Canadian wins 18th Chopin international piano competition

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Bruce Xiaoyu Liu of Canada reacts after he was announced the winner of the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw on Oct. 21, 2021. (Maciej Jazwiecki/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS)
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Bruce Xiaoyu Liu of Canada reacts after he was announced the winner of the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw on Oct. 21, 2021. (Maciej Jazwiecki/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS)
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Updated 21 October 2021

Canadian wins 18th Chopin international piano competition

  • Japan’s Kyohei Sorita came joint-second with Italian-Slovenian Alexander Gadjiev. Spain’s Martin Garcia Garcia came third

WARSAW, Poland: Canadian pianist Bruce Xiaoyu Liu was awarded first prize in the Chopin piano competition in Warsaw on Thursday, clinching one of the world’s most prestigious music awards.
“Being able to play Chopin in Warsaw is one of the best things you can imagine,” 24-year-old Liu said as the jury announced their decision at the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall.

The first prize in the 18th Frederic Chopin international piano competition comes with a 40,000-euro ($45,000) award.

Japan’s Kyohei Sorita, 27, came joint-second with 26-year-old Italian-Slovenian Alexander Gadjiev.
Spain’s Martin Garcia Garcia, 24, came third.

The winner will receive a gold medal and the financial prize funded by the office of Poland’s president, as well as prestigious recording and concert contracts.
The second prize is worth 30,000 euros ($35,000,) third prize is 20,000 euros ($23,000,) and the fourth is 15,000 euros ($17,000.) There are also prizes for the fifth, sixth and seventh place as well as other awards for the finalists, funded by Poland’s government, music institutions and by private donors.
Held every five years since 1927, the Chopin competition would normally have been held last year, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic — a first since World War II.
“It was challenging to get all the competitors into Poland,” Artur Szklener, director of the National Institute of Frederic Chopin, which organizes the competition, had told AFP.
But one of the 17 jury members, Argentinian concert pianist Nelson Goerner, said that pandemic-related lockdowns helped raise the standard of this year’s competition.
“The level this year is remarkable,” Goerner told AFP earlier in the competition.
“The pianists have had more time to prepare and I think the pandemic has awakened in all of us a desire to go further, to surpass ourselves,” he said.
“You can hear it in how these young pianists are playing.”

Born in Paris, Liu graduated from Montreal Conservatoire.
He has performed with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and has been on two tours in China.
“The pandemic actually made this kind of meeting for me more special,” Liu said after his victory.
Liu said he had to be “really careful all the time” during the coronavirus crisis, so as to be able to keep up his competition and concert schedule, and as a result had “not met many people” in the past two years.
He also said he hoped the competition would be “just a start” in his musical journey.
“It’s hard to keep the freshness, to continuously find new ideas so I hope this is not the last point,” he told reporters.
He added that he was looking forward “to be finally able to sleep and party.”
This year’s event drew 87 pianists from across the globe, including 22 from China, 16 from Poland and 14 from Japan.
Broadcast live on YouTube and via a bespoke mobile app, the contest attracted record online interest.
Some 70,000 people watched the result streamed online.
Among previous winners are Maurizio Pollini of Italy, Argentina’s Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson from the United States, Poland’s Krystian Zimerman and Artur Blechacz, and Seong-Jin Cho of South Korea.
Chopin, Poland’s best known and beloved classical music composer and pianist, was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola near Warsaw to a Polish mother and a French father. He left Poland at 19 to broaden his musical education in Vienna and then in Paris, where he settled, composing, giving concerts and teaching the piano. He died on Oct. 17, 1849, in Paris and is buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery. His heart is at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.
The auditions can be followed live on the Chopin Institute YouTube channel and on Polish state radio.

