1998 Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival

Date: 7 - 9 August 1998

Location: P J Civic Hall, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This is the second Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival after the first one held in Taiwan in 1996. It was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 7 - 9 August 1998. In 3 days, about 500 enthusiastic harmonica players from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan gathered together to bring the motto of the festival - "Harmonise the World with Harmonica" - into reality.

As adjudicators of the competition and as audience, we were impressed by the level of competence demonstrated by the competitors. The final round of competition on 9 August evening was a real treat to harmonica lovers. Top 3 competitors in 7 of the 12 categories present their works again for the enlarged panel of adjudicators to decide on their final ranks. We are pleased that our alumni from King's College won the champion and first runner-up in the duo category and won the first runner-up in the group (7-14 persons) category. Congratulations to them!!!

The other highlight of the festival was the gala concert on 8 August evening. There were so many good players in Asia that we need 2 concerts to accommodate them all and the concerts ran from 7 to 11pm. In these 2 concerts, a large variety of styles of harmonica performance from top Asian harmonica players can be heard. As an advocator of the form of harmonica quintet, we were honoured to contribute to the showcase. We played Vivaldi's Spring which is in our regular repertoire. We also made a new attempt to play three of Gershwin's best-loved pieces - Summertime, It Ain't Necessarily So and An American In Paris. Gershwin has always been harmonica players' favourite composer because of his everlasting melodies. What is interesting is to have the whole harmonica ensemble enjoying his music. Technically, An American In Paris is a challenging piece, both in rearrangement and performance. But as usual, we are always pushing the limit of a harmonica ensemble and were warmly accepted by the audience.

We also conducted a 2-hour workshop on harmonica ensemble playing. The focus of the workshop is on the making of ensemble effect out of harmonicas. We used Borodin's Nocturne to demonstrate various points that should be noted in harmonica ensemble playing: the beginning and ending of a section, the change in tempo, volume and tone colour, maintaining balance in various situations, and connection between phrases. We also discussed specific individual techniques in playing treble, tenor and bass chromatic harmonicas in the context of a harmonica ensemble.

With the successful organization of two Asia Pacific Harmonica Festivals, we can observe a rapid development of interest and competence level in harmonica among Asian countries. We are looking forward to more fruitful results in the next festival in Korea on 7-10 October 2000.