HANOI — A major musical event is in the making for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and East Asia Summit meetings in Hanoi in October.
Artists from the 10 countries making up ASEAN will form an orchestra to be conducted by the world-renowned Yoshikazu Fukumura.
The performance is expected to become an official feature of the international conferences, officials at Vietnam’s culture ministry said.
The idea was conceived when Fukumura was conducting the symphony orchestra of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music last November.
At the time, he talked about regional trends in classical music with the head of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory as well as with officials of the ASEAN Secretariat and the Nippon Foundation, a Japanese philanthropic organization.
According to Fukumura, while most of the orchestras in ASEAN countries recruit a good number of Westerners, Vietnam has five orchestras made up almost entirely of local artists.
Many musicians acquired excellent skills because of Vietnam’s historical ties with the West, the birthplace of classical music, Fukumura said. The country used to be a French colony and had a bond of socialist brotherhood with the former Soviet Union and Eastern European nations.
With Vietnam chairing ASEAN this year, Fukumura and others came up with the idea to form an orchestra of musicians from all of the association’s countries. The proposal was endorsed by ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, who advocates fostering closer ties among the various communities in the region.
The Nippon Foundation offered funding and the Vietnamese government came out in favor of the project in April.
Fukumura for long has been active internationally. In addition to Europe and Latin America, he has conducted orchestras in Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
In the 1990s, he helped restore the prestige of the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra at the request of the government after the country was battered by acute political and economic turmoil. His efforts earned Hanoi’s trust.
The planned ASEAN orchestra is expected to comprise about 80 musicians, of which 60 will come from Vietnamese orchestras. Two or three will be picked from each of the other ASEAN countries.
Fukumura attended the first round of auditions in Myanmar in late May and talent-hunting took place in Cambodia and Laos earlier this month.
The orchestra will play at the Hanoi Opera House before the leaders of the ASEAN nations as well as those of Japan, China and South Korea.
“Each country has its unique culture, but an orchestra can bring together people from various cultural backgrounds,” Fukumura said.
People often say orchestras are meant to play Western music, Fukumura pointed out. “But just as English is an international language, orchestras — and classical music — can be as international.
“I want to see the ASEAN orchestra become a permanent institution,” he said. “If we keep up our efforts, we’ll be able to create Asian music.”
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