 

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Belgian zoo hippos test positive for Covid

Updated 03 December 2021

Belgian zoo hippos test positive for Covid

  • The infections at Antwerp Zoo are not the first time that zoo animals have tested positive
  • It is not known how the hippos were exposed to the virus

BRUSSELS: Two hippos in a Belgian zoo have tested positive for Covid-19, their keepers announced Friday, stressing that the giant animals do not appear to be in danger.
The infections at Antwerp Zoo are not the first time that zoo animals have tested positive during the pandemic, but most cases are thought to have been in cats and monkeys.
The building housing Hermien and Imani, a mother and daughter aged 41 and 14, has been closed to the public and their keepers have formed an isolated social bubble.
Antwerp Zoo tested its animals last year and found no cases of coronavirus, but veterinarian Francis Vercammen checked the hippos as cases rose again this winter.
“This time they were expelling snot, which I had tested as a precaution to check for bacteria,” he said, explaining how he came to send samples to Belgium’s national veterinary lab.
“In view of current events, I took the additional decision to test the samples for Covid-19, which gave this surprising result,” he said.
“As far as I know, this is the first known infection in this species. Worldwide, this virus has mainly been reported in great apes and felines.”
It is not known how the hippos were exposed to the virus. Their keepers have had no symptoms but are taking additional precautions and will be quarantined if they test positive.
Belgium, in common with much of Europe, is facing a growing wave of Covid-19 infections as winter grips the country, including a so far small number of cases of the new Omicron variant.
On Friday, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced a series of measures to tighten sanitary rules, bringing school Christmas holidays forward and asking children aged six and over to wear masks.
Belgium, with a population of 11 million, has recorded an average of more than 17,800 daily infections with Covid-19 over the past seven days, as well as 44 deaths.
Around 800 people with severe forms of the disease are in intensive care in hospitals across the country, leading to overcrowding and the postponement of treatment for many other conditions.


Indian man builds one-third sized Taj Mahal replica for wife

Updated 01 December 2021

Indian man builds one-third sized Taj Mahal replica for wife

  • The imitation includes the real monument's large dome, intricate minarets and even some of its artwork
  • The replica took three years to build

NEW DELHI: An Indian man has built a one-third sized replica of the historic Taj Mahal for his wife, but unlike the original, it’s their residence, not a mausoleum.
Constructed with white marble from the same city in Rajasthan state that provided the Taj Mahal’s stone, the imitation includes the real monument’s large dome, intricate minarets and even some of its artwork.
The famed 17th century Taj Mahal, often called a monument to love, was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the northern Indian city of Agra in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz.
She died in Burhanpur, the site of the newly built replica, while giving birth to their fourteenth child.
Her body was temporarily buried in the city and later exhumed and taken to Agra, according to Anand Prakash Chouksey, 52, who built the replica.
“I jokingly told my wife, if you pass over, then I will build a Taj Mahal,” said Chouksey, 52, a hospital owner who lives in Burhanpur. “She obviously refused and said she doesn’t want to die. Then I said, not a problem, I will make a Taj Mahal you can live in.”
The replica took three years to build and artisans from Agra were hired to recreate the artwork on the marble.
Emperor Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal built between 1632 and 1654 after Mumtaz died. The complex houses both of their graves and a mosque, as well as several graves of lesser Mogul royalty.
The monument, acclaimed for its delicate lattice work, is India’s biggest tourist draw, attracting millions of visitors every year. The tourists keep hundreds of thousands employed and Agra’s economy moving.


French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0

Updated 28 November 2021

French Guianese team travel 7,000km to lose 14-0

  • C.S.C. de Cayenne were only trailing 1-0 when they were reduced to 10 men in the 43rd minute before collapsing in the second half
  • Saint-Denis made the most of their trek from the island of Reunion, beating Canet Rousillon on penalties to reach the last 64

PARIS: C.S.C. de Cayenne traveled over 7,000 kilometers from the capital of French Guiana for their French Cup eighth-round tie against Paris FC on Saturday, but lost 14-0.
The visitors were only trailing 1-0 when they were reduced to 10 men in the 43rd minute before collapsing in the second half, conceding 12 goals after the break.
Cayenne will make the return trip across the Atlantic Ocean after seeing their cup run end in remarkable fashion.
Moustapha Name, Lamine Diaby Fadiga and Morgan Guilavogui, the brother of former France midfielder Josuha, all scored hat-tricks for second-tier side Paris FC.
Elsewhere, though, Saint-Denis made the most of their trek from the island of Reunion, beating Canet Rousillon on penalties to reach the last 64, where the 20 Ligue 1 teams enter the draw.


Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday

Updated 27 November 2021

Activists block Amazon warehouses in Europe on Black Friday

  • Members of Extinction Rebellion targeted 13 Amazon fulfilment centers in the UK with the aim of disrupting 50% of the company's deliveries on Black Friday
  • They staged similar protests in Germany and the Netherlands

DUBAI: Climate activists blockaded Amazon warehouses in three European countries on Friday.
This was part of a global effort to pressure the ecommerce giant on one of its busiest days of the year to improve working conditions and end business practices that hurt the environment.
Members of Extinction Rebellion targeted 13 Amazon fulfilment centers in the United Kingdom with the aim of disrupting 50 percent of the company’s deliveries on Black Friday, which marks the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. They staged similar protests in Germany and the Netherlands.
“The action is intended to draw attention to Amazon’s exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices, disregard for workers’ rights in the name of company profits, as well as the wastefulness of Black Friday,” the group said. It vowed to remain at the scene
At least 30 people were arrested at multiple UK locations, with some held on suspicion of aggravated trespass or public nuisance, police forces said.
Extinction Rebellion and dozens of other activist groups in the US and around the world are organizing a day of global protests and strikes on Friday against Amazon to demand the company provide better working conditions, commit to operating sustainably, and pay its fair share of tax.
In the US, labor activists planned a small protest at Amazon’s fulfilment center on Staten Island, New York.
Activists in the UK blocked the entrance to Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury, just east of London, with an effigy of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos sitting on top of a rocket.
At Amazon’s distribution center in Dunfermline, Scotland, about 20 Extinction Rebellion members strung banners across the entrance road that said “Make Amazon Pay” and locked themselves together, stopping trucks from entering and some from leaving.
Amazon did not directly address the protests in response to a request for comment, but said the company takes its responsibilities “very seriously.”
“That includes our commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040 — 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement — providing excellent pay and benefits in a safe and modern work environment, and supporting the tens of thousands of British small businesses who sell on our store,” the company said.
Extinction Rebellion activists also blocked an Amazon logistics center in the central German town of Bad Hersfeld by erecting a makeshift bamboo scaffold that they used to suspend themselves in the air. Authorities later removed them with the help of a fire department ladder truck, according to video posted on the group’s German Facebook page.
The group staged a similar protest at an Amazon facility at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.

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Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak

Updated 26 November 2021

Egypt revives ancient road connecting Luxor and Karnak

  • The procession to reopen the 2.7 km road included a reenactment of the ancient Opet festival
  • Pharaonic chariots and more than 400 young performers dressed in pharaonic costumes paraded along the avenue

LUXOR, Egypt: A restored road connecting two ancient Egyptian temple complexes in Karnak and Luxor was unveiled on Thursday in a lavish ceremony aimed at raising the profile of one of Egypt’s top tourist spots.
The procession to reopen the 2.7 km (1.7 mile) road included a reenactment of the ancient Opet festival, where statues of Theban deities were paraded annually during the New Kingdom era in celebration of fertility and the flooding of the Nile.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi marched along the road at the start of the ceremony. Pharaonic chariots and more than 400 young performers dressed in pharaonic costumes paraded along the avenue.
The 3,400-year-old road linking the ancient centers of Karnak and Luxor, also known as Road of the Rams or the Avenue of the Sphinxes, is lined with hundreds of ram- and human-headed sphinxes, though over the years many have been eroded or destroyed.
The road has undergone several restoration efforts since being discovered in 1949, and the latest began in 2017.
Tourism is a crucial source of jobs and hard currency for Egypt, which has made a concerted effort to lure back the travelers kept away by the coronavirus pandemic.
In April, 22 ancient royal mummies from Luxor and the nearby Valley of the Kings were borne in procession Egyptian mummies paraded from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
Egypt’s tourism revenues plunged to about $4 billion in 2020, down from $13 billion in 2019.

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