Shanghai Orchestra Ensemble Brings America Music of Nature

By Peter Liu

On the evening of February 4th, my family and I had the unique opportunity of attending the first performance of the Chamber Ensemble of the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra in America. Accompanied by a translator, the announcer described to the audience that the night would be filled with Chinese music that expressed a friendship from China with the United States. With the festivity of the Chinese New Year still being celebrated, he informed us that the orchestra would play some of the most ancient music using some of the oldest music instruments from China.

Dressed in traditional Oriental attire, each group of performers was individually announced, with a background description of each piece being played.

I was greatly impressed by every song that was performed that evening. The performers used classical Chinese instruments such as the guqin and xiao represent many aspects of nature. Each was so peaceful, and every instrument complemented each other. I was also mesmerized by the skillful quick movement of the hands as the performers played the stringed erhu.

Each piece had an emotion and feel that made it unique. As previously mentioned, most of the pieces represented elements of nature. Some songs that were included in the performance were Moon's Reflection on Er-Quan, In the Still of the Night, Autumn Yearning, and Moonlight on the Sprin River, all of which portrayed nature exceptionally well. I could hear the water streaming in the river, birds chirping in the Spring air, stars glistening in the moonlight and the wind blowing among the grass. The piece that drew a large applause was Relic, in which the performers used stringed instruments to produce a sound that perfectly resembled the neighing of horses!

As an enthusiast of traditional Chinese music, I was really excited when I saw a few pieces that I was familiar with. Particularly In the Still of the Night and Moon's Reflection on Er-Quan, I thought they were played wonderfully.

There were also a couple of pieces that were played very unconventionally. Named The Drama, the piece was played using hand gongs by three performers. Each one played in a different rhythm that, when played together, was very catchy. One of the performers used his head as a metronome to keep with the beat, which I though was comical.

Many of the pieces featured famous musicians from China. They were featured when introduced by the announcers. Each played with unparalleled skill, precision and elegance.

Overall, I believe this is one of the more notable performances I have ever been to, not only because I can relate to the Oriental style of music being played, but also because each song was played so beautifully and with great emotion. I believe that the Shanghai Orchestra Ensemble fulfilled their goal in exchanging their Eastern culture with the rest of the world through music. Their encore performance of Purple Bamboo Melody ended with a mixture of peacefulness and exultance that was well deserving of a standing ovation. It is a pity that they are only performing a few shows here in America. I hope they will visit us again sometime in the future!