Bringing a new meaning to the term “traveling Troubadours”, the Southwest Chamber Music is continuing its tradition of taking its musicians around the world. This time, though, Southwest Chamber will participate in a U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program that will see the Grammy-winning ensemble in the two major cities of Vietnam and a group of Vietnamese musicians visiting Pasadena. Southwest Chamber has previously visited such cities as Vienna, Austria, Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Hanoi, Vietnam.
The current trip will take place in Vietnam and the United States between Feb. 27 and May 3, 2010 and will consist of 19 members of Southwest Chamber providing rehearsals and concerts side-by-side with Vietnamese musicians in Hanoi and Saigon for a program of American compositions followed by a three-week visit by their musicians to Pasadena for a program of Vietnamese music.
Although the grant from the U.S. State Department was generous, matching funds are required as terms of the grant. Several private foundations, two cities cultural affairs commissions and private donors to Southwest Chamber have stepped forward to fill the gap. But, in a letter to supporters, Jan Karlin, Executive Director at Southwest Chamber wrote, “every public dollar of the grant must be matched by private donations.”
Two Mission Street shops in South Pasadena stepped forward on a recent Saturday afternoon to help the music group achieve their financial goal. The shops offered discounts on merchandise and vistors were able to sip a bit of wine, cheese and dig into a very special cake. Purchases made during the special shopping opportunity contained special discounts which the stores donated to Southwest Chamber.
Barbara Goldeen and John Selmer of Santa Fe Crafts, THE STORE, and Sheena Gorelick of Wine Styles greeted guests helping shoppers with suitable holiday gifts. In a room next to Santa Fe Crafts, in the abutting antique store, Gorelick provided a sampling of wines and cheeses from her shop and Chef Enrique Molina and his wife, Claudia, set up a three-layer chocolate cake that Molina had baked in the shape of a cello. Molina and his wife, residents of Monrovia, are in the process of opening a business to provide specialty desserts.
Karlin and Artistic Director of Southwest, Jeff von der Schmidt, are passionate about the cultural exchange project. They have named the project “Ascending Dragon” a translation of Thang Long the first name of Hanoi. Hanoi will celebrate its 1000th anniversary in 2010. Von der Schmidt says, “My goal is to demonstrate that Vietnam is a country and not a war.”
Partners with Southwest Chamber Music in Vietnam are the Vietnam National Academy of Music and the Hanoi Opera House in Hanoi; and the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music in Saigon. Governmental agencies involved in Vietnam are the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Partners in the U.S. include the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena; The Colburn School of Performing Arts, Los Angeles; the Drucker Institute at the Claremont Graduate University, Claremont; Riordan Volunteer Leadership Development Program, Los Angeles; Cal Tech, Pasadena; Pacific Asian Museum, Pasadena; Los Angeles and Pasadena Unified School Districts; and Villa Aurora, Pasadena. The ensemble was recommended to the U.S. State Department by Congressman Adam Schiff.
Contributions have been received from the James Irvine Foundation, the Schoenberg Family Charitable Fund, the City of Pasadena Arts and Culture Commission, the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles, and contributions from private donors to the music ensemble. A corporate sponsorship is being provided by the Hilton Hanoi Opera in Hanoi and the Pasadena Hilton will provide rooms for visiting participants.
The “Ascending Dragon” project by Southwest Chamber Music is believed to be the largest cultural exchange in history between Vietnam and the United States.