Baritone, Conductor, Musical Director: Shen Yun ‘Thoroughly Engaging’

April 14, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Douglas Heywood and Alexandra Cameron attend Shen Yun
Douglas Heywood and Alexandra Cameron attend Shen Yun Performing Arts in Melbourne's Regent Theatre. (Chen Ming/The Epoch Times)

MELBOURNE, Australia—Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company graced the stage at The Regent Theatre on April 13, enchanting the audience with a visually compelling performance. The audience were so appreciative they often applauded during the performance pieces and encouraged tenor Hong Ming to give an encore.

“I was fascinated at times the way they just seemed to glide across the stage, the dancers,” said Douglas Heywood, a baritone, musician and conductor who has been granted the Order of Australia. “It’s wonderful. A thoroughly engaging performance, thoroughly engaging.”

Shen Yun was formed in New York with the mission of reviving the 5,000 year-old, divinely inspired Chinese culture, after this culture was nearly decimated by more than 60 years of communist rule in China, according to the company’s website.

Mr. Heywood was drawn to Shen Yun’s orchestra, which uniquely combines both Western and Eastern classical instruments.

I loved the sound of the orchestra,” he said, also complimenting the conductor. “The orchestra did a fantastic job.”

At the heart of a Shen Yun Performance is classical Chinese dance, an ancient system that is drawing on profound wisdom from every era and dynasty through thousands of years, it is one of the hardest to master in the world according to the company’s website.

For Mr. Heywood, the dance Snowflakes Welcoming Spring stood out. In the northeastern folk dance, “dancers take small, quick steps through snowy fields as they skillfully spin and twirl sequined handkerchiefs,” describes Shen Yun’s program. “In the end, the snow finally melts to reveal winter’s parting gift: the birth of spring.”

“It just flowed,” said Mr. Heywood, “and I was fascinated how they could get all the snowflakes working.”

The choreography seen in and the different moods evoked by each dance were aspects that Mr. Heywood appreciated.

“What I loved about it was not only the energy of the dance but also the lovely flowing movement of it and the choreography is just stunning, absolutely stunning,” he said.

The performance transports audiences throughout the land of China with digital backdrops, described by Shen Yun’s website as “magical windows to completely different realms.” Examples of the scenery include Himalayan peaks and the stately elegance of Tang Dynasty pavilions. Dancers are adorned with handcrafted, vividly-colored costumes.

“I think the colours of the costumes are quite stunning, they really were,” said Mr. Heywood.

Douglas Heywood was one of Melbourne’s most sought-after Baritone soloists in 1966 and is now a musical director, orchestral conductor and university lecturer in music and education. He was awarded an OAM for his services to community music and music education.

Alexandra Cameron, Mr. Heywood’s wife who teaches music at an elite Melbourne school accompanied him to the performance.
“I really enjoyed hearing the orchestra,” she said. “I really enjoyed the way the Master of Ceremonies introduced all the parts of the orchestra.”

She really enjoyed the 4,000 year-old erhu, also known as the two-stringed Chinese violin saying “it is very beautiful.”

Ms. Cameron continued, “I really enjoyed all the costumes, the colors and the movements. The ladies dancing with their big long sleeves, the material and color are so creative. I love the program today, it is so delicate.”

The dance Lotus Leaves caught her attention, “I love the flowers, the blossoms and the fan.” She continued, “the way that they use their fans is so simple, so elegant and so beautiful. The use of the fan, the man with the fan made a noise, the lady with the fan was so graceful. It is so simple, so effective.”

As a music teacher Ms. Cameron was very interested in the live orchestra.

“The combination of Western/European and Eastern/Chinese instrument is beautiful and it really works.

“The music accompanying the dances is very strong, very powerful.

“The composer is to be commended, as every piece is lovely.

“I love the trumpet, I love the brass.

“The strong starting with gong and percussion, and then it goes to something soft, smart.
In summing up she added, “I really enjoyed tonight. Just the different instruments and dancing.

“I would bring the message to everybody and around the world.”

Reporting by Beatrice Li and Zachary Stieber.

Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, tours the world on a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company will perform at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne, Australia, through April 15.

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