TORONTO—The music of Shen Yun Performing Arts is wonderfully unique and theatregoers raved about it from a couple of different angles after the finale in Toronto on the afternoon of April 24.
Shen Yun’s orchestra consists of Western instruments that play the foundation, while traditional Chinese instruments lead the melodies. “The ensemble at once expresses both the grandeur of a Western orchestra and the distinct sensibilities of China’s 5,000-year-old civilization,” according to the group’s website.
Long-time music teacher Melissa Arkell attended the matinee with her husband and praised Shen Yun’s music—both the orchestra and the soloists.
“I loved the blend of other instruments as well as the Western instruments,” said Ms. Arkell about the Chinese instruments, which aren’t typically found in an orchestra.
“I love different sounding instruments. Well put together,” she said. “The orchestra very much complemented the dancers and the singers.”
One instrumental solo that usually evokes an emotional response from the audience is the erhu, also known as the Chinese violin. The two-stringed instrument actually rests in the performer’s lap as opposed to on the shoulder.
“An alto instrument with a middle-high musical range, its melodies can be tender or sonorous,” according to Shen Yun’s website. “In its lowest and middle range, the erhu is especially stirring and sombre, a quality eminently suitable for conveying the grand pageant of China’s history and the emotions of its people.”
Ms. Arkell was touched by a piece titled “Divine Elegance,” performed by Erhu soloist Lu Sun.
“She was very skilled and very musical and I think that her solo was so moving and so emotional,” she said.
Ms. Arkell is also a singer, and as such thoroughly enjoyed Shen Yun’s vocal soloists. Of note to her was the male tenor Tian Ge sing, who she described as “very well developed.”
Janna Donskoy, a real estate lawyer who attended the show with her husband Alex, a doctor, said she learned a lot about Chinese culture and called it a “very eye-opening experience.” The couple was seeing Shen Yun for the first time.
“The music could be a good medicine, I agree with that. It’s my profession,” Mr. Donskoy said. “It’s very soothing, good for the soul.”
A Shen Yun performance has dancing, music, singing, and storytelling, and takes the audience through a 5,000-year journey of Chinese civilization. The different eras of Chinese culture depicted a variety of ethnic dances, and the all-male Mongolian dance “Drums of the Grasslands” stood out as it’s a similar culture to that of the Russians, Mrs. Donskoy said.
But despite similarities, describing Shen Yun is difficult. “They have to see it for themselves,” Ms. Donskoy said. “It’s a wonderful experience. It’s very hard to explain to somebody until they actually see it and have the full experience. So they should come to the show see it for themselves.”
New York-based Shen Yun is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company and is in its 10th year coming to Toronto. After five shows in Toronto, Shen Yun heads to nearby Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre for four shows starting Tuesday, April 26.
Reporting by Becky Zhou and Rahul Vaidyanath
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s International Company is currently touring Eastern Canada. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.