Paris 1900 welcomed the dawn of the new century with people from all over the world coming to the Paris World Exposition to showcase their cultural heritages, achievements and aspirations. Universally presented in the Art Nouveau style, the Exposition saw the introduction of many inventions including diesel engines, talking films, sound recording and many more.
A unique showcase from Indochina that attracted much attention from French journalists and art lovers was the combination of Vietnamese Tài tử music and Cambodian dance, which was performed by a group of Vietnamese traditional musicians with the renowned French ballerina Cleo de Merode and other Italian dancers. A part of the music at that performance was notated as Danse de l’Indo-chine (Indochina Dance) by Julien Tiersot, a prominent French musicologist. To date, his 114 years old manuscript is the first known Western notation of Vietnamese Tài tử music, which, on 5 December 2013, was recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humankind.
On 23 Nov 2013, at a special cultural event held by the Vietnam Foundation, Nguyễn Lê Tuyên and Nguyễn Đức Hiệp, the authors of the newly published book “Hát bội, đờn ca tài tử và cải lương cuối thế kỷ 19 đầu thế kỷ 20” gave a very fascinating talk, illustrated with many slides of old rare photos, of the historical development and the background for the appearance of Tài tử music at the 1900 Paris World Exposition
The presentation was then followed by musicians Fiona Đàm and Hannah Đinh who, with their Đàn Tranh (16-stringed Zither) and Đàn Bầu (Monochord), beautifully showcased some Vietnamese traditional music pieces.
Their captivating performance culminated with a piece of the Indochina Dance music that was notated by Julian Tiersot in 1900. Dancer and choreographer Geraldine Balcazar meanwhile mesmerised the audience with her own interpretation of the Cambodian dances which were danced by Cleo de Merode at the Paris 1900 World Exposition.
The music program was topped off with a marvelous rendition by artist Ngọc Hà of Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang, the first piece of Vọng Cổ music, written by the Vọng Cổ composer Cao văn Lầu in around 1919.
The cultural connection between Vietnam and France in 1900 has so fascinated Huy Moeller, a Vietnamese-Danish film director that he came here from Amsterdam for the event, and announced the formation of the Indochina Theatre Project, which will produce a feature film inspired by Cleo de Merode’s dances with Vietnamese Tài Tử musicians.
Nearly 70 people, including Foundation’s members, friends and guests, enjoyed hugely this unique cultural event.
Special guests who also addressed the gathering were Mr Eric Berti, the French Consul General in Sydney
and Prof Aeron Corn, President of the Musicological Society of Australia.
Many copies of the book “Hát bội, đờn ca tài tử và cải lương cuối thế kỷ 19 đầu thế kỷ 20” were also sold. All the sales proceeds were donated by the authors to the Vietnam Foundation.
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More than 450 guests came to give support to our gala dinner “Tuổi Xanh Nào Cho Em” held on 6 September 2013 at Liberty Palace Restaurant, Bankstown.
The dinner was to raise funds for many of our aid projects in remote rural areas in Vietnam, specially the construction of a new building for the Mái Ấm Tình Thương (MATT) orphanage in Lagi, Bình Thuận province.
Special guests at the dinner were Sisters Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mai and Nguyễn Thị Thanh Trang from the ‘Lovers of the Holy Cross’ church of Nha Trang Diocese.
Sister Mai, the founder and director of the MATT orphanage, gave a moving account of the efforts by the orphanage to relieve the plight of the poor and the disabled in the surrounding areas.
The evening proceedings were superbly conducted by the lively, eloquent MC, Dr Lê Vũ.
Entertaining was provided by many well-loved musicians and artists in Sydney: Quỳnh Xuân, Thiên Hương, Kim Thúy, Thanh Tâm, Hoàng Phương, Jimmy and the popular music band The Sun Rise, conducted by Dr Thi.
Making special appearance at the dinner was the talented and versatile concert pianist Vân-Anh Nguyễn.
Prior to and during the dinner many volunteers from various groups such as the Gia Đình Phật Tử (The Buddhist Family), the Mở Rộng Vòng Tay (Open your Arms, Open Your Heart) charity group, etc gave us their helping hands in many tasks such as promoting the event, selling diner tickets, ushering, selling raffles tickets, collecting donations, etc.
Through this dinner we raised a total of $22,069, which consisted of $8,083.00 donated exclusively (by requests from the donors) to the MATT project, $3,202.00 to other aid projects and $10,784.00 the proceeds from the sales of dinner tickets, raffles, and DVDs. The Foundation has decided to donate a third of the $10,784 proceeds (i.e $3,594.70) to the MATT project also. Therefore, as support for the MATT project, a total of $11,677.70 was handed over to Sister Mai on 10 Sep 2013. The remaining $10,391.30 of the dinner proceeds will be used for other Foundation’s aid projects.
The dinner would not have been a success had we not been given valuable support by many people in many ways: attending the dinner, helping with the organizing or giving donations in cash or in kind. We wish to give to all a heart-felt thank you.
MÁI ẤM TÌNH THƯƠNG ORPHANAGE
The MATT has been in operation for 7 years. It has been carrying out many “pro-life” programs, which include counseling and helping unmarried pregnant mothers to avoid abortion, giving them shelter, bringing up orphans, as well as caring for the poor, the disabled, and the people affected by Agent Orange in the area.
Currently the orphanage houses 93 orphans aged between new-born and 8-years old and is run by 10 sisters and 18 assistants.
