HARTFORD, Conn.—Classically trained composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Avgerinos was living his dream when he attended the matinee session of Shen Yun Performing Arts at The William H. Mortensen Hall in Hartford.
After receiving pamphlets advertising Shen Yun in his mailbox for many years, Avgerinos decided that this time he was not going to miss out. He immediately bought tickets for the Dec. 26 show and was very glad that he did.
“It’s wonderful to see the ancient Chinese culture portrayed in such a magnificent way. I’m a student of Chinese history and culture and I’m especially fond of the ancient traditions of Taoism and Lao Tzu and Tao Te Ching, and so it’s wonderful to see [Shen Yun keeping] this fabulous tradition alive,” said Avgerinos, who has performed with numerous orchestras, including as principal bassist with the Hong Kong Philharmonic.
Shen Yun’s mini-dramas, portrayed by its dancers, tell of Chinese legends, history, as well as moral tales; drawing their content from the teachings of ancient Chinese sages and spiritual leaders.
While mentioning the comical “Restaurant Tale” and the beautiful “Plum Blossom in Spring” dances, Avgerinos was emphatic that all the dances in the repertoire were wonderful.
Shen Yun’s form of classical dance, which evolved through dynasty after dynasty, has become one of the world’s most comprehensive dance systems. It also presents ethnic and folk dances that take the audience from the plains of Mongolia to the plateaus of Tibet with a range of unique dance styles.
“I love the combination of the Chinese instruments with the Western orchestral instruments—it’s fabulous. I grew up in the orchestra playing classical music so it’s a lovely combination and to hear a live orchestra,” said Avgerinos.
Avgerinos described his own genre of music as suited for meditation and deep relaxation.
“But I have done Chinese-inspired pieces for 30 years now, especially back in the 80s and early 90s. I did quite a few because I would just dream that I was in the palaces or walking with Lao Tzu listening to the Chinese philosophy and do a piece called ‘Jade Garden’ or the ‘Lotus Blossoms.’ It’s just such a rich tradition. Since I was a teenager, I was fascinated with the Chinese.”
The skill of the musicians was very high, Avgerinos noted.
“It’s not easy to combine the Chinese instruments with the Western because the tuning systems are different; the concept of where the notes should be in relation to each other, it’s a little different. It’s tricky but they did a good job. It’s seamless … you forget that you’re hearing a mixture which is excellent,” he said.
Avgerinos said Chinese culture warms his heart.
“There’s something very special about the ancient Chinese traditions. It’s just so beautiful, and something we can’t lose—it’s priceless. … Because of all the modern life … society is forgetting its fabulous history.”
Technology has enabled an easier and more prosperous mode of living, which is good, said Avgerinos. “But, don’t lose touch with the tradition because that’s what makes us great, the connection with the divine.”
Many audience members find Shen Yun’s soloists inspirational. Included in the program was a song in bel canto style sung by Shen Yun’s tenor.
“I think that the essence of … what the fabulous tenor sang, was that our purpose here is to remember that we are divine! That’s very deep—the purpose of human life is to awaken to the divine and it was sung in that song so beautifully. That’s about as profound as you can get,” Avgerinos explained.
Avgerinos said a performance such as Shen Yun provides hope to people who are living in times of stress and depression,
“I think it helps to remember [that] people have been struggling with good and evil for thousands of years and they’ve been trying to connect with the divine … it’s important. It gives people a sense of history. You know now things are tough … but it will pass. It’s good to help people to look beyond,” he said.
Reporting by Frank Liang and Diane Cordemans.