The first part of this article is called A Musical Adventure to the Far East (Part 1-Japan).
- Doug and Janice with their “guardian angel guides” Steve and Kylie
Today we boarded the plane in Tokyo for the second part of our Oriental adventure, a week of travel and musical programs in Taiwan. It was a full flight of maybe four hundred people and took about four hours. The language of the flight crew switched to Chinese once we were in the air and part of the flight was very bumpy. With the rough flight, Japanese still ringing in our ears, and everyone around us speaking Chinese, my mind was on overload. I put my iPod on and listened to the Book of Mormon in Spanish, finding it strangely comforting to listen to a foreign language I understood! We were clinging to the priesthood blessing we had received from mission president Steve Albrecht the night before we left Tokyo, trusting in a renewal of our energy and health for this new venture.
Our enthusiastic welcoming committee in Taiwan quickly put our minds at ease as we were greeted by Jeff Chang, Julie Liu, Elder Yu Chen Ho (Area Authority Seventy), Brother Yu, two senior missionary couples, and two young adults, Steve and Kylie who were to be our guides and traveling companions. We immediately felt at home in a way that only church members can understand. We had a planning meeting in the lobby of a beautiful hotel and then checked into our room for the night.
We offered a heartfelt prayer in our room that we would be able to do all that was expected of us during the coming week. I had had many weeks to practice singing my songs in Japanese before the trip, but only a couple of weeks to practice singing them in Mandarin with the help of two capable tutors, Stacy Lyon and Katie Hamblin, who both had served missions in Taiwan. The songs were on my iPod and I practiced them every chance I had before the trip and on the long plane ride to Japan and the flight to Taiwan. I felt minimally prepared but felt the Lord would bless my efforts when the time came to perform, as He had in Japan.
The Tour Begins
We had breakfast with our guides Steve (28) and Kylie (24), two returned missionaries who were obviously very savvy, fun, and helpful (and bilingual!) and caught the Bullet Train for Tainan where we were to give our first concert. A Brother Chen from the stake presidency met us and we were driven to a chapel where we would present a music workshop for any of the saints who had a music calling or were interested in learning more about church music. A short time after the workshop we prepared for our first program. We knew the saints in Taiwan wanted to perform for us and we welcomed the idea of sharing the program time with them.
The members had prepared a beautiful hour-long preconcert for us. An enthusiastic Primary chorus marched on carrying a large banner that said, “Welcome Perrys to Taiwan” and then performed several of my Primary songs, with choreography; four children played very unusual two-stringed instruments called “erhus” which produced a very Chinesy sound we had never before heard; a boy of eight played his bamboo flute beautifully; the Tainan Stake Choir sang “There is a Place” from our temple album; and Jeff Chang’s “Far Star Choir” sang the final two songs, “Where is Heaven,” and “The Book of Mormon Has Come Forth.” They ended with two delightful Chinese folk songs. It was a beautiful program.
When it was time for our part of the program, Steve translated for Doug, and Kylie translated for me. Among other talents, these two were excellent singers and backed us up in that way two. When I sang in Mandarin I could tell the audience was hanging on every word, very surprised that I was singing in their language. When I would finish a song they would clap wildly and shout “Bravo! Bravo!” Their enthusiasm was very encouraging to me because I was quite sure my Mandarin was far from perfect. I think they appreciated the fact that I was willing to try to sing in their language. I sang a couple of songs in English and they projected the Mandarin words on a screen behind me.
Many people speak English in Taiwan which made it much easier to incorporate humor in our presentations as we do in the U. S. The audience had a particularly strong reaction to the song “By Small and Simple Means” just as they did in Japan, and many had tears in their eyes. I sang it in English as they read Mandarin on the screen.
We were mobbed afterward with hugs, requests for photos, and the sharing of stories about how one of our songs had affected them for good. The Taiwanese people are quite laid back and we were very comfortable with them, but we couldn’t quite eat the food they sent back to the hotel for us (sushi, seaweed, goat meat, and fish).
