This summer, the "Catering Party" concert by National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan ― a lively fusion of storytelling and traditional wind and percussion music ― will vibrantly present the interesting events that can arise as master chefs work to prepare Taiwan's characteristic "pan-toh" roadside banquets.
The orchestra's 2016 and 2017 performances garnered rave reviews and were warmly received by audiences. This August and September, they will be staging this beloved program again and inviting Chang Meng-yi (張孟逸), who was named best performer by last year's Golden Melody Awards for Traditional Arts and Music, to bring some extra traditional theatrical elements to the table.
Pan-toh, or roadside banquets, are a distinctive part of Taiwanese culinary culture, and its unique cultural character has made it a valuable part of the country's cultural heritage. These banquets are held for a variety of special occasions, from wedding and funerals to housewarmings, teacher appreciation events, temple celebrations, and local elections. Friends, family, and neighbors are invited to join in and take part in the celebrations.
Pan-toh culture can be traced back to Qing-era Taiwan, when wealthy people would invite chefs to cook marvelous meals for them at home. This began to evolve into its more familiar form during the Japanese colonial era, when skilled cooks in villages would get together to prepare feasts for the community. These home chefs would also provide the tables, chairs, cutlery, and tableware, and community members would help themselves to the food.
Today, the master chefs that take charge of pan-toh are responsible for the dishes and the event planning. There are a number of taboos and rules that need to be followed, with the choice and order of dishes and seating arrangements all strictly set out. For "Catering Party," the orchestra is combining their performance with other media to present the entirety of pan-toh culture through the combination of audio and visual props.
While the march of progress has led to a slight reduction in the number of such banquets, they remain an essential part of Taiwanese life and work. Building around the theme of pan-toh culture, the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan is putting on a vibrant tribute to the skills of master chefs through music and theater, depicting the whole fascinating process from preparation through cooking to serving and celebrating.
In additional to the raucous sound of traditional instrumental music that helps to communicate the joyful and energetic atmosphere of Taiwanese pan-toh, this show will also incorporate elements of koa-a-hi, or Taiwanese opera. Several skilled performers including the award-winning Chang will colorfully portray a variety of roles, from matchmaker, bride, and groom, to master chef. It is sure to be a show worth waiting for.
‘Catering Party’ – Taipei Showings
Date: Aug. 18 – 19, 2018
Address: 751 Wen-lin Road, Shilin District, Taipei, Taiwan (ROC)
‘Catering Party’ – Taichung Showings
Date: Sept. 22 – 23, 2018
Venue: National Taichung Theater
Address: No. 101 Huilai Rd. Sec. 2, Xitun District, Taichung City, Taiwan (ROC)