Indigenous youths from Taiwan shine at European music festivals

Puzangalan Choir delivers a first-place performance July 8 at Basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli in Rome.

Puzangalan Choir delivers a first-place performance July 8 at Basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli in Rome.

Young indigenous performers from Taiwan bagged a bevy of top honors at international music festivals staged July 8 in Europe, underscoring the richness and vibrancy of the country’s performing arts culture.

Puzangalan Choir from Majia Township in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan, won gold in the category of children and youth choirs at the Musica Eterna Roma International Choir Festival and Competition in the Italian capital. Kaohsiung Children Chorus, also from southern Taiwan, similarly outperformed at the event with silver in the same category.

Comprising around 24 Paiwan teenagers, the choir is named after the word for hope in the Paiwan language. It performed the Republic of China (Taiwan) national anthem during the event’s opening concert, and went on to win the hearts of the judges and audience during competition with its renditions of four songs, including a traditional tribal ballad and a Taiwan folk piece.

Established in July 2008, the choir has toured or competed in numerous musical events at home and in Germany, Hungary, Japan and South Korea. It was also invited to perform a Paiwan-language version of the national anthem at ROC President Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration ceremony in May 2016.

The choir’s outstanding performance also caught the attention of Pope Francis, who sent his greetings to the Paiwan youths the following day in ROC diplomatic ally the Holy See. Next stop on its itinerary is Leonardo Da Vinci International Choral Festival taking place July 11-14 in Florence.

Chin-Ai String Orchestra, from central Taiwan’s Nantou County, continued the country’s winning ways the same day at Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in Wiener Musikverein, Austria. Consisting of more than 30 Atayal and Seediq tribal youths, the group beat out five other competitors to claim first prize.

Equally praiseworthy were the third-place performances of Zhong Zheng Junior High School String Orchestra from Taipei City and Kang Chiao International School Orchestra from New Taipei City in the string and symphony orchestra categories, respectively. All three groups will be honored during a special ceremony July 11 at Vienna City Hall.

The strong showings of the Taiwan youths did not go unnoticed by Tsai. In a tweet posted July 9 on her official Twitter account, the president described the talents as the “pride of Taiwan” and commended them for taking local music to the world. It is hoped that this global recognition will give the young people more confidence as they move on to the next stage of their lives, she added.