Moving on to Taichung
In Taichung our train was met by a very young-looking Stake President Ruan who teaches English here-it was nice to converse freely. Though he looks young he has twin boys, returned missionaries who are named Spencer and Kimball because President Kimball came to Taiwan three times and the people loved him so much. President Ruan told us that when a huge earthquake hit Taiwan in 2001, he and his six-year-old daughter were downtown, and while they were holding hands and running for their lives with everyone else, his daughter started singing “Heavenly Father are you really there?” and it brought them great comfort. We decided to forego a tour of the city in favor of resting before the next program.
- Chapels in Taiwan have three stories.
The chapels in Taiwan are beautiful three-story structures with elevators-they look quite spectacular and are a good use of space. The pre-concert was extra nice: A group of eight young adults sang some of my two-part Primary songs in a most peaceful and unusual way; a single adult choir sang a rousing rendition of the EFY Medley; and Kylie sang our son Steve’s beautiful song, “Strength Beyond My Own”-my favorite number from either tour. Both of our guides, Steve and Kylie, sang on an album of our music that the members produced here in Taiwan several years ago.
One of the three stake presidents who sat on the stand during our part of the program said, “People here in Taichung don’t usually turn out for these events. We are amazed to see four hundred gathered here tonight to hear you.” I think our program went well and we heard some sweet music stories afterward. One woman had just lost her eleven-year-old son and said they played “Army of Helaman” at his funeral because it was his favorite song. Now she sings it every day and pictures him as a missionary in heaven singing that song. She put her head on my shoulder and cried and I told her that maybe her son and ours were companions there. She managed a sad smile.
Doug had a developed a cough which concerned us, but the members met our every need. They brought us a small box of Essential Oils and instructed us in their use, and they definitely helped him.
With Steve and Kylie managing our luggage and every detail of our tour, we moved by train to Hsinchu City, had lunch with some nice sisters at a fancy buffet restaurant. I decided to try a couple of unusual dishes including pickled eggplant, but one bite and I knew I couldn’t eat it. I didn’t even make an attempt at raw baby octopus-no one should have to! We were driven to a million dollar mansion on a hill where the Ni family had agreed to house us. Sister Ni was so welcoming but we felt sorry for our guides who had to carry our heavy luggage to the third floor. We soon left for the stake center to do a music workshop. When they sang the opening song in four-part harmony we knew it was going to be a good class. They, too, presented a beautiful pre-concert for us, and it was a joy to hear our songs performed by a Primary choir, a ward choir, and a stake choir. A ten-person Chinese orchestra played “Army of Helaman,” all on Chinese instruments we had never heard nor seen before. They ended with a flourish and the audience loved it. It was fascinating for us to hear those instruments! Our part of the program went well and once again the song “By Small and Simple Means” brought such an emotional response from the audience.
Who knows, maybe the Japanese and Chinese translators made it better than it is in English. In 2006, the members in Taiwan had a huge celebration of the church in their country and everyone in the stake had learned the EFY Medley. Tonight Stake President Hong had the whole congregation sang it at the end of the concert. It was electrifying. Our non-member host, Brother Ni, served us guava milk, sweet rolls and sandwiches before bed. He said that while we were speaking at the fireside Doug looked like a “distinguished dignitary” and I looked like the “First Lady”. He tried to bait us with unusual questions about the Church. He told us didn’t like to smile or hug, but the next morning when we were saying goodbye he both smiled and hugged us, and I told him the best gift he could give his family would be to do whatever it takes to be sealed to them in the temple. He shrugged, but I think he felt something.
Final Stop – Taipei
We learned more about our guides during our train ride today. Steve is in his ward’s bishopric, is the seminary teacher, and speaks five Asian languages fluently. Kylie is Stake Music Director, plus a teacher in Young Women. She has her degree in music and gives piano lessons. We tried to promote a romance between them during our tour but they both brushed off the idea . . . at least for now. They are two of the most outstanding young people we have ever met, and we felt sure we would keep in touch with them long after the tour ended.
