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2nd Sound of Dragon Festival fires up

The second annual Sound of Dragon Music Festival showcases music from Taiwan, China and points all around for three days of performance.

by Stuart Derdeyn

The Second Sound of Dragon Festival

Where: Roundhouse Community Arts Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews

When: Thursday, April 21-Sunday, April 24; April 21, 8 -10 p.m. (Western Front); April 22, 7 -10 p.m.; April 23, 12:30 -10 p.m.; April 24, 12:30 -10 p.m.

Tickets/Info: soundofdragon

Vancouver-based erhu (spike fiddle) player Lan Tung is no stranger to fusing Chinese and Western classical traditions and venturing boldly into new musical territory entirely. The Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra ( is one of the first concert units in the world devoted to performing full scale new compositional intercultural music.

The two are founding partners of the Sound of Dragon Music Festival which enters its second year with an ambitious program of concerts, film screenings, art exhibitions and even food at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre.

A showcase for the exciting, diverse directions being taken by both local and global composers and players working in the Chinese and Western musical traditions, Sound of Dragon’s 2016 program ranges from The Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra premiering works by Canadian composers with Asian instrumental soloists under Taiwanese guest conductor Chih Sheng Chen to the debut Canadian appearance of multiple award-winning Taipei ensemble Ka Dao Yin.

Founded by pianist Shih-Yang Lee and German saxophonist Klaus Bur, the group are key to a burgeoning improvised music movement taking place on the island nation. 

Taiwan provides a sort of regional focus for this year’s Sound of Dragon Music Festival. Lan Tung explains that there are exciting things happening there.

“I met Ka Dao Yin a few years ago and I have been going to Taiwan more in lately as there is a really developing vibrant young improvising and world music movement there,” said Lan Tung.

“Shih-Yang Lee and I play together pretty much every time I go there at various, interesting underground venues. When he put together the group with piano, saxophone, zheng (plucked zither) and sheng (mouth harp), I thought it was really interesting instrumentation and perfect for the festival as well.”

Mixing not only Chinese and Western instruments, Taiwanese creative musicians appear to jump entirely out of music and into visual art and one of performances titled Improvising East, Enchanting West features pianists Lee and Vancouver’s Paul Plimley, Lan Tung on erhu and painting artist by Li Tung (Roundhouse, April 24, 8:30 p.m.).

Li Tung happens to be Lan Tung’s brother. 

“At an improvised music festival I played, the evening concerts were always comprising music, dance and painting,” she said. “And when we wanted to do something like that, I was able to suggest my brother who is also very much interested in experimental, new ideas and really likes the performance element. It is rare for visual artists to have that kind of immediate feedback audience as they are usually working solo in studio.”

All told, members of Ka Dao Yin play seven different shows at Sound of Dragon Music Festival. There will also be shows from Borealis String Quartet, celebrated local acts Silk Road Music and Orchid Ensemble and a full program of traditional music, including Hoi Seng Leong’s Yuejun Elife presenting a concert representing the historic Cantonese music of Vancouver. Free events take place Saturday, 12:30 – 1, 5 – 7 and Sunday, 12:30 – 1 p.m. 

The full day’s lineup meant it only made sense to feature a classic Taiwanese café courtesy of the Taiwanese Canadian Cultural Society.

“You kind of need to do that as it’s a long day and people get hungry, but also because great food is such a part of a Taiwan experience,” said Tung.

“We are really veering off in a lot of directions because we can. There is such a deep local talent base here and also such great opportunities to develop an exchange for the performers from both places in the workshops and the exciting collaboration between us, the visiting artists and the Western Front.”

Opening night at the Western Front is titled light shadow fire and brings improvisers from Taipei, London and Vancouver together with new pieces from Lan Tung, pianist Lisa Cay Miller and guitarist Ron Samworth. By the end of the weekend, listeners will have experienced everything from suona (pitched double reed instrument) and bagpipe, Orchid Ensemble’s Cafe de Chinitas with guest flamenco dancer Kasandra “La China” and much more.

This dragon breathes a kaleidoscope of fire.