Exploring new modes of culture transmission using CIUA’s advantages and unique features

January 31, 2015

The Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona (CIUA) has made a continuous effort for the past five years to reach out to our various constituents by hosting a Chinese New Year gala celebration in Tucson, which has earned a great reputation in the local community and has even influenced other regional cities. Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, a two-hour drive from Tucson to the north.  On January 31st, 2015, CIUA was invited by the Phoenix-area Chandler Symphony Orchestra to take part in the “2015 Chinese New Year Celebration: Chinese Classical Music Concert,” an event that was also supported by CIUA. This concert was the first time that CIUA teachers traveled to the Phoenix area to give performances. That night, there was a heavy rain in Phoenix; a rare occurrence in the Arizona desert, especially in winter! All the teachers overcame this difficulty and gave wonderful performances for their appreciative Phoenix audience.

The concert, comprising two sections, lasted for two hours. The first section presented bright and warm music such as the “Spring Festival Overture”, “Dream of Red Chamber, Overture,” “Hope Betrayed,” “Song of Skybright,” “Song of Red Beans,” and “Burying the Flowers.”  The second section was a concerto performed by the Chandler Symphony Orchestra and CIUA’s Sheng, Erhu, and Guzheng teachers. The Chandler Symphony Orchestra first played the “Blue Danube” waltz by the Waltz King, Johann Strauss II. CIUA music teachers then played three classical instrumental pieces on traditional Chinese instruments along with the orchestra, which brought the concert to a climax.  Ms. Jing Xia played “Yi Dance” on the Guzheng plucked zither. Mr. Bo Chen played the traditional “King Qin’s Battle Music” on the Sheng wind instrument and Mr. Maoxun Ma played “New Year’s Eve” on the Erhu two-stringed fiddle. This is the first time these three concertos were debuted on the stage in America. The chorus “Snow Flakes Falling Down,” which is an aria, and the Chinese folk song ”Matching the Flowers,” as well as Professor Linghui Tu’s Peking operatic (Jingju) “Ode to the Pear Tree,” were all accompanied by the Chandler Symphony Orchestra, bringing the 2015 Spring Gala to a climax. Their performance received enthusiastic applause from the audience.

When the Gala was over, the audience of nearly 2000 audience didn’t want to leave due to the high level performance. This concert combined Chinese classical music solos with the Western orchestra’s concerto, combined chorus and Peking Opera, which was collectively an innovation of Sino-American cultural exchange. The seamless integration of Western and traditional Chinese music in such a compelling and entertaining way profoundly influenced the local community and visibly promoted cross-cultural understanding.

Local media commented, ”CIUA is aiming at serving the university and local community. Their goal is to meet the demand of Chinese language learning and culture spreading.” Among these activities, the dissemination of Chinese music abroad is a crucial feature of CIUA, which enriches local people’s cultural experience. The successful CIUA Spring Gala not only provided a wonderful feast of Chinese and Western music, but also promoted the influence of Chinese music culture and experiences in Chinese culture and art.