Bell orchestrates Chinese debut for Toledo talent

Mayor hopes for 2012 concert

5/22/2011
BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Amy Chang of the Toledo Symphony plays a Chopin piece in an impromptu performance at the Shenzhen Concert Hall
Amy Chang of the Toledo Symphony plays a Chopin piece in an impromptu performance at the Shenzhen Concert Hall

SHENZHEN, China — Toledo’s Amy Chang made her Shenzhen debut Saturday.

The Taiwan native and associate principal cellist of the Toledo Symphony sat down at a piano and played a quick version of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu at the Shenzhen Concert Hall.

The spur-of-the moment performance was in the recital hall and watched by Xia Xu, the concert hall’s artistic director, and Kathy Carroll, the Toledo Symphony’s president and chief executive. Mayor Mike Bell, who included the symphony personnel in his nine-day trade mission to China, is hoping the entire orchestra will play here before a packed house next year.

“We love that the mayor invited us to be a part of the economic development team,” Ms. Carroll said during a cab ride from their hotel downtown to the hall. “He sees the arts and culture as so important. That has not always been the perspective of any particular mayor. Mike Bell wants the full team.”

Zhixin “Simon” Guo, the Chinese intermediary who has connected Mr. Bell with several delegations of Chinese investors as well as helped to facilitate the mayor’s second trip to China, said he has been working to get the Toledo Symphony on stage in Shenzhen. Also Yuan Xiaohong, one of the Chinese investors who purchased The Docks in East Toledo through the company Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., was pleased to have Ms. Chang on the trip.

Mr. Bell said he is supportive because investors want to know Toledo has more than access to the water, good roadways, and waterfront property for sale. Part of his pitch to investors during the current mission has included the symphony, the Toledo Museum of Art, and even the Mud Hens minor league baseball team.

Ms. Xia took Ms. Chang and Ms. Carroll on a tour of the entire facility, including the “Golden Tree” lobby, which she said has the highest concert hall ceiling in the world. The building was designed by internationally renowned architect Arata Isozak, who also did COSI Columbus.

Amy Chang, left, the Toledo Symphony’s associate principal cellist, Kathy Carroll, the symphony’s president and chief executive, and Xia Xu, the Shenzhen Concert Hall’s artistic director, gather inside the four-year-old building.
Amy Chang, left, the Toledo Symphony’s associate principal cellist, Kathy Carroll, the symphony’s president and chief executive, and Xia Xu, the Shenzhen Concert Hall’s artistic director, gather inside the four-year-old building.
After a full day of meetings with Shenzhen business leaders and the opening of a new Regional Growth Partnership office in the city, the mayor and his team used much of yesterday to see the sights and relax before traveling to Beijing today.

Ms. Chang and Ms. Carroll visited the Shenzhen concert hall by invitation. Situated in Shenzhen’s Futian District, the concert hall was built just four years ago.

Ms. Chang said the Toledo Symphony would tailor a performance for a Chinese audience. “Because Ms. Yuan is from Inner Mongolia, they have this special instrument called a horse head cello,” Ms. Chang said. “We are hoping to invite someone who could play that because I think that would bring more interest of the audience here.”

Ms. Xia, who spoke Chinese that was translated by Ms. Chang, suggested the symphony work through the Shenzhen government to make the trip happen.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bell and his parents, Norman and Ora, went sightseeing in Shenzhen on Saturday.

“We saw the fourth largest harbor in the world,” Mr. Bell said. “We were in that area and then we moved on and went to one of the projects the Dashing Pacific Company is doing here — a condo complex they just started selling space to. It was very sharp.”

The Toledo delegation of about a dozen leaves for Beijing at 9:30 a.m. local time Sunday. After that, they leave for Hangzhou on Wednesday.

Shenzhen is 12 hours ahead of Toledo.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.