SAN JOSE, Calif.—Piano teacher Mary Venard found the music of Shen Yun Performing Arts “very beautiful,” while enjoying the whole artistic performance.
“We hadn’t seen anything like it, that’s why we came,” Ms. Venard said after seeing the Jan. 6 performance at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, adding that she loved the colors and costumes.
Shen Yun, based in New York, has a core of classical Chinese dance, one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world, according to the company’s website.
Yet it was the orchestra that Ms. Venard connected with the most, being a musician herself.
“It’s very beautiful,” she said.
Shen Yun’s orchestra deftly melds a foundation of classical Western instruments and an overlay of traditional Chinese instruments.
“The sound produced is uniquely pleasing to the ear,” states Shen Yun’s website. “The ensemble at once expresses both the grandeur of a Western orchestra and the distinct sensibilities of China’s 5,000-year-old civilization.”
The Chinese instruments are unique and varied; there’s the lute, a thousands-year old instrument that is plucked while being held upright on the knee; the pengling, or handbells, that “produce a clear and lovely reverberating sound”; and multiple bronze gongs of differing sizes, which are “often used to enhance the music’s power, accentuate its beat, or express sacred solemnity,” according to the company’s website.
Ms. Venard said she loved the blend of Chinese and Western instruments.
“I thought it made a wonderful sound,” she said. “The orchestra was terrific.”
Interspersed with sets of dance pieces, Shen Yun’s tenors and sopranos use the bel canto style while singing Chinese lyrics (an English translation is shown on the backdrop behind them).
“The lyrics are all original compositions. Brimming with philosophical reflection about human life and deep layers of meaning, they traverse the boundaries of nation, race, and culture and have been fondly received and appreciated the world over. Some audience members even call Shen Yun’s songs ‘hymns,’” says the company’s website.
Mrs. Venard said she enjoyed the vocal portion of the performance, particularly the “superb” tenor.
Overall, the performance enchanted the piano teacher.
“I think,” she said. “I put it down as spectacular for all ages.”
Reporting by Gary Wang and Zachary Stieber
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s Touring Company will be in Vancouver until Jan. 13, while the New York Company will complete its tour of eastern Canada with five shows in Toronto from Jan. 17–20. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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