WASHINGTON—David Brownell walked away from the Kennedy Center Opera House on Feb. 2 with a new understanding of music, Chinese music in particular.
He had just seen a performance by Shen Yun Performing Arts, a classical Chinese dance group that tours with a full orchestra.
The Shen Yun orchestra blends the East with the West. World-class trumpeters, trombonists, and violinists create a symphonic grandeur that is not normally associated with Eastern music. Yet its melodies are played by traditional Chinese instruments, such as the two stringed violin (erhu) and the Chinese lute, which give the music a distinct Chinese flavor.
“I used to play violin for 15 years,” Mr. Brownell said. “But the two stringed violin is absolutely gorgeous.”
The erhu, which has a history of 4,000 years, is said to be the closest instrument to imitating a human voice and its complex emotions.
“The erhu is incredibly expressive, capable of imitating sounds from chirping birds to neighing horses,” states Shen Yun’s website.
“It’s so different from what I’m used to,” said Mr. Brownell. “It doesn’t sound like a normal string instrument that we hear in America. It was beautiful.”
All the musical pieces are composed by Shen Yun composers under Chinese musical theory principles.
“I love how the music ebbs and flows. It’s very original and very natural,” Mr. Brownell said. “It’s very emotional too, it’s tied to the history of the show.”
Many Chinese relics and cultural celebrations were destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The ruling communist regime continues to twist certain aspects of Chinese culture for its political usage today, according to Shen Yun’s website.
Hence, Shen Yun was founded in 2006 by a group of overseas Chinese artists who wished to revive traditional Chinese culture.
“Shen Yun was formed when a group of classical Chinese artists came together with a mission to revive the true, divinely inspired culture of China,” states the website. “Shen Yun’s quest has since drawn top talent from around the world—many are winners of international competitions in dance and choreography, music, and singing.”
Shen Yun’s dancers are adorned with handmade costumes, from imperial dragon robes to the warrior’s helmet and armor.
Mr. Brownell said the costumes were wonderful and beautiful.
The performance was fantastic,” he added. “It was wonderful. I loved the interaction between the characters.”
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun New York Company is performing in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center Opera House from Jan 30 — Feb 3. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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