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