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The 7th Taishin Arts Award Performing Art Nominee

Ju Percussion Group Winter Concert 2008: Percussion Happens Daily

Ju Percussion Group (JPG) performed "Winter Concert 2008 – Percussion Happens Daily" on November 21, 2008 at the Taipei National Concert Hall. Here, the group members discuss their work.

Our group was founded by percussionist Tzong-Ching JU in January 1986. Ju Percussion Group is Taiwan's first percussion ensemble. We are a group of 13 percussionists and 1 composer. Many of our compositions combine music from the East and West, while combining traditional classics with contemporary music.

Our group is aware that historically, music composed for percussive music just began about 200 years ago. We are also deeply aware of the importance of establishing a good repertoire of pieces. This is why we have commissioned many pieces over the years from talented composers both in Taiwan and internationally in order to broaden the percussive music repertoire. This has been our long term goal, and over the past 20 years, we've commissioned more than 100 pieces. In addition to helping our own group develop, we've enriched the percussion music heritage. The composers often incorporate musical instruments and elements from all corners of the world to create their own style.

Our work that is nominated for a Taishin Arts Award is our Winter Concert 2008–Percussion Happens Daily. We have always enjoyed working with composers from around the world as these different perspectives add richness to our repertoire. For this concert, we invited five of the most accomplished composers of this generation from all over the world to write music especially for Ju Percussion Group. We gave them free rein to create new and original works that were written specifically for us.

The five composers are Toshimitsu TANAKA, Gérard LECOINTE, Yu-Hui CHANG, Eric SAMMUT and Aurél HOLLÓ. Each one is extremely talented and accomplished, and their work is so different from each other. This gave our group the opportunity to play a rich kaleidoscope of percussive sounds.

Samsara composed by Toshimitsu TANAKA slowly reveals the melody, while the musicians accent certain beats creating a vibrant rhythm. Color's Comedy by Gérard LECOINTE alludes to 17th century French Saraband, the courtly dance in slow triple time. The six-player piece Dou-Zhen by Yu-Hui CHANG features a competition with one side playing traditional Chinese drums, while the other side plays bongos and tom toms in rhythmic reply, until the two sides merge into each other. Eric SAMMUT'S Magic Carousel incorporates Gypsy, Jazz, and Latin influences and is written for eight performers. Gamelan-bound by Aurél HOLLÓ features the gamelan, with the musicians playing the fast, interlocking patterns in pairs like a Balinese orchestra, while the slower musical themes are played on bass pipes.

Since Ju Percussion Group has been together for so long, we have had the great fortune to have performed and recorded on a regular basis. We created three major multi-media productions for musical theater and released 15 recordings. The 1996 live recording special of our 10th anniversary concert received the 1997 Taiwan Golden Melody Award for Best Performer. And we released our 15th anniversary CD set Shiny Days (2002), and our 20th anniversary DVD Picture the Percussion (2005).

-----As told to Susan Kendzulak 

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