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Champions for China cultural links


Why is a company called Reckless Moments taking the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra on a nine-concert, seven-city tour of China later this year?

Well, partly because its co-founder Barry Plews is so fond of bushwalking and kayaking in Tasmania that he became addicted to the State.

He has visited every year for the past 25 years.

For much of that time he was based in China, working as a Creative Producer in the Arts sector in collaboration with Producer/Interpreter/Translator Hu He.

In 2012, he asked Ms Hu He, whom he had introduced to the pleasures of bushwalking, if she would like to move the business from Shanghai (pop. 20 million) to Hobart (pop. 218,000).

He mentioned a yearning for fresh air and clean skies.

She said 'yes’ and you sense that Tasmania will be richer for that decision.

“We knew it would be different,” Mr Plews said.

“From the teeming energy of a city of 20 million where people were constantly calling at our office, we were moving to a relatively small city where few people knew us.”

Wasting no time in their new locality, the partners are preparing for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s second tour of China later this year.

Hobart concerts by the Fujian Symphony Orchestra and the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra and Returning Lives, an international, multi-discipline collaboration involving Hobart-linked painter Chen Ping, are also among items on their work list.

They have brought schoolchildren from China to create Big World, Small Voices, a choral collaboration with young Tasmanian singers for the 2014 Festival of Voices and created Typhoon, a new cross-cultural ensemble of musicians and animators.

Typhoon performed in Tasmania’s Ten Days on the Island Festival and at the Glover Prize in Evandale in 2015 after touring to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Nanjing in late 2013.

You can expect a whole lot more as Tasmanians realise the value that resides in Reckless Moments’ contacts and experience in China.

The company was established in June 1989 and has completed more than 100 projects, including 60 in partnerships with festivals, artists, producers and presenters in Asia.

The business was based in Shanghai from 2005 and 2012 and has completed 47 projects with Chinese partners from 28 cities across China.

These include collaborations with the China Shanghai International Arts Festival, China National Opera House, China National Symphony Orchestra, Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Animation Film Studio, Children’s Art Theatre of China and Shanghai International Children’s Theatre Festival; the last two also involving Tasmania’s Terrapin Puppet Theatre.

Adelaide-born Mr Plews said: “My company and I have been active in China for the past 20 years.

“I ran an office in Shanghai with my Chinese producer, Ms Hu He, between 2005 and 2012.

“We created projects for the Australian and UK governments, as well as new productions and tours for artists from Australia, the UK and the United States.

“In amongst those projects were the first official animation co-production between Australia and China; Australia’s 30th anniversary celebrations with China; and the UK’s 2010 Shanghai World Expo cultural program and national day production.

“The result of the animation co-production circled the world’s animation festivals for a couple of years, winning awards at Sydney, St Kilda and at Chinese film festivals along the way.”

Reckless Moments’ links to the TSO go back to 1998 when it created the orchestra’s first China tour.

“For their second visit, we have lined up nine concerts across Jiangsu Province, Shanghai and Tasmania’s sister-state, Fujian Province,” Mr Plews said.

The itinerary takes account of Tasmania’s 35-year sister-state relationship with Fujian Province, Hobart’s sister-city relationship with the Fujian capital, Fuzhou, and Launceston’s proposed sister-city relationship with Putian, also in Fujian.

'Three concerts in Fujian will be in Fuzhou on 4 January, Putian on 5 January and Xiamen on 6 January and Mr Plews and Ms Hu He are hopeful representatives from the Tasmanian government and the cities of Hobart and Launceston might be able to join the TSO for some performances.'

In the case of Returning Lives, an unorthodox collaboration in Hobart, Mr Plews an experienced scriptwriter and dramaturg, has provided conception and dramatic composition services, as well as sharing production duties with Ms Hu He.

“After seeing our Typhoon ensemble perform in the Ten Days festival last year, Chen Ping approached Hu He and I to see if we could create a collaborative project for him too.

“Returning Lives is the result.” Mr Plews said.

Chen Ping, who is a respected figure in Hobart’s art world and divides his time between China and Australia, will collaborate with Shanghai animator Zeng Yi Gang, French composer and musician Gabriel Collet and Polish percussionist Elwira Slazak for the project.

“It will combine contemporary oil painting, hand-drawn animation film and live music,” Mr Plews said.

Now that sounds like a MONA-style reckless moment.

Image courtesy of Barry Plews

2 August 2016, Edition 174

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