The renowned Moncton pianist has already celebrated the arrival of 2013 in his hometown of Moncton but half a world away, he will also ring in the Chinese New Year on Sunday, Feb. 10, to an audience estimated to be in the tens of millions.
Roger was invited to be a guest performer on one of the televised Chinese New Year galas and is scheduled to pre-record his performance as a part of the Chinese New Year celebration on Jan. 12 in Beijing.
The Chinese New Year is considered to be the most important of all celebrations in China. In a country with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, the broadcast of the televised galas in which Roger is taking part is also an important annual tradition. In the past, the televised galas have reached audiences of 700 million people, thus holding the potential to make Roger a household name across the vast country.
Hailed as ‘The Piano Prince of Canada’ by the China Daily, Roger has regularly performed in some of China’s most prestigious concert halls including the He Luting Hall in Shanghai and the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing.
From his Moncton home, Roger says that his upcoming trip will mark the 22nd time that he has visited and performed in China.
‘The first time I perfor med in China was in 1999,’ the amiable musician says. ‘And since then, I have played in many of China’s major cities, provinces and regions. Cities that I had never heard of before but that boast a population of more than 10 million people, in some cases.’ Roger says his first perfor mance in China came about after someone working at the Canadian Embassy in that country got word that Roger had a concert scheduled for Japan. The embassy employee reached out to the musician and asked if he would be interested in making a little pit stop in China while he was already in the Far East.
‘From the time of my first trip to China, one of my contacts suggested that should I be given an encore that I should consider performing a selection of Chinese music. I happily obliged, of course. As I travelled through China, I started amassing a collection of piano books of Chinese music. I came home and looked at the music and felt it was rather fascinating and started playing it in concert. Before long, people started asking if I had any CDs of the Chinese music available.’
After many years of perfor ming in China, Roger finally got into the studio to make an album of Chinese music a reality. Recorded in the Central Studio of China National Radio in Beijing during the summer of 2012, Chinese Treasures is due for release in the early part of 2013. If Roger had his way, he would have been in the studio much sooner, but between touring commitments across five continents in 2011 alone, time was not something that was plentiful for the musician.
‘What I absolutely love about the Chinese people is their spontaneity. They are a population that if they have never heard a piece of music before, they will sit in a state of awe and discovery and just take it all in.
‘When I play the Chinese pieces in concert, as soon as the audience recognizes the melody, they are applauding. They are a very proud people and to have a Western musician taking the time to learn and perform music that is native to their culture, it is a big honour for them.’ Speaking of honours, the fact that Roger has been invited to take part in the televised Chinese New Year celebrations is indeed an impressive feather in the Monctonian’s cap. The exposure that Roger will be given to Chinese residents could be a turning point for his already impressive career.
‘The televised Chinese New Year galas are the biggest television events of the year in China as they mark the beginning of the Spring Festival,’ he says. ‘It is a time where, much like Christmas here in North America, people travel to spend time with their families. A big part of that tradition is to sit down and watch the televised galas as they are specially made for the Chinese New Year.
Roger says that Canadian native Mark Rowswell is a testament to the influence that the Chinese New Year galas hold. Born in Ottawa, Roswell, known to audiences there by his stage name Dashan, performed a comedic skit on a Chinese New Year televised gala and was propelled to overnight success in the country more than 20 years ago.
‘Dashan is probably better known in China than Celine Dion is,’ Roger says. ‘In terms of ratings, the galas regularly reach 700 million people. It is indeed a crowning moment for me to have received this invitation. When I first got the email, I simply figured that it was too good to be true.
‘The fact is though, the Chinese people always treat me exceptionally well. They are a proud, generous culture and don’t ask anything in return from you. I have made such great friends with people there, it is somewhere that I am always happy to return to.’
Article published in January 7, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript