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2023 FACP Kaohsiung – Clare C. & Friends Fellowship: Remembering the Legacy of Madame Clare Chen

The story of Madame Clare Chen, the radiance in song –

The 2023 FACP Annual Conference this November features the open call "Pitch for New Aspects", inviting young creators to draw inspiration from cultural traditions while envisioning performing arts in the contemporary era. To encourage these young creators and entrepreneurs, the FACP provides substantial financial support to the winners. The greatest sponsorship for this initiative comes from the "Clare C. & Friends Fellowship," dedicated to the memory of arts philanthropist Madame Clare Chen.

Madame Clare Chen was an entrepreneur in footwear, and she was also known for holding numerous positions in the field of arts and philanthropic institutions – she was the Chairperson of the Kehua Cultural and Educational Foundation, Chief Consultant for the Vienna Masterclass in Asia, Director-General of Vocal Asia, and Chairperson of the Shanghai A Cappella Center. Throughout her warm and cheerful life, she pursued the motto of "One career, two vocations". "One career" refers to her lifelong commitment to the CJCHT Group. Starting as a shoe manufacturer, CJCHT came to strategically partner with world-class retailers and is now committed to environmental friendliness, eco-friendly practices, ESG principles, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability. On the other hand, her "two vocations" were her constant dedication to leprosy patients and the promotion of choral and a cappella music. As a devout Catholic, Madame Chen embraced a life of selfless love, having sowed the seeds of hope across Greater China and beyond.

In May 2022 Madame Chen passed away after a long fight with diseases . The Clare C. & Friends Fellowship is thus a tribute in memory of the affectionate lady. Founded by Chen’s friends along with Ms. Catherine Liu and Christine Liu, Madame Chen’s daughters. The two daughters hope to continue their mother’s philanthropy works and perpetuate Madame Chen’s benevolence and embody her spirit of unconditional dedication.

"One Career, Two Vocations": Madame Clare Chen's Journey of Humanitarianism

Being a single mother in the 1980’s in Asia, it was not easy. With great resilience and determination, Madame Clare Chen took the path to become one of the first generation of Taiwanese entrepreneurs to venture into Mainland China, taking challenges and difficulties from the new environment as the opportunity to nurture a personality of perseverance, business vision, and compassionate spirit. Years later, under Madame Chen’s leadership and meticulous planning, CJCHT achieved global recognition 3-times as Walmart's annual best footwear supplier and became the first Asian supplier for the renowned Italian brand Fendi. As the call for environmental responsibility grew, Madam Clare Chen embraced corporate social responsibility, developed eco-friendly technology and products, earned top ratings in the International Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for risk / opportunity management and verification, and became the world's first self-inspection supplier in the footwear industry, marking an exceptional achievement in the field.

One of the “two vocations,” Madame Chen's long-standing support for leprosy patients, began at a performance with her church choir at the Lo-sheng Sanatorium in Taiwan. Even after leprosy was eradicated in Taiwan, she continued her service in China, travelling to remote villages in Guangdong, Jiangsu, Sichuan, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Hebei provinces. She reached each individual patient with warmth, provided care and delivered crafted prosthetics and footwear, established mobile prosthetic factories, arranged for medical care, and encouraged her employees and partners to join her in visiting villagers and adopting children.

Her other vocation, the promotion of choral and musical arts, traced back to her parents' love for erhu music, Peking opera and singing. From childhood through university, Madame Chen was constantly engaged in choruses, laying the foundation of her long-term association with the Feng Chia University Chorus and the Fengyo Chorus. A genuine believer in the purifying merit of music and the power of singing, Madame Chen adopted the role of Chief Consultant at the Vienna Masterclass founded by choral master Gunther Theuring, co-founded the Taiwan Choral Music Center (TCMC) and the Contemporary A Cappella Competition. In 2010, she established Vocal Asia, a further step to build international bridges through music.

A Pioneering Soul with Resolution: Driving International Connections with Vocal Music

Vocal Asia aims at creating international alliances in a cappella music across Asia. As the chairperson, Madame Chen passed down to her colleagues not only her business expertise but also the spirit of integrity. Vocal Asia's Executive Officer, CHEN Wuming, mentioned, "Madame Chen has been a tremendous source of inspiration for me in so many ways; from the small gestures like yielding to pedestrians while driving, to the broader principles of corporate management, Madame Chen had consistently provided valuable guidance. I used to be ambitious and have many ideas as an artist. It was Madame Chen who introduced to me the concept of the business cycle." Madame Chen made a comprehensive impact on the Taiwanese a cappella community, indulging her colleagues with knowledge from organisational management and risk assessment to NPO's sustainable model and the mindset of team operation. Her clear and precise ideas did not prevent her from allowing room for the development of her partners. Vocal Asia, under the leadership of the next generation, could thus thrive with liveliness.

