The Vietnamese-American Arts & Letters Association‘s fundraising concert takes place at 7:30pm today at its Cultural Center in Santa Ana, featuring guitarists Doan Huynh (Huỳnh Hữu Đoan) and Omar Ávalos, and a special appearance by Han Vo-Ta (Võ Tá Hân), a very prominent figure in world of Vietnamese classical guitar.
Vo-Ta is an economist by trade who worked in Singapore for much of his adult life, where he headed the Singapore Guitar Association. In the decades before the internet, Vo-Ta was instrumental in sending information from Southeast Asian media to his friends who were publishers and editors of Vietnamese-language newspapers in California, thus allowing vital news about Vietnam to reach audiences in the U.S.
In 1991, Vo-Ta was the primary force in starting the first classical guitar competition in Saigon, which local musicians simply call the “Concours.” At the VAALA concert, he will introduce his compositions and arrangements.
Huynh, who immigrated to the U.S. about a dozen years ago, was also a founder of the Concours. By then, Huynh was teaching at the Conservatory in Saigon and already a leading figure in the classical guitar revival in Saigon from the mid 1980s, known by its location as the guitar program at “Nhà Văn hóa Phú Nhuận” (the Phu Nhuan District Cultural Center).
Ávalos is a Southern California guitarist, with a master’s from Cal State Fullerton and a year learning flamenco in Spain. He has played in venues throughout the Southland, and holds a regular job as an associate instructor at Santa Ana College and Principal Musician for the Dance Department at UC Irvine.
He will play standard classical repertoire as well as two of his own compositions. Besides music, Ávalos also blogs about local issues at the Santa Ana Sentinel.
The fundraiser also has guest vocalists, Mộng Thủy and Phạm Đăng Khoa. Most Vietnamese-American Catholic musicians know Mộng Thủy because she’s very active as a soloist and choral director for churches. Khoa is newly arrived in California from Dallas, but has appeared in many programs that require more technical skills, such as the Cung Tiến retrospective in 2011.
The VAALA guitar concert will be held at 7:30pm today at the VAALA Cultural Center at 1600 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, on the second floor.
VAALA is the best known non-profit organization dedicated to support the arts in the Vietnamese-American community. Its flagship event, the Vietnamese International Film Festival, held every two years, is due to come back in April.