Nguyen Thi Kim Chung, a lecturer at the HCM City Conservatory of Music, recently resumed performing live after a hiatus of nearly six years. She told Van Dat
she spent the time away from the stage arranging Vietnamese songs for the guitar and running a business.
Inner Sanctum: How did your comeback concert go?
It was far more successful than I expected. All of the tickets were sold out quickly. I did perform well during the concert. My audience was very happy with the concert. I got positive feedback from many people. When I informed them of my intention to organise the concert annually, they encouraged me to do it every six months.
Inner Sanctum: One difference in the last concert was that half of the pieces were Vietnamese songs arranged for the guitar. Why did you choose to do this instead of the usual western classical pieces?
I had recorded a Vietnamese song called Hoai Cam (Remember My Darling), which is arranged for classical guitar, in my second album. It's the only Vietnamese song in the album. I applied my tremolo technique to perform the piece.
Surprisingly, many people who listened to the album loved the song. They asked me to keep trying with some more Vietnamese songs.
I think in order to attract more Vietnamese audiences to classical music, I should play more Vietnamese songs, especially the everlasting melodies known to most Vietnamese.
Inner Sanctum: When did you start re-arranging Vietnamese music for the guitar? How many pieces have you done so far?
I had not thought of re-arranging Vietnamese songs for the guitar before 2006. At that time I was busy with my Master's thesis, which was about transforming music often played by other musical instruments for the guitar. Most of the pieces I did were compositions of Bach, Hendel and Weiss. I got high marks for the thesis. Immediately after, I began rearranging 15 popular Vietnamese songs for the classical guitar.
Inner Sanctum: Do you make enough money from your concerts and CDs?
No, I don't. I don't have any other purpose besides my passion for guitar music. I save money from selling my CDs to organise concerts. Friends support me a lot. They don't take money or offer very reasonable prices from helping me design covers, make recordings and other production tasks.
Inner Sanctum: Are you going to organise a similar concert in Ha Noi?
I have never performed in Ha Noi. I intend to hold a live show in the city after Tet. Many people there love listening to the guitar. I have several fans there. However, my biggest concern is the cold weather.
Inner Sanctum: Why have you been absent from the public for five years? Before 2006, you had several albums released and also organised three live shows.
I still released albums. I decided not to perform on the stage because I did not feel enthusiastic. I just do it when I feel really eager. Before 2006, I organised three live concerts.
I was born to a family of businesspeople. All my brothers and sisters are doing business now.
During the years away from the stage, I tried to manage my-own enterprise. I operated a candle factory with 40 workers in HCM City's Tan Binh District. I named it Angel Light. I did not like to use my name or influence for the business.
The business worked well. Sales was good. There were orders for containers of art candles. Later, I wanted to close the factory and invest more time for guitar music – my passion.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you choose to do business when you have a good position with your guitar talent?
You know. A guitar can cost up to US$65,000. A guitar string set for a professional performance or recording is US$100. So I needed some time to work as a businesswoman. But everything I do is for music. When I feel OK with the financial issue, I forget everything and continue investing my time in the guitar.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think about the trend of learning the classical guitar and listening to music in HCM City?
I think more and more young people love practising the guitar because Vietnamese people in general love music. However, they just love to learn it for entertainment. It's really sad that the number of young professional guitarists has reduced in the last few years. The number of guitar recitals held in the city is few but most of their tickets sell well.
The guitar class in my house is always crowded with students. My after-school guitar courses at the HCM City Conservatory are the same. It's a good sign for guitar music in Viet Nam. — VNS