MELBOURNE, Australia—“It was just fantastic, absolutely stunning,” said Douglas Heywood, OAM, baritone, conductor, and musical director for different choir groups after experiencing Shen Yun Performing Arts at Melbourne’s prestigious State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, on Saturday March 29.
Mr. Heywood attended Shen Yun with his wife, Alexandra Cameron, director of music at Wesley College, an esteemed private school in Melbourne.
The New York based Shen Yun has classical Chinese dance at its heart but also includes folk and ethnic dances accompanied by an orchestra and also singing performances, among other features.
As one of Melbourne’s most sought-after Baritone soloists in the sixties and a long time choral conductor, Mr. Heywood appreciated the solo singing performances. Shen Yun’s vocalists use the bel canto style to sing Chinese lyrics.
He said, “I thought the singers had great sense of power, a great sense of presence on stage. … It is just so great to hear such strong powerful voices. And their stage presence and their command of the song, it’s just really wonderful to hear.
“I feel a strong connection with them as a singer,” he added.
Along with the composition of the music, the words of a song are very important, Mr. Heywood pointed out. He felt there was an important message in their performance.
“The message behind the song is very important. If they believe what they are singing and it comes across, it doesn’t matter what language they sing in, it speaks to us all. … There is a message they are trying to get out, and it’s not the type of music that is difficult for the rest of us to understand, it is quite clearly understood by Western ears as well as Chinese ears.”
He continued, “I saw artists up there believing what they are singing about and being in command of the song, the spirit of the song, and the message of the song.”
Mr. Heywood is also an orchestral conductor so he paid particular attention to Shen Yun’s unique orchestra that blends traditional Chinese instruments with a classical Western orchestra.
He said, “The conductor, did a wonderful job with the orchestra. It was really fine and good to hear them. And the mixture of the instruments is just wonderful.”
The Shen Yun website states: “Is it possible for the disparate sounds of East and West to find harmony? Many have tried and failed. But the ability to seamlessly blend these two systems to create one fresh, harmonious sound is what makes the Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra unique.”
Shen Yun Musics Very ‘Energetic’
Shen Yun’s music, Mr. Heywood said, was very “energetic.”
“A lovely balance, control and discipline. Really a lovely performance by the orchestra.”
The combination of Chinese and Western instruments appealed to Mr. Heywood.
“They work very well together. They blend very well together. It adds to the colour of the orchestra; adds to the interest of the orchestra. Particularly in the comedy sections; some of those delightful sounds they made was just wonderful music.”
Ms. Cameron also appreciated Shen Yun’s music.
Referring to the dance piece When Play Turns to Panic, Ms. Cameron explained the value of the mixture of Chinese and Western instruments.
“It was very funny, very cheeky with the monks. And the instruments, the comic elements of the Chinese instruments, very funny. And I thought the way they worked the Chinese instruments in with the Western was very clever,” she said.
Mr. Heywood felt the Chinese instruments “add a different colour to the sound, they add a different dimension to the strength of the whole orchestra.”
As a director of music Ms. Cameron also loved the orchestra.
“I enjoyed the show very much. I enjoyed the music. … I particularly liked the erhu, the two-string instrument, when it comes through, it’s quite sad, and quite poignant. It’s just beautiful!”
The erhu is a traditional Chinese instrument and is often referred to as a two stringed violin.
As a teacher Ms. Cameron felt Shen Yun provides an educational experience for students. “That’s really important,” she said.
“To tell the history, the depth of China and its background, and to introduce it to Western countries.
“I can tell my students and we can learn a lot from the Chinese culture. … To experience music, and dance, and songs from other cultures.”
Shen Yun ‘Very Memorable’
Ms. Cameron said Shen Yun is “Very memorable; beautiful and memorable.”
There were so many aspects to the performance that Mr. Heywood loved.
“The costumes are beautiful. The colour of the costumes and the variety of the costumes were stunning.
“The background, the use on the back of stage, superb! And I always find them wonderful when you see them come off stage and go up to heaven. That’s just wonderful.
“The choreography, the dancing, is so precise, and often so delicate, just so beautiful to watch. It really is.”
Mr. Heywood has seen Shen Yun in previous years and said he would love to come again next year. He said he would recommend Shen Yun to everyone.
“Come and see a show that will take you for a walk through history of the Chinese for the last 5000 years. There’s full of character, there’s some absolutely beautiful dancing, some lovely comedy in it, and it’s just a wonderful night of entertainment. Definitely come and see it.”
Mr. Heywood, one of the best known and well respected Musical Directors in Melbourne, started his career as a Baritone soloist and quickly became the most sought after in the sixties. He held many prestigious positions in the past, among them principal with the National Theatre Opera Company, long time conductor of the Hallelujah Chorus at Channel 9, Vision Australia, national broadcast of Carols by Candlelight, and lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts.
Mr. Hewood has a long and distinguished career conducting many choirs and orchestras and many years involvement in the community of Melbourne. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to community music and music education.
Reporting by NTD Television and Leigh Smith
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006