Madame Clare Chen was not only an innovative thinker but also a go-getter. In 2015 and 2016, Vocal Asia decided to host its Vocal Asia Festival in Hong Kong, where cultural resources were limited at the time. To solve the difficulties, Madame Chen personally flew to the city, rallied relevant stakeholders, and even formed the Vocal Asia Hong Kong company to raise resources. Moreover, Madame Chen extended her collaboration with Walmart into the realm of music, bringing about the esteemed "VoiceJam Festival" in Arkansas in 2015 with the Walmart Foundation and the Walton Arts Center. Until the pandemic hit, every year the champions of Vocal Asia Festival received an invitation to VoiceJam, fostering international friendships through the power of music.

A Consistent Vigor: Never Missing an Opportunity to Inspire

Madame Clare Chen was warm-hearted and had a genuine love for music. When she heard about an excellent A Cappella group in Macau, she flew there alone just to meet the team and offer her encouragement.

In 2019, Madame Chen both vocations converged at the Setouchi Triennale. As a matter of fact, one of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea, Oshima, housed a facility for leprosy patients. At the Triennale, where Vocal Asia Festival was one of the segments, groups of Japanese A Cappella artists performed for the residents of Oshima under Madame Chen’s organisation, bringing vitality to their lives through music.

Madame Chen’s incredible determination and strength were unmatched, outperforming many young people in her sixties and seventies. She always showed her best to the public. Although she faced obstacles in the pursuit of charity, she had always kept in mind the wellbeing of her Taiwanese comrades and continued contributing to the society. She extended her steadfast support and love to every A Cappella group in Taiwan, including the now renowned Taipei Male Choir, O-Kai Singers, Fengyo Chorus, and Vox Nativa Taiwan. Her support was never just financial; in 2014, recovering from surgery, she flew once again to Europe in clutches to visit concert halls for Vox Nativa’s European tour. Even during severe illness in 2022, she bore in mind the exchange between The Little Singers of Paris and Vox Nativa, showing her enduring dedication.

Madame Clare Chen was hands-on in everything she did. She once said that she believed in the future, in the flourishing of A Cappella. She maintained that singing was an art form of goodness and beauty, allowing us to connect with one another's hearts and bringing people together. She hoped to invite more young people into the world of choral singing.

Beyond music, Madame Clare Chen extended her dedication to education in the remote villages. In 2017, rallying a group of passionate friends, she founded the Kehua Cultural and Educational Foundation. The foundation actively participated in rural education through their "Project M" initiative, having organised concerts, A Cappella and jazz instructors training, and aesthetic teaching workshops in eastern Taiwan. In order to ignite children's imaginations without material constraints, the foundation suggested teaching music with simple tools — the human voice and recorder. On the other hand, Madame Chen also fervently supported the Junyi Academy, a non-profit organisation advocating youth education. In so doing, Madame Chen was committed to opening new possibilities for children and motivating holistic educational programs.

A Continual Devotion: "Clare C. & Friends Fellowship" Supporting Innovation with FACP

Throughout her life promoting vocal music, Madame Chen had been unvocal in her altruistic patronage. The FACP Chairperson Joyce Chiou had been grateful for Madame Chen's sponsorship of Taiwan Philharmonic and remembered her palpable warmth and sincerity. Cherishing their long-standing friendship, Joyce Chiou takes the opportunity of the 2023 FACP Annual Conference in Kaohsiung — which is also Madame Chen's hometown — to commemorate her loving contribution. The "Clare C. & Friends Fellowship" was consequently founded by her daughters Catherine Liu and Christine Liu, in hands with Madame Chen's dear friends who share the same passion in charity.

Born to a family of piety and love, Ms. Catherine Liu and Ms. Christine Liu inherited her mother’s positive energy and had been her mother's staunchest supporter and best assistant. Like her mother, the daughters are enthusiastic in giving strength to artists and performers. Under the encouragement of Madame Chen, Catherine, the first daughter, managed a concert venue especially for a cappella music “A House” and witnessed the growth of generations of a cappella groups, such as the famous O-Kai Singers. With her singers, she has toured Europe, South Korea, Mainland China among other places, while also following her mother’s footsteps in visiting remote villages in China for charity work. Christine, the second daughter, received her mother’s musical talent and is passionate about singing and composition. She is now a shining star in the Taiwanese music scene as an a cappella musician and a church organist. She founded the a cappella group “Voco Novo” and infuses her music with traditional culture and aboriginal music, while also taking the role of artistic director of Vocal Asia Festival. The relationship between Madame Chen and the two daughters is multifaceted – they are mother and daughters, business partners and fellows in the realm of choral music. They have seen her mother in moments of vulnerability and helplessness while keeping a fortified profile to the public. They believed that as a daughter, all she could do was to provide wholehearted support to her mother. Now with the passing of Madame Chen, they want to carry on her devoting love.

Madame Clare Chen had been a legend in arts philanthropy. With music as her wings, she sang for love and celebrated an exuberant life. She guided countless singers to discover a brilliant world in vocal music while fostering an amiable and harmonious international relationship. Her spirit coincides with FACP in the hope of facilitating cultural understanding and appreciation across Asia. With Clare C. & Friends' sponsorship, FACP would like to pay its tribute to the phenomenal artistic devotee and glorify her lifelong commitment.

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