HOW DO YOU GET 150,000 QUIET VIETNAMESE IN ONE PLACE

Simple–you have a concert featuring the music of TRINH CÔNG SƠN — the poet and songwriter laureate of Vietnam.   Trinh Cong Son – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We attended this concert on Saturday night.  As at every Vietnamese event, it began one hour late.  I think that this is a deliberate action because traffic everywhere is so bad that they allow extra time for people to get to the party, and THIS was some party.  There were no reserved seats, but if you had a special ticket you could get into the area where there were plastic stools to sit on. Otherwise it was Ravinia/Wolf Trap sit on the grass style, and plenty of people just sat on the hillsides in the huge park in District 7 of Ho Chi Minh City.

Our friendly dentist gave us the tickets, and although I thought we might see her there with her husband and children, once we got to the outlying areas of the venue I knew that we would never find them.  There were six movie screen sized video screens set up in a rough line that stretched for about 5 blocks.  This allowed everyone to see the performers and the art of this remarkable artist who was born in Hue but lived much of his life in Ho Chi Minh City.  Even more remarkable is the fact that he composed, painted, drew, and lived much of his life with both a cigarette and a glass of whiskey in his hands.  He lived to be 61 years old, and died eleven years ago.  His family received ten thousand emails when he died, a remarkable number considering that in 2001 Vietnam was very poor and few people had computers.  It was like a guy who was a combination of Irving Berlin, Michael Jackson, and Georgia O’Keefe passed away, so versatile and great was his talent.

I am not a huge fan of Vietnamese Music, but Trinh Cong Son  wrote beautiful music that at times echoed Vivaldi, Rodrigo, and Cole Porter.  My wife assures me that the lyrics are tear-jerkingly beautiful as well, and the huge crowds and amazing silence attested to that fact. I have never heard a group of Vietnamese people (not even a group of ten, no less 150,000) be so quiet.  The audience ranged in age from infants to ancients, but all listened in quiet awe to the amazing sounds as they saw many of Trinh Cong Son’s paintings and drawings displayed on the huge screens.  As the music reminded one of classical composers, the art had tones of Van Gogh, Da Vinci, and Al Herschfeld, but was simple and original and every bit as wonderful as the music.

The concert tickets were not expensive, but I don’t think it would have made a difference.  People came from all over Vietnam for this annual event, and we heard accents from Hanoi, Hue, and the Mekong blending in the soft evening.  My wife tells me that every year more and more people attend the concert, held on the April 1 anniversary of his death.  We got up to leave when we felt the first raindrops, but few people were moving as we walked away into the night.  I’m told that most people do not leave a Trinh Cong Son concert, even if it is pouring rain.  Nobody leaves early in an attempt to beat the huge traffic jams that would surely occur at the end, and nobody makes noise.  Even applause is minimal as the people do not want to miss a single note or a word of the maestro’s compositions.  Everyone knows the songs, everyone knows the words, but this is not a time for a sing-along.  Rapture was the order of the night, and on Saturday night, at the Crescent Park in District Seven, 150,000 people succumbed.

Here is one example:   http://youtu.be/9UTkySHIjP8

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