Friday, March 23, 2012

Good Morning Tainan

Concert pianist and friends hit a high note

Chen Rueibin will perform today and tomorrow with three young musicians who overcame physical disabilities and learning difficulties to master the piano
By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff Reporter Taipei Times
Ku Yung-kai, left, plays the piano with Chen Rueibin.
Photo Courtesy of Capriccio Chamber Orchestra

Concert pianist Chen Rueibin (陳瑞斌) is one of Taiwan’s best-known musical exports and his considerable success means that he spends more time performing abroad than at home. But the Tainan native, who embarked on a musical career in Vienna when just 13, has never forgotten his roots. This week he is back in his hometown for a very special project.
Today and tomorrow, Chen will perform together with three young musicians who have all battled physical disabilities and learning difficulties to achieve their high level of musical proficiency.
For Rueibin Chen and Friends , Chen will perform together with Ku Yung-kai , who has autism, Chen Po-rung , who is blind, and Chang Yan-sheng , who is visually impaired and has cerebral palsy. The three were selected from applicants from all over the country, and all have attained a high level of musical skill. Speaking at a press conference held to announce the project, Chen said that the selection process had been heartbreaking, as many of the applicants were clearly very talented, and was proof, if any were needed, that disabilities need not impair a person’s capacity to lead a full and expressive life.
“I could not make the choice myself. It was too difficult,” Chen said, adding that the applicants had distinguished themselves with their passion for music, their effort in overcoming various conditions, and their optimism in the face of adversity.
Chen said that although he was unable to spend as much time as he would have liked working with his proteges because of his international concert commitments, he did not settle for them playing works they were already familiar with. He set them “homework” and this week they rehearsed together in preparation for the concert.
“Technically they are fine,” Chen said. “But what they lack is performance experience. Things like walking onto the stage and interacting with the audience. In truth, most young musicians in Taiwan lack this kind of exposure. This is something that I can give them … Of course, I make all the demands on them that I make on myself.”
At the press conference, Ku, a music student at Tamkang High School (淡江高級中學) with a major in piano and minor in cello, thanked Chen for the great boost this opportunity had given his confidence. Chen said working with Ku had been a learning experience. As communication with words was not very effective, the music itself had to do most of the talking.
“I find when working with him [Ku] that he responds in his mind to what is going on, not to words or demonstrations. When I saw the DVD of his performance [submitted as part of the application process], he was so immersed in the music it brought tears to my eyes,” Chen said.
Chen says he would like to give his three pupils the opportunity to perform overseas. He said that currently there are only two large-scale classical music events for musicians living with disabilities, one in Vienna, the other in Osaka, and he thinks of this concert as a small step in creating a regular fixture in Taiwan at which musicians from all over the world could perform.


Performance notes

What: Rueibin Chen and Friends
When: Today at 7:30pm (Tainan) and tomorrow at 7:30pm (Taipei)
Where: Tainan Municipal Cultural Center Performance Hall , 332, Jhonghua E Rd Sec 3, Greater Tainan and Zhongshan Hall , 98 Yanping S Rd, Taipei City
Admission: Tickets are NT$300 to NT$4,800 for both venues, available through ERA ticketing and online at