Wu Man and Her Pipa

The Hartford Symphony had opening night concerts this past Friday and Saturday, featuring our beautiful Austin organ with a Bach Toccata (we were joined by the Connecticut Youth Orchestra) and the Saint Saens Organ Symphony.

But in between we played the Lou Harrison concerto for pipa and string orchestra, featuring Wu Man. It was a milestone for her, as it was the first performance on her new instrument in public.

Last June, she was planning to fly from Philadelphia to New Haven to join the Kronos Quartet at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. I know from experience that the planes from Philly to New Haven are “puddle jumpers,” so there was no possibility that her pipa would fit on the overhead compartment. She was strapping it into the empty seat next to her when the flight attendant insisted on taking it to put in the coat closet up front, and then dropped it, breaking off the neck. No insurance for Wu Man, and a “nasty” airline to fight with. Could have been ugly.

But the story ends wonderfully. USAirways did everything they should — they paid to have a new pipa made, and paid to fly Wu Man to China twice to confer with the maker, who had made her original instrument.

I was so pleased to be there at the inauguration of her new instrument. The audience loved the concerto and her encore, and she was just beaming. It’s a truly beautiful instrument.

The NY Times wrote an article about her story, including a video of Wu Man playing her pipa, and Jeffrey Johnson reviewed our concert.

The HSO musicians wish all the best to Wu Man as she goes forward with her new pipa!

About the author

Ann Drinan
Ann Drinan

Ann Drinan, Senior Editor, has been a member of the Hartford Symphony viola section for over 30 years. She is a former Chair of the Orchestra Committee, former member of the HSO Board, and has served on many HSO committees. She is also the Executive Director of CONCORA (CT Choral Artists), a professional chorus based in Hartford and New Britain, founded by Artistic Director Richard Coffey. Ann was a member of the Advisory Board of the Symphony Orchestra Institute (SOI), and was the HSO ROPA delegate for 14 years, serving as both Vice President and President of ROPA. In addition to playing the viola and running CONCORA, Ann is a professional writer and editor, and has worked as a consultant and technical writer for software companies in a wide variety of industries for over 3 decades. (She worked for the Yale Computer Science Department in the late 70s, and thus has been on the Internet, then called the DARPAnet, since 1977!) She is married to Algis Kaupas, a sound recordist, and lives a block from Long Island Sound in Branford CT. Together they create websites for musicians: shortbeachwebdesign.com.

Ann holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA in International Relations from Yale University.

Read Ann Drinan's blog here. web.esm.rochester.edu/poly/author/ann-drinan

Leave a Reply