Saturday, April 3, 2010

Artists gathering to honor memory of publisher and supporter of the arts Yu Chi-chung on his 100th birth anniversary

By Nancy T. Lu

Luminaries of Taiwan’s art and culture community are gathering and organizing a special concert to honor the memory of the late China Times founder Yu Chi-chung on April 9, just days before Yu’s birth centennial on April 16. All participation and involvement will be offered gratis et amore.

Yu, who lived to the ripe old age of 93, gave his crucial support to the arts over the years and helped in his lifetime write the history of Taiwan’s cultural heritage.

The program at the National Theater in Taipei on April 9 will open with the performance of Lin Hwai-min’s 10-minute solo dance choreography by a Cloud Gate dancer. The performer must keep rotating without moving from a pivotal point to express mourning and grief for the departed as well as to give vent to a feeling of protest against the heavens for taking him away.

Cloud Gate 2 will likewise dance Huang Yu’s “Floating Domain” to the music of Bach. This will be the premiere of the new choreography. Lin Hwai-min seeks to give full encouragement to rising bright young talent Huang, emulating the example set by the late Yu.

When Taiwan’s best-known and multi-awarded choreographer Lin Hwai-min was just starting out with his Cloud Gate Dance Theatre many years ago, he was personally taken by Yu to his house as well as to his office. Lin, only 26 then, met important personages of the older generation, who were potential supporters of his dance company, this way.

The dance company folded up in 1988 but got revived in 1999. Lin recalled that the dance company which he led at that time had “no money, only courage.” But on the second day after artistic director Lin made his comeback announcement, Yu sent his driver over to deliver an envelope containing a letter and a NT$2 million check.

Meanwhile the Ju Percussion Group will strike up marimba notes during the concert to stir emotional recollections. Pipa or lute master Wong Ching-ping will interpret Hsu Po-yun’s “Pipa Jottings.” The composition blends influences of East and West, reflecting the late Yu’s thinking and philosophy.

The Taipei Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will perform overtures from “Aida” and “La Forza del Destino.” Art songs and operatic highlights by the chorus will be featured. Chen Chiu-sen will return to conduct the Taipei Symphony Orchestra at the concert to be a prelude to another collaboration with the orchestra later.

The rendition of Yu’s favorite songs like “I Live at the Start of the Yangtze River,” “Mending the Broken Fishnet” and “One Day When We Were Young” will fan sentimental reminiscences of how Yu never tired of listening to them or even singing them, according to New Aspect’s Hsu Po-yun.

Hsu remembered that the New Aspect’s announcement of financial difficulties to the tune of NT$50 million in the 1980s led to a personal phone call from Yu. Yu, in fact, sent over his accountant to check the books of the New Aspect. He urged Hsu to reduce his staff of 100 by half in a week’s time to cut down on costs and save New Aspect from permanently stopping operation as promoter of the arts.

“New Aspect cannot fold up,” he told Hsu. “New Aspect is no longer a private entity. It belongs to the Taiwan society.”

The following day, he gave New Aspect a donation of NT$10 million. Because of his influence as a leading light in Taiwan’s media industry, Yu also helped New Aspect solicit a donation of NT$5 million from Formosa Plastics.

Yu also personally tried to stop Hsu from entering politics. He wanted to see him remain an impresario. Hsu at one stage toyed with the idea of becoming a legislator. Yu urged him to just focus on the promotion of the arts.

Yu Fan-ying, Yu’s daughter and head of the Yu Chi-chung Foundation, announced that proceeds from the April 9 concert would go to charity causes helped by the foundation. She recalled that intellectuals, who were friends of her father, came and went at home when she was growing up. She knew her father to be a man who had a sense of direction and who felt a sense of purpose in life. She felt very touched to have so many people going to great lengths to express their deep gratitude to her father for his generosity and influence seven years after his death at the age of 93.

Photo shows (from left) Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s Lin Hwai-min, conductor Chen Chiu-sen, Yu Fan-ying of Yu Chi-chung Foundation, and New Aspect’s Hsu Po-yun.

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