Saturday, May 8, 2010
Diplomats steal show with their music-making at swinging TIWC charity gala dinner event
By Nancy T. Lu
Easygoing moments filled with music made up part of life away from the office desks at the American Institute in Taiwan for AIT Deputy Director Eric Madison and AIT Public Affairs Section Chief and Spokesman Thomas Mark Hodges along with Dave Rank, Denise Shepherd, Gonzalo Saldias, Alan Tousignant and Scott Riswold, all of AIT or the de facto U.S. Embassy.
This was a big revelation to the members of the Taipei International Women’s Club after their friends from the AIT agreed to show their gift for music-making during their off hours by performing at the TIWC’s charity gala dinner at the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel in Taipei on April 30. They did it only to support a good cause. Their entertainment program, in fact, turned the well-attended fund-raising event into an unforgettable swinging affair.
The male-dominated happening only proved that the gentlemen from the diplomatic community remained ever-gallant and committed when approached by women for support in a meaningful endeavor.
Madison graciously accepted the invitation to do a very rare public duet, karaoke style, with Kingdom of Swaziland Ambassador Njbuliso Gwebu. Their rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Road” even earned a high score of 96. They reportedly began practicing together two weeks earlier.
Madison started off with a solo number, “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” concluding with a score of 65. Gwebu for her part did “When I Need You,” getting a score of 74 for her effort.
Earlier, the fun-loving AIT band called Mad Cows got into a hot rock music act, exciting the TIWC members and guests with their thythmic sounds into rushing to the dance floor.
The night was young. Dave Rank, Denise Shepherd and Gonzalo Saldias (doing the vocals), Alan Tousignant (on the guitar), Scott Riswold (at the drums), and Thomas Mark Hodges (playing bass) were just warming up before unbelieving eyes and ears.
“Stray Cat Strut” was their opening piece. And then they moved into the more dramatic “Secret Agent Man,” followed by “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” By the time they got to “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the crowd was totally convinced of their amazing music talent. They were good enough for the professional stage.
Then came vocalist Rank’s climactic announcement about switching from English songs to a Mandarin tune. Wu Bai’s “You Are My Flower” got performed in flawless Mandarin, bringing everyone to a new high.
Move over, Wu Bai. Such thought crossed the minds of a few who were familiar with the hit song. The original Taiwanese singer should have seen Rank, squinting his eyes and putting on shades while going through his routine in the stage limelight.
The excellent entertainers called Mad Cows had another song to offer - “Play That Funky Music.” Then Rank started asking Mayumi Hu, TIWC 2nd vice president and English-language emcee of the event: “Should I stay or should I go?”
The question turned out to be the title of the final song for the evening. Carlson Huang of Radio Taiwan International was there too as Chinese-language co-emcee of the very special program.
At one point Gonzalo Saldias emerged a cool balladeer from AIT, serenading the board members called to the stage for special citation after a year of service with “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
Connie Pong, TIWC president, handed out certificates and gifts to the following: Swaziland Ambassador Njbuliso Gwebu, 1st vice president; Mayumi Hu, second vice president; Anne Yung, treasurer; Jin Lee Fang, membership; Lily Assana, hospitality; Caroline Chou, Chinese public relations; Sophia Lu, social service; and Peckhee Lim, publicity.
This year’s TIWC led by Connie Pong, the president, took the education of poor Taiwanese students for special cause in their fund-raising efforts. The TIWC is presently supporting the meals and transportation allowances of 16 students. Pong presented NT$160,000 to Nanhu Senior High School and NT$200,000 to the TIWC Education Fund during the program.
The readiness to encourage and support the TIWC in meaningful charity work prompted the special participation of the talents from the diplomatic community in the gala dinner performance.
Nicaraguan Ambassador William Tapia stepped forward to sing Frank Sinatra’s classic “My Way” completely in Japanese. Wong Kai Jiun from the Singapore Trade Office in Taipei impressed the audience with his voice and singing style when his turn to vocalize “You’ve Got a Friend” came.
DJ Chicano was there also to contribute more excitement to the swinging party. Professional ballroom dancing by Cassia Chang and Harrison Lee alternated with high-energy hip-hop performances by two very young groups of dancers from Nanhu Senior High School in Taipei. This very school is where the poor student beneficiaries of TIWC’s funding and priority support come from.
The TIWC also supports the Lin Kun-Ti Foundation through various hospital projects and handicapped students’ assistance in colleges and other domains. Then there is the TIWC Education Foundation, which offers scholarships to financially-strapped post-secondary school students with outstanding potential for leadership and with promise of using their talents for the benefit of the society. Friends of TIWC have meanwhile been contributing to two funds: Dr. Lilian Chao Education Fund, which awards prizes to the winners of an annual English speech contest, and Lily Chow Memorial Fund for handicapped students.
The TIWC members in the last year raised money also for those who suffered the devastating effects of Typhoon Morakot, donating NT$100,000 to the Ministry of the Interior to help the victims rebuild their lives. The TIWC likewise collected NT$50,000 for the victims of the deadly earthquake of 7.0 magnitude in Haiti, channeling donation to survivors through the Embassy of Haiti in Taiwan.
Generous donors, including Cecilia Koo of the National Women’s League and Eclat Hotel, contributed prizes worth a total of over NT$200,000 to a raffle draw on April 30. Many of the embassies and trade offices also gave prizes.