We were met in Taipei by Julie Liu who owns an LDS bookstore right by the Taipei Temple and is a force for good among the Saints, especially in the music area. Later Carrie Chiles, a Canadian whose husband has worked in Taiwan for some time gave us a short tour of the temple square which has many church buildings and offices all right together; Distribution, Family History, Visitor’s Center, Church Offices, two chapels, etc. Here is an interesting fact about the Moroni statue on the Taipei Temple: when the temple was being constructed, President Hinckley instructed them to have Moroni face west toward Mainland China, because they are the ones who need to proclaim the gospel to that land.
Carrie also took us to the Square devoted to Chiang Kai-shek. It was awesome-the grandest non-church site we had seen on our trip. The museum was very interesting and at the top of the “great and spacious building” (think Conference Center) was a giant statue of Chiang Kai-shek, where we were able to see the ceremony of the Changing of the Guards which takes place every hour in front of the statue. Later we were taken to a lovely hotel where we would stay until our departure on Monday.
We spoke at another Church Music Workshop during the afternoon where a choir performed “The Book of Mormon Has Come Forth” and Doug spoke about many aspects of building ward choirs. We had a lengthy question and answer period and took turns answering questions about church music. When she drove us back to our hotel, Carrie gave us a big basket of foods she knew Americans would enjoy-it was received most gratefully.
We spent time preparing for the following night’s concert in the Taipei Concert Hall which will be for both Mormons and non-Mormons. Many city officials will be present and it is hoped that it will provide a bonding experience between the church and the community.
Taipei Guo Guang Concert Hall
We started the day with a nice breakfast buffet at the hotel and then I started practicing songs for tonight’s concert. I was a bit in awe of this concert as I had been asked to sing a solo part accompanied by an orchestra, on a song I wrote years ago but had never sung before, “There is a Place.” Throughout this whole trip I had been living by President Hinckley’s reassuring words: “It will all work out. . .” Those words had helped me through so many situations where I was nervous about doing things I had never done before.
We were driven to Taipei’s Guo Guang Concert Hall in late afternoon to rehearse for the concert with many choirs and the orchestra. The hall was plush and beautiful and the background lighting designs were gorgeous but I’d never felt more like I didn’t belong performing in this venue. I had a real moment of panic as I pondered standing up there in my sequined dress soloing with a beautiful orchestra and choirs backing me up.
All kinds of dignitaries from Taipei City as well as from the church were there and in the lobby before the program they were unveiling a new Family Alliance Charter. Area Authority Seventy, Elder Ho, asked us to come to the lobby quickly because we were the dignitaries from the church who were to help unveil the new charter. We lined up on the left of the big picture frame, and city officials lined up on the right, and together we unveiled the new charter. It was in Chinese so we just smiled and acted happy to be part of it!
- Young church members who performed with the Perrys.
We were ushered down to the front row of the Concert Hall to sit by Elder Ho and his wife and mother. He is such a dear man, and enthusiastic supporter of the arts, we learned to love him during our week in Taiwan. The Zion Taipei Chamber Orchestra, which consisted of twenty-three of our church musicians started off the concert with “There is a Place”; the Union Young Men/Young Women Choir performed the EFY Medley with orchestra accompaniment; a beautifully costumed choir of Primary children sang several Primary songs; thirty young missionaries (both elders and sisters) performed “A Child’s Prayer,” and “Love is Spoken Here”-a favorite moment in the show; and a non-member choir, Song-Yun Choir, sang “His Image in Your Countenance.” (I’m sure they didn’t know they were singing our scriptures!) At intermission we were overwhelmed by autograph seekers and photographers, until Elder He saw our predicament by taking us to have photos taken with city officials.
