From Jan 24 to 28, the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona, joining hands with South Arizona Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Sino Choir and Wuhan Conservatory of Music, presented four concerts on Tucson stages, drawing more than 2,000 local audience to a feast of Chinese musical culture.
The concerts featured Chinese poetry, folk songs singing, folk music performance and the symphonic suite Dream of the Red Chamber, and were held in venues such as the Crowder Hall of UA’s School of Music and the SaddleBrooke Desertview Performing Arts Center.
The concert began with the Ode to Red Flag performed by SASO. This is a classic piece often performed at festivals and ceremonies in China and was performed on Tucson stage for the first time. Other programs, the Tale of the Rainbow Clouds was performed by Guzheng soloist JIng Xia, the Great Wall Capsiccio was performed by Erhu soloist Fangyuan Liu, and the Dream of the Red Chamber with soprano Hua Xu and tenor Xuanshu Jiang and Tucson Sino Choir, all combined Chinese music, Chinese instruments with western symphony orchestra and enchanted the audience.
SASO conductor Dr. Linus Lerner and several of his orchestra players wore traditional Chinese clothes for their collaboration with Chinese musicians at the concerts.
CIUA’s Dr. Larry Lang, the art director of the concerts, not only wrote more than one thousand pages of music scores and directed the rehearsals before the concerts, but also explained the cultural background, the love stories behind the Tale of the Rainbow Clouds and the Dream of the Red Chamber, to U.S. audience at the beginning of the performance.
For some of the U.S. audience, this was the first time they listened to Chinese folk music. During intermission and at the end of performance, many of them went up to ask CIUA staff, “What’s the name of the Chinese musical instrument? It was so amazing!” and repeated the names of Guzheng and Erhu in amazement. Dedicated fans of symphonic music, they were intrigue with this new artistic representation which was produced by Chinese folk musicians and a western symphony orchestra. A U.S. young woman said she came to the concert with doubts that the Chinese music would be too foreign and uninteresting, but she liked it very much as it was so beautiful and touching. A 95-year-old lady walked with her rollator to Dr. Lang and said, “This is the most beautiful concerts I ever attended. I couldn’t hold back my tears. Though I don’t understand the lyrics, but the music itself is already beautiful enough ......”
Dr. Lang always wants to share Chinese music, a precious cultural treasure of Chinese people, with people of other parts of the world. It is his aspiration to introduce Chinese music to them in the forms familiar to western audience, such as symphony, concerto or cantata. In 2013, he rearranged the theme songs of the vastly popular 1987 Chinese TV series the Dream of the Red Chamber by Mr. Liping Wang to a symphonic suite and debuted it at UA stage, which was also its premiere in U.S. Five years later, he made it heard in U.S. theater again.
Daily Wildcat, the 120 year old UA newspaper, interviewed Dr. Lang and covered the concerts.
Before the Jan 25 show, CIUA director Zhao Chen spoke to the audience, welcoming them to this Chinese music feast to celebrate the Chinese new year. She said, “CIUA has been using classic and modern Chinese music to build a bridge to link Chinese and western culture, to improve the mutual understanding between Chinese and U.S. peoples, and to facilitate sino-U.S. friendly exchanges. We are proud of what we have been doing.”