SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company brought 5,000 years of Chinese civilization to excited theatergoers who sold out the historic Granada Theatre March 30.
Fern Fay, a music teacher at Ventura College and also a pianist and organist, was highly impressed with the performance, including the Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra, which combines classical Western instruments with traditional Chinese instruments.
Mrs. Fay said that the combination of musical traditions “is so vital now in the educational system, it’s not only good for humanity, but [it] brings the cultures together.”
“I’m analyzing constantly what’s Eastern, what’s Western, who’s in the orchestra pit, [and] what instruments are they playing,” she said.
Shen Yun is a New York-based, classical Chinese dance and music company that tours to over 100 cities in some 20 countries on its mission to revive traditional Chinese culture.
Each performance includes a variety of vignettes that bring to life ancient myths and legends, as well as modern heroic tales, all of which embody China’s values and rich culture.
Each dance piece is accompanied by the orchestra, which plays original compositions created specifically for each vignette.
Shen Yun’s website explains, “A Western philharmonic orchestra plays the foundation, while traditional Chinese instruments lead the melodies. The sound produced is uniquely pleasing to the ear. 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 ability to seamlessly blend these two systems to create one fresh, harmonious sound is what makes the Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra unique,” according to the company website.
Mrs. Fay said she would recommend Shen Yun to her friends, “absolutely.”
Shen Yun: ‘A+, Outstanding’
Don Fay, Fern’s Fay’s husband, also attended the March 30 matinee and was likewise impressed.
“It’s a beautiful show,” he said. “A+. Outstanding.”
Mr. Fay is an award-winning artist in the fields of commercial and fine arts. He has completed corporate murals, taught watercolor classes at the college level, and has held over 30 one-man shows and he continues to exhibit in galleries and juried exhibitions.
He said he appreciates the long heritage of Chinese culture.
“I enjoy the culture and the artwork,” he said.
Like his wife, Mr. Fay enjoyed the orchestra.
“Oh my goodness! They play so well,” he said. “I enjoy the Chinese instruments, too.”
He was impressed with the Shen Yun musicians’ skill using the pipa, or Chinese lute, which is known as the “king” of Chinese folk instruments.
“They make their fingers go so fast—it’s amazing. Amazing.”
Mr. Fay said he has visited China and seen performances, “but I think this is much more comprehensive,” he said, referring to Shen Yun’s presentation of China’s 5,000-year civilization.
In addition to the live orchestra, another major feature of Shen Yun is the digital, animated backdrop, which Mr. Fay especially appreciated.
“Oh, that’s beautiful,” he said. “That’s so well worked out, the way they [the dancers] jump close to the screen and then their images go up on the screen and out into infinity. That’s beautiful. So well done. So artistic.”
He was referring to the integration of the dancers and the backdrop, where dancers leap from the back of the stage and then appear as animated characters in flight on the backdrop, and then descend from the backdrop and appear on stage.
Shen Yun’s website explains, “The backdrops are magical windows to completely different realms. From vast open grasslands in one dance to the stately elegance of Tang Dynasty pavilions in another; from dusty yellow battlegrounds to tropical beaches to Himalayan peaks to picturesque scenery of the Yellow River Delta—the digital projection infinitely expands and transforms the stage.”
Mr. Fay feels that Shen Yun is the antidote to today’s “almost nihilistic or thoughtless music” that contains “a certain meanness in the art, in the music.”
“I think this kind of thing [Shen Yun] defeats it,” he said, adding that Shen Yun has more of a “feeling of blessedness.”
Shen Yun’s Orchestra ‘Top notch’
Glen Newcomb, a professional musician, was another artist at the matinee performance at the Granada Theatre March 30, and he also had high praise for Shen Yun.
“Oh it’s magnificent. The orchestra is just top notch, and the dancers were just magnificent,” he said.
He described that, while watching the performance, he experienced a “feeling of elation, and the beauty of it was just wonderful. Very exciting,” he said.
The Shen Yun website explains, “For 5,000 years divine culture flourished in the land of China. Humanity’s treasure was nearly lost, but through breathtaking music and dance, Shen Yun is bringing back this glorious culture.”
Mr. Newcomb was touched by the spirituality conveyed in the performance.
“I’m very much in with the spiritual aspect. I’m a church musician, as well as a professional musician. And very involved in my church, so I think it’s beautiful. Just beautiful.”
Because of the ongoing repression of spirituality and expression by the communist regime, Shen Yun cannot be seen in China today.
Mr. Newcomb said that people are fortunate to be able to see Shen Yun in the United States, and he would recommend Shen Yun.
“Oh, definitely! The show is just [a] total blending of the music and the dance and the spirituality,” he said.
Reporting by Jana Li, Jenny Liu, and Albert Roman
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