Each year, Hobart and William Smith students travel to Vietnam, a country rich in ancient culture and in the midst of a dramatic transition to modernization. This winter, however, Vietnam will come to the HWS campus. “Rivers and Mountains,” a concert of Vietnamese music and culture, will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room.
The concert, performed by Ethnomusicologist and National Heritage Fellow Dr. Nguyen Phong and members of the Center for Preservation of Vietnamese Art and Culture, will feature more than a dozen instruments from strings to woodwinds playing an impressive selection of traditional Vietnamese music.
“It’s exciting! This will be no ordinary concert,” says Professor of Sociology Jack Harris. Instead of simply playing music, Dr. Phong will interact with the audience, teaching the context in which each instrument is used and about the history of the pieces. “There will be a nice variety of musical performance – and theatrical performance as well – that will highlight Vietnamese culture. It’s a very ancient and very rich culture.”
For those interested in learning more about the traditional music, which includes minstrel music and folk songs, there will be a workshop prior to the concert at 4 p.m. in Stern Hall. This unique opportunity will allow students to speak with Phong and the musicians and get a better look at the instruments used in the concert.
Phong’s relationship with HWS is one that has been fostered over many years, and he has truly grown to love the campus community. “The Colleges have an extremely robust program to Vietnam,” explains Harris, who met Phong more than a decade ago at a concert he was offering at Schenectady County Public Library. “Dr. Phong was impressed with our program and devotion to Vietnam. Since then, he has performed at HWS many times.”
Phong was so impressed with the Colleges’ respect for his home country, that he donated a collection of his ethnomusicological footage and recordings of Vietnamese performances and rituals to HWS. With 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam, Phong’s collection captures breakfast ceremonies, weddings, and other rites – many of which are now lost.
The concert will feature Phong and three performers, Hoàng Chuong, Mai Tuyet Hoa, and Kieu Oanh. Admission to the event is free.