Due to the increasing demand for the services from the locals, the existing facilities become inadequate. The orphanage aims to construct a new, additional building which can accommodate 150 orphans (from 2-days old to grown-up) and has enough space to provide adequate facilities in support of up to 300 disabled persons who come monthly for food and medicines.
* Photos taken at the dinner and shown in this page are courtesy of DV Huyen and Hao Xuan
Arts of Việt Nam 1009-1945 by Kerry Nguyễn-Long, is the only book written in English on this subject. It covers the development of the arts from the first Lý king in 1009 to the abdication of the last Nguyễn King in 1945, from the North to the far South of Vietnam.
The Vietnam Foundation had the honour to host on Sunday 5 May 2013 a presentation by author Kerry Nguyễn-Long about this valuable, important publication.
Kerry Nguyễn-Long has a long connection with Vietnam and has been writing on its arts for decades. Since 1999 she has been a contributing editor of the international bimonthly magazine Arts of Asia, published in Hong Kong. Her writings have also featured in many books, arts magazines, museum catalogues, and journals.
Supported by over 300 illustrations, the Arts of Việt Nam 1009-1945 introduces major categories of the arts from Architecture to Sculpture, Stone and Woodcarvings, Metalcrafts, Lacquercraft, Furniture, Ceramics, Inlay work, Woodblock Printing and Painting. It presents them in historical context, describes their features in each period and explains why alongside enduring continuities new styles emerged while others were abandoned.
Kerry Nguyễn-Long dedicated decades of meticulous and painstaking research to produce this great work out of her frustration with false or inadequate information and the sometimes cursory remarks or dismissal of Vietnamese arts in a range of publications that she had encountered over many years. Her desire was “to contribute towards a more balanced discourse on Vietnam’s arts.”
Kerry’s talk was very informative, well illustrated with many slides and drew very lively queries and discussions from engaging, interested audience.
The book talk was followed by a beautiful recital of Vietnamese classical music items with đàn Tranh (16-stringed zither) and đàn Bầu (monochord) by artist Ngọc Anh and her student.
The audience of more than 40 members and friends of the Foundation enjoyed a very rewarding cultural event and purchased many copies of the book. Kerry kindly donated part of the proceeds of the sales of the book to the Vietnam Foundation’s fund for aid projects in Vietnam.
The book is available for $55 from many arts bookshops. Its publication was supported by the Australian Embassy in Hanoi as part of its programme to celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. It has been awarded a certificate of commendation for the 2013 Australian Arts in Asia Awards by the Australian Government Minister for the Arts.
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On 3 November 2012 more than 60 members and friends of the Foundation were pleasantly treated with an exquisite music recital which featured a beautiful blending of Vietnamese and western music. Performed at the event were 3 accomplished musicians: Nguyễn Lê Tuyên, Nguyễn Kim Oanh and Nguyễn Xuân Ánh.
Lê Tuyên is the inventor of the new guitar technique staccato-harmonic duotone (whereby two music tones are created on one string at the same time) and has given many highly acclaimed concerts and lectures in Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA.
During the night Lê Tuyên demonstrated this unique technique with many of his compositions which were inspired by music of the minority people in the central highlands of Vietnam. Also presented were his wonderful interpretations of some of traditional Vietnamese folk songs such as Lý Con Sáo, Lý Chim Quyên etc.
Leaving the Vietnam highlands and countryside behind, the audience was transported to the other side of the world, to the sea and sky of Italy and Europe.
Accompanied by Nguyễn Xuân Ánh in the guitar, Nguyễn Kim Oanh, with her beautiful operatic voice, captivated the audience with her enchanting renditions of famous songs such as Santa Lucia, O Solo Mio, Mama and many others.
Kim Oanh and Xuân Ánh are the founders and directors of the “Accelerated Centre for Education”, a well-respected, quality school for music, dance, and visual arts in Sydney. They both were graduates of the Saigon Conservatorium of Music (before 1975), Sydney Conservatorium of Music and University of New South Wales. Kim Oanh has performed as a solo singer and a choir conductor for churches in Vietnam and Sydney and, for more than 33 years, taught music in schools.
Before 1975 Xuân Ánh was a guitar lecturer at the Saigon Conservatorium of Music.
The three artists at the event are therefore not only seasoned performers but also experienced educationalists. With each piece of the music presented, the artists gave an illuminating introduction on its background and its meaning. The audience enjoyed not only delightful entertainment but also very rewarding and memorable cultural experience.
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In many rural and mountainous parts of Vietnam, because of tradition and a lack of clean toilet facilities, open defecation is still widely practiced. As a result, the local population lives in a polluted environment and frequently suffers many serious communicable diseases.
Typical housing of the local people
In response to a request from Sister Nguyễn Thị Đức of the Kim Thành church, in Hòa Hiệp village, Cu Kuin District, Daklak province, Vietnam Foundation lent its support to her programme of building toilets for the 450 Ede families living in buon Hra Ea Hing and buon Hra Ea Tla.
Dr Mai Viết Thủy, one of our directors (on left), with Sister Nguyễn Thị Đức (on right) and the owner of a new toilet.
The first phase of the programme, starting in February 2011, consisted of building 76 toilets for 76 families. In parallel with the toilet construction, classes teaching hygiene practices and healthy life style were also organised for this ethnic minority group.
Vietnam Foundation contributed about one third of the costs of this first phase.
All 76 toilets have been built and handed over to the local people.
The local communities requested help to build 200 more toilets for other families in the next few years. Vietnam Foundation is looking for co-sponsors to share the cost of construction. It is hoped that at the end of the whole project, these ethnic minority families will have a cleaner living environment, a more hygienic life style and many of their diseases are things of the past.
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