Yesterday was the culminating concert of the residency and to be honest I had mixed feelings about it. There were a lot of positives, though. First off, Ro Cham Ti, the master musical instrument maker got a traditional Jarai outfit sent down from the highlands of Vietnam just so I could wear it for the show. I got to show off my shoulder hair while being cool for once.
My wife, daughter, and mother and father in law came down for this concert and it was an absolute joy having my family there and especially seeing my daughter dancing and calling, “DADA!” I told everyone near me on stage, you’re going to hear my daughter and sure enough within about 30 seconds of the beginning of the show, you could hear her laughing and hollering with excitement. I proudly turned to my friends, “yep, that’s my daughter.”
The concert definitely had some great parts to it. We covered a lot of ground musically and showcased combinations of instruments that I’m sure have never been done before. Sometimes I felt like maybe there was actually too much. Maybe we tried to cram a bit too much musical material into one concert.
The sound on stage was not good, however. There were many times that microphones weren’t on and players couldn’t be heard and even when they were on, the mix was poor and it was difficult to hear one another. I wish there had been a more comprehensive sound check because when you are playing and can’t hear yourself (or others that you need to hear) it’s enormously frustrating.
People seemed to enjoy the concert, I even got an email shortly after the show from a guy who happened to be in Hoi An, heard the music, followed the sound, and came for the final number. He was bummed that he missed most of it but he really was excited by the music.
Sometimes when you’re performing it’s difficult to be objective about how it went. I think overall the concert was good and that the residency was worthwhile. I met a lot of really awesome musicians, who I hope to collaborate with in the future. I will say that I wish it was a bit better organized. Like I explained in previous blogs, there was a lot of downtime at rehearsals. So much downtime that I ended drawing a whole series of cartoon fruits with different fun expressions. I used to love drawing cartoons when I was younger, so it was nice to reconnect with that part of my brain.
I do wish I had learned some more traditional tunes from a lot of these musicians’ cultures. I feel like that element was lacking a bit. I know that organizing and coordinating something of this magnitude in creativity and scale is monumentally difficult. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have taken part in this residency and I hope to do a lot more experimentation, creation, and cultural exchange in the future.
This was a really nice way to end my year here in Vietnam. I’m currently writing this on my phone from the train from Hoi An to Hanoi (a 15 hours ride). Now we have about 5 days to pack everything up and leave to go back to New Jersey. It’s been such an amazing year musically and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to cap it off.