Today, I went to a Rotary function with a rather catchy title – Peacebuilding through Music in D3450. Mitzi had invited me to attend a few days ago, billing it as the District’s response to mark the UN International Day of Peace, adding that the District Governor would be there, as would a number of local talents, including some amongst the Rotary community.
Fast backwards a bit, Mitzi is the Chair of the Hong Kong and Macao Chapter of the Rotary Action Group for Peace or RAGFP established to bring peace through service and I was persuaded to become a founding member of the chapter. The United Nations or UN on the other hand has designated numerous international days, weeks, years and decades as occasions to mark particular events or topics in order to promote, through awareness and action, the objectives of UN, and the observance or celebrations on such occasions are all sanctioned or adopted by the General Assembly. In September alone, for example, there are no less than 16 such international days, including the 5th on Charity, 8th on Literacy, 15th on Democracy, 18th on Equal Pay, 23rd on Sign Languages and 27th on Tourism, to name but a few. The International day of Peace falls on 21st September.
The highlight of the occasion today was to be a meeting through Zoom with Karim Wasfi, cellist and conductor, and president and founder of Peace Through Arts Global Foundation. Karim is well connected with New York Philharmonic and Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra; and he was to share his experience on shaping peace through his music journey to build solidarity amongst the people of Iraq. As it turned out, Karim could not make the meeting and Mitzi and the organizers quickly and at short notice, got hold of Phoebus Chan, Edmond Cheng and Ankie Mak to be the primary anchors. And they all did so well, making the morning extremely rewarding for everyone in the room and I am sure for all those who attended through webcasting from overseas.
The session was delayed slightly because of bad weather. We had a rather bad thunderstorm and it was raining very heavily. I thought I had planned the morning well by having a gym session at Craigengower Cricket Club which was just two or three minute walk from the Centre where the event was held. But as soon as I started walking from CCC, the sky literally opened and I had to wait for a good five to eight minutes before resuming the short journey.
Phoebus was invited to start the sharing on the piano. He is a rather talented musician, composer and performer. I know his father Rupert well and I have met him a couple of times, but he didn’t know. He didn’t know I knew his father who passed away two years ago, that I was at the funeral Mass, and he certainly wouldn’t know that I knew of him. He began talking about the Mid-Autumn Festival two years ago on which day his father left him, but not before composing a tune with him together, which he played proficiently and with so much emotion and passion. He then related with the audience his life with his family, wife and children, before and during the pandemic, the joy and happiness, and the difference and adjustments for all players involved, and on which he wrote a few tunes, again, with great sensitivity, stories and forcefulness. I was certainly touched.
Unbeknown to Phoebus, I had written a few lines on his father in my autobiography which I published in January. Indeed, his name appeared in the text. I was thinking whether I should share with the young talent my thoughts on his very talented and gifted father and if so, how. Then towards the end, after other talented performers had completed their respective sharing, Eugene Fong came on board and asked me to say something on peace and peacebuilding. I was totally unprepared, and I began to think what I would say as I made the 30-second walk from my seat to the front. I waffled a bit – something on which I have developed some experience over the years – and then I caught sight of Phoebus. I began to share with the audience the bit on my relationship with his father, which must have caught Phoebus by surprise. I wouldn’t know what the others were thinking and I probably would never know.
After my sort of sharing and returning to my seat which was just behind Phoebus’s, I asked for the young talent’s contacts so that I can send him my book which I hope he would find time to read, at least the few pages about his father.
That was my chance meeting with some young talents, which I had thoroughly enjoyed and treasured. I hope to talk to you again shortly.