accompanied by the cathedral orchestra group.  Beautiful!

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A great afternoon, thank you St. John’s Cathedral, and congratulations on a year-long celebration of your 60th anniversary!

And finally a photo of the smiling St. John’s Cathedral Choir with their new dean, Rev. Philip Lin, standing next to former dean, Rev. Samuel Lin, and including former rector, Rev. Elizabeth Wei and assistant Rev. Peter Chen, and former former dean, Rev. Michael Liu!  Thank you for all your hard work to make yesterday’s concert such a success!

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Oh yes, and we finished with a wonderful tea-time with lots of delicious things to eat, thank you St. John’s Cathedral!

新北市淡水區興仁國小創校100週年慶祝會 ~ XingRen Elementary School, Tamsui celebrates 100 years!

Many congratulations to our local elementary school, XingRen 新北市淡水區興仁國小 on celebrating their centenary today, with beautiful sunny skies and temps of over 30 ºC!

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St. John’s University and Advent Church are in the XingRen Elementary School catchment area, and we have a really good relationship with the school ~ the principal, teachers, staff, children and parents are all our good friends, and there’s lots going on ~ here’s some of our friends on the school welcome desk this morning!

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Hundreds gathered for the centenary celebrations today ~ and we joined in! Advent Church has a drum class who were invited to perform, and we also invited the drum class from St. John’s Cathedral to join us ~ the teacher is the same for both groups.  The cathedral group has been going for 8 years, whereas our group has been going for only 8 months – so their support was much appreciated ~ and everyone had a great time!

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The drums were the opening performance, first thing at 8:30 am ~ they did 2 songs, and I filmed the first half of each…. do take a look at these 2 short videos, the group performed really well ~ ah, such talent!

The next performance was an amazingly agile and very fast group of Rollerblading Dragon Dancers who zoomed around and around… check out the first 40 seconds of their performance here!

Had a great time meeting lots of people we knew, including our good friend Jasmine (second left below) from our neighboring junior high school branch and some of her students who had made special centenary bags for the occasion!  Here they are with the principal of XingRen (third left below) …

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And the final performance of the morning was our lovely Advent Church Band who performed 3 songs, and the highlight was the final song, ‘Happy 100th Birthday!’

It was such a great way to end the morning’s celebrations!

Congratulations to all who performed and to all involved, there was a lot of hard work for everyone, and it was very hot – not typical October weather, but we were all so happy the weather was so good – we’d been praying all week!

And very special congratulations to XingRen Elementary School on their 100th anniversary ~ and here’s to the next 100 years ~ YES!