The debut concert was held at the Qujiang Theatre in the heart of Xi’an. It is a beautiful and intimate facility that soon filled with local people and those who attended at the invitation of my wonderful host Hongquan Wang and the Shaanxi Musicians Association.
I had written out my program and text that I would normally say in English so that it could be read in Chinese (as my Mandarin is currently limited to about 3 words). Yilin Wang excellently interpreted my text before each song (at least it sounded very authoritative). I am so use to speaking myself to audiences so as to provide them a bridge to my music so by not being able to speak I initially felt mute and somewhat awkward.
Everything changed once I hit the first note. I instantly realized that I actually was speaking to the audience directly by playing my music on the harp guitar. Even the notes sounded a bit Chinese as there was no more distance between us. They burst to applause after each piece. Some recording engineers in a sound room were talking to each other and didn’t know that they had a microphone on so my music drifted over some speech in the hall. Some people in the audience began to shout out to have them be quiet. I said “Shay Shay (Thank you”). Once they stopped talking I gave the audience a thumbs up and said “how” (good). “Hung how” (very good) and the audience erupted in applauds.
The host wanted to have a question and answer session just before starting the second half and many people called out. One man shouted, “Where do we get your recordings?” Another asked in Mandarin, “How is the harp guitar different than the guitar?” and so on.
After the concert the audience rushed the stage and wanted to have photos with me. Everyone waited for me to greet an important man in the arts community. Then it was another half hour of little children, teens, middle aged to elderly people coming up and posing with me the “Rock Star!”
I made many fans that evening but beyond all that I felt an implied “East meets West” turned into an evening among friends.
I suppose if one were living life fully, each moment in each day would seem like an adventure. Travel takes me away from all that is ordinary which is no doubt extraordinary except for that I have gotten use to everything and everyone that is usually around me. Last December a fan of mine in some ways awoke me from my waking sleep when he wrote me from Moscow and inquired if I had plans of performing there in the future. My custom is to write back and explore if there are any possibilities. I then received an extraordinary response from Жилин Андрей, or should I say, Andrew Jilan who claimed that when he was fifteen he had three favorite musicians/groups that he listened to. I never dreamed that I would ever be in league with Jimi Page and Iron Maiden but there I was raised high in the pantheon of cultural icons. We skyped each other and set a week mid May for my debut concerts in Russia and perhaps for the first harp guitar concerts heard there as well.
After having performed in Ukraine and Germany my wife Deirdra and I arrived on my Birthday in Moscow. Andrew had prearranged a cab – basically someone who has highjacked the family car and has found a few hours of employment (the cabbies at the airport charge several times more).
Andrew had never received a rock star before. I didn’t know if he was being kind and shaved part of his head to emulate me or that he enjoyed looking like Vladimir Lenin but his gentle demeanor put us at ease as we rushed through the strange landscape of endless apartment structures and construction detours. Continue reading →
John Doan a pioneer of the twenty-string harp guitar. He is also an Emmy-nominated performer, composer, public speaker, historian, instrument collector, and university professor. Upcoming concerts are listed in the calendar and news, updates, and articles can be found on John’s blog.