Autumn Melodies, an annual music festival that takes place every August in HCM City, features a lineup of famous artists from both Viet Nam and other countries. Tran Vuong Thach, director of the HCM City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO), created the festival in 2005. He speaks with Ho Huong Giang about the difficulty of convincing talented performers to participate as well as organisers’ goals for improving the arts environment.
This year’s Autumn Melodies has become an annual festival after it was successfully being performed in August in HCM City. The event lured many famous and talented artists from inside and outside Viet Nam.
Inner Sanctum: When it comes to making something like Autumn Melodies successful, do you think the most important issue is how to attract talented artists to participate?
Yes, it is. Before holding the programme, we thought a lot about how to draw young leading talents from HCM City who were studying abroad to come back to perform. I have tried to improve the programme year after year.
This year many talents contributed to our success. They included German pianist Henrich Alpers, German conductor Christian Schumann, Norwegian choreographer Johanne Jakhelln and six young talents from the Spivakov Foundation in Russia as well as young Vietnamese talents: Tran Dieu Linh, violinist Bui Cong Duy, clarinettist Dao Nhat Quang, bassoonist Nguyen Tri Dung and dancer Dang Linh Nga.
The festival was first held in 2005 and has since received a lot of support from local and foreign artists as well as critics and audiences.
At first, the event aimed at honouring Vietnamese talents who studied and won music awards at home and abroad, such as Le Phi Phi, Nguyen Huu Nguyen, Nguyen Bich Tra, Tran Nhat Minh and Ta Thuy Chi.
This year, it evolved into a large-scale festival with the participation of hundreds of local and foreign artists. It’s the city’s biggest and most prestigious classical music event and is now seen as an important cultural feature of HCM City.
Inner Sanctum: Why do you think we face a “brain drain”, that is, a situation where many talented individuals move abroad rather than staying in Viet Nam?
Many Vietnamese music talents study abroad and then stay there to work.
The reason for such a “brain drain” is that the local working environment is so inadequate that many talented artists have to give up their art career to earn a living. So we’re trying to create opportunities for them to come back and join us in improving professional art.
We’ll never keep up with the world in terms of great international work if we do not improve our performances.
In fact, organising a music festival is not easy. It needs not only financial investment, but also smart organisers and talented artists.
Besides improving performances, we should invest in composing, because Viet Nam is running low on quality work.
In addition, we should promote the exchange of art troupes performing both classic and modern works between our northern and southern regions and with foreign countries.
If we can do so, Autumn Melodies will become a real international festival.
Inner Sanctum: What do your colleagues think? Do they agree with you?
Yes. We agree that we have to try our utmost to organise a successful programme that emboldens the national performing arts industry.
Furthermore, we have organised music talks and invited young people to watch foreign performers free of charge because they are our potential future audiences.
In addition, we have learned much from these foreign art troupes to improve our career.
Inner Sanctum: In Viet Nam, many music organisers often try to attract bigger crowds by avoiding classical music, which isn’t so popular. What about you?
Having an audience is very important, but we also want to preserve our national character.
One of our key items this year is the Dong Chay (Flow) folk suite, which includes 21 folk songs compiled by composer Tran Manh Hung.
Inner Sanctum: Industrialisation has significantly affected many people. With more consumers embracing the convenience of fast food and watching TV at home, there are fewer people going to the theatre to see live performances. What is your advice to them?
Life has abundant pleasures. You have to change your habits and open your heart to enjoy them.
Everyone should try to enjoy a play at a theatre or taste a new dish.
When you do so, you discover many great things and recognise how interesting life is. — VNS