PHILADELPHIA—Shen Yun Performing Arts graced the stage at Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre on May 9 to a full house.
“I love the music with the integration of the instruments from China,” said Kirsten Olsen, conductor of multiple children’s choirs, private teacher of piano, organ, and voice, and giver of a variety of musical lectures and workshops on the East Coast.
“The mixture of the instruments is really unique,” said Mrs. Olsen. “And the way they feature the certain instruments is really interesting.”
Chinese instruments lead the melodies in Shen Yun’s orchestra, while a Western philharmonic orchestra plays the foundation, explains the company’s website. Ancient Chinese instruments with origins thousands of years ago in Shen Yun’s orchestra include the expressive pipa, or Chinese lute, the suona, or double reed woodwind instrument, and the erhu, or two-stringed Chinese violin.
“The erhu is incredibly expressive, capable of imitating sounds from chirping birds to neighing horses,” explains Shen Yun’s website. “An alto instrument with a middle-high musical range, its melodies can be tender or sonorous. In its lowest and middle range, the erhu is especially stirring and somber, a quality especially suitable for conveying the grand pageant of China’s history and the emotions of its people.”
Ms. Olsen appreciated seeing the high level of traditional dance seen in Shen Yun, and the way it harmonized with the live music.
“The choreography mixed with the music,” she said, “is just very well melded together.”
“It is fabulous,” said Roy Schmidt, a choir singer and Mrs. Olsen’s husband. “This is wonderful.”
The last dance of the first half, a Tibetan ethnic dance, enthralled Mr. Schmidt. “Life is harsh in the Himalayas, but the Tibetan seem to embrace it,” states Shen Yun’s program book. “The dancers in this piece step and stomp, spin and soar with joyful, vibrant energy. In their hands they hold the Khata, a traditional scarf presented to guests. Here they offer it to the gods as a sign of reverence and devotion.”
“I was excited to see the Tibetan dance,” he said, adding that he was recently part of the premiere of a piece of music from the Mendelssohn club that had Tibetan themes.
“The leader of the Philadelphia Tibetan Society was there, and presented the conductor with a khata,” explained Mr. Schmidt. “So I immediately recognized that. I just thought that was fabulous.”
Reporting by Pamela Tsai and Zachary Stieber.
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world, with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. The season concludes this month with performances in Philadelphia, Honolulu, San Antonio, and Buffalo.
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
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