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  • Writer's pictureEusebius


(Written in request by

When I think of Taiwanese composer Tyzen Hsiao, the tune of Amazing Grace comes to my mind instantly.  It’s almost as if those two are grouped together in my memory.

I first learned of Tyzen Hsiao through my piano lessons in middle school days.  My wonderful childhood piano teacher and mentor, Yin-Yin Huang, introduced me to his beautiful solo piano arrangement of Amazing Grace and years forward remains to be the only piece I have by memory.  I had first performed the piece during a church service in Pasadena in middle school, and it somehow remained in me throughout the years when I had not touched the keyboard, and was the encore piece I played during my recital at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University.

China is one of the largest countries in the world prouding itself in its long history and culture, large population and massive acres of land.  Most Americans are familiar with some parts of it.  We are familiar with the Chinese red and gold hues, the popular take-out food, its dragon in festivals, sound of Chinese flute in subway stations and so on.  And they are not to be confused by us Americans with Taiwan.   If China is bold and strong, with many embellishments in music, Taiwan is much softer with beauty of simplicity and moderation within and has a sense of patience and endurance reflecting its history of multiple colonizations.  There is also a sense of resilience, and a strong desire of independence and peace.

Tyzen Hsiao Concert at the Walt Disney Hall in Downtown Los Angeles in August just reflected that of Taiwanese culture to me in music.  I was no history major, but music told me all about its history.  Its desire of independence and peace, its history of longing and endurance.

And composer's love for God.

The endurance of Taiwanese in its history combined with David's longing in Book of Psalms intertwined together in the melodies of the composer.  And angel of Formosa healing many hearts.

Concert hall was filled with about 200 chorus members (I counted!) of Taiwanese American Chorale of Southern California and conductor Mei-Ann Chen walked in with energetic steps and a big smile.  She opened the evening with an orchestral piece called March of Democracy.  Audience was not the typical crowd at Disney Hall.  Many elderly and mom and pops made the effort to show up to this event, to celebrate Taiwan's current freedom and remember its suffering.

Then flew in The Angel from Formosa with soothing melodies of harp and flutes accompanied by strings.  Thematic materials were smooth as silk, like robes of angels, and landed gently and softly into our hearts.

Then the famous New World Symphony of Dvorak.  What a timing.  In the midst of the audience, I was able to sense their emotions as composer directed the program throughout.

Pianist Gwhyneth Chen performed the Concerto in C minor after intermission where I found in the concerto similar styles composer had used in Amazing Grace.  The paralleled arpeggios flowing from the higher register to the lower, than the chord progressions of both hands in lower and mid ranges of the piano.

Then the chorus sang How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place, Psalm 84 with soloist Li-Chan Chen.  Her voice was perfect for the piece.  Composer seemed to sing out the heart of Taiwan throughout this famous psalm of David.   Even the sparrow has a home and a swallow a nest for herself.  Where is the home for Taiwan?  Look upon us.  But I praise You as Your place is lovely and better is one day in Your courts than many elsewhere.

Almost sounded like a soulful aria from one of Puccini's operas.

"My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God, O Lord of hosts." "Even the sparrow has found a home, and a swallow a nest for herself," "Look upon our shield, O God; Look with favor on your anointed one.  Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere."

Soloist Li-Chan Chen with Conductor Mei-Ann Chen
Soloist Li Chen Chen with Conductor Mei Ann Chen

Except the plot ended with 1947 Overture and in victory, not tragedy.  With the final movement, Love and Hope, Taiwan the Green.  Drum beats were rather celebratory, but not over-done, and entire chorus and orchestra with the soloist sang a song of freedom, filled with love and hope.

"The reason of writing Taiwan the Green was intended to create a true national anthem for Taiwan, so that Taiwanese players in the Olympic Games can sing it when they win gold medals... and it was considered to be the paramount unofficial national anthem in the early stage of Taiwan's democratic movement."

Audience stood up in standing ovation.  It was their anthem, and they remained standing for a long time in awe and respect.  It all ended in love, hope, and peace filling in our hearts.  The ending was performed again for encore, and the dynamics of last word Formosa from pp to ff was impeccably controlled and conducted by Mei-Ann Chen to echo in our hearts.

with my teacher Yin-Yin Huang, friend of the composer
with my teacher Yin-Yin Huang, friend of the composer

(With former teacher and pianist Yin-Yin Huang after the concert, she hand-mailed my ticket to me personally! How touching is that...  She was very close with the composer Tyzen Hsiao.)

Posted 6th September 2018 by Eusebius Diary

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