When the second half started, my anxiety increased knowing my part was coming soon. The choirs kept getting bigger and better and I heard my music performed so beautifully it brought tears to my eyes. The New Festival Choir from the church sang “No Ordinary Man,” Kylie sang “Strength Beyond My Own,” two young adults sang “When I Feel His Love”. I prayed mightily to stay calm as a young lady lead me from the audience onto the stage to sing two songs. The enchanting lady who had been narrating all evening introduced me and came out on stage to translate my introductions to the songs. Suddenly I felt totally calm and capable of performing my songs well as this thought came to mind: You don’t have to sing perfectly, they have sung your music for decades and will appreciate whatever you do. I sang with confidence and no fear and felt that I had at least done the best I was capable of. The applause and shouting that followed “The Test” and “By Small and Simple Means” was amazing. I said a silent prayer of thanks.
The Union Adult Choir-eighty members in black suits and burgundy dresses truly wowed the audience with their rendition of “The Book of Mormon Has Come Forth” accompanied by the full orchestra. The audience applauded loudly and kept shouting “Encore! Encore!” The choir was prepared for this and performed their encore with the orchestra, “There is a Place.” I was ushered to center stage and when they came to the second verse I sang my solo with a degree of confidence. The choir joined in on the chorus. They were singing it in Chinese and I in English but it all worked fine! It was the culmination of an unforgettable experience.
Finale at Taipei Stake Center
A huge audience gathered at Taipei Stake Center for our final concert. The stake president told us there were over a thousand people in attendance and that was more than they had ever had at stake conference. “Your music is magic,” he whispered to me, “People come!” We were so happy to learn that one of the non-member choirs from last night had been invited to sing on the hour-long pre-concert tonight.
The LDS Choir opened with a stirring rendition of “The Book of Mormon Has Come Forth,” then we heard two of the most sublime instrumental duets we had ever heard-a clarinet and flute playing “Love is Spoken Here,” and “No Ordinary Man.” Two excellent violinists played “I Love to See the Temple,” and a children’s choir (with parents) sang “A Child’s Prayer.” Carrie Chiles and her daughter sang “Learn of Me,” Jeff Chang’s Far Star Choir sang “Where is Heaven,” and a wonderful pianist played “Army of Helaman”.
The non-member choir sang “In the Hollow of Thy Hand,” and “I Will Come Unto Christ.
” Their leader then asked me to introduce the next song and tell how I had come to co-write it with President Hinckley just before his death. They sang “What is This Thing That Men Call Death,” a cappella-the hymn that was sung at President Hinckley’s funeral.
The second hour of the concert was ours and the stake president told us to take as long as we wanted, that no one was in a hurry to go home tonight. The audience loved our bluegrass “Perry Family Song” and clapped along as they had at every concert. Hearing that many folks singing along on our “Primary Medley” was awesome-no other word for it! My Mandarin had improved through the week and it felt comfortable now to sing the Primary songs in their language. I knew we had to do the favorite: “By Small and Simple Means” one more time. I took my time bearing my testimony, as did Doug, knowing of the non-members in attendance. And we took some time saying goodbye to our new home-away-from-home, Taiwan. Once again we had been blessed to feel the love of the saints in a far off country and have our lives touched for good by everyone we met and by all of those who performed our music so beautifully. Taiwan was wonderful. A bit more unpredictable than Japan, but that was part of the charm of these people, and this country..
After our final concert the conductor of the non-member choir said to me: “We sing a lot of classical and Latin songs each year, but while we have been preparing your songs I have felt something unusual that I have never felt before. When we sing your songs we can learn them almost instantly, almost as if we already knew them-I don’t understand it.” With everyone pressing around, I had no time for an in depth conversation with him so I simply said, “When I am writing I seek guidance from the Spirit-I think that is what you are feeling.” He looked at me rather pensively for several seconds and quietly said, “Maybe . . . “
The trips to Japan and Taiwan kind of run together in our minds now, but the main thing we felt was deep gratitude that we had had the good health to do all that was expected of us. We made dear friends in both countries and our family and friends will no doubt have to listen to us retell our stories over and over through the years.
- Officials and friends at the airport as Perry’s leave for home
- L to R: Jeff Chang, Bro. YU, Bro. and Sis. Liu, Perrys, Guides Steve
- and Kylie, Area Seventy Yu Chen Ho
Janice Kapp Perry: composer, author, lecturer