Costume Designer Says Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra Kept Him on His Fingertips

October 17, 2014

TORONTO—It is said that the origins of Chinese music can be traced back some 4,000 years. Audience members at Roy Thompson Hall bore witness to this rich history on Oct. 16 at Canada’s first Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra performance.

Attendee Ken Druce, a retired television costume designer, had been anticipating the event after hearing about the acclaimed orchestra—the first to successfully blend Eastern and Western instruments—and was thrilled to experience it firsthand. 

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to hear, but now that I’ve heard it I love it,” he said after the Thursday evening performance. 

“I’m very glad that I took the time to come see it, and it’s been rewarding.”

Before retirement Mr. Druce had a long career designing costumes for television movies and series, many of which were broadcast on CBC. Witnessing Shen Yun’s musicianship struck a creative chord, he said. 

“They’re excellent, excellent. I was on ‘fingertips,'” he joked. “I would like to play all those instruments.”

A treasure trove of instruments is featured in every Shen Yun performance. Along with hallmarks of the classic Western orchestra, such as brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion, Shen Yun incorporates ancient Chinese instruments like the two-stringed erhu and the plucked pipa. 

“The fusion is wonderful,” said Mr. Druce, who was particularly moved by the sound of the pipa. “Incredible,” he noted.

Known as the “king” of the Chinese instruments, the pipa, or Chinese lute, is capable of a wide array of playing techniques and expressive depth, and is often featured in Chinese folk music and legends.

“The way they play is so delicate, and the music is so light and delicate,” said Mr.Druce. “It’s a wonderful combination.”

According to the Shen Yun website, the orchestra captures the individual essences of both Eastern and Western musical styles and blends them into one distinctive sound. 

“Traditional Chinese music emphasizes the expression of inner feelings—the ancients always used musical instruments to relate their states of mind,” reads the website. 

“Western music, meanwhile, focuses on the overall effect of the musical ensemble—and to achieve that, arrangement and harmony are of utmost importance. 

“Shen Yun’s music combines these approaches to capture the essence of both East and West.”

With reporting by Dongyu Teng and Justina Wheale

New York-based Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra comprises musicians from the four Shen Yun Performing Arts touring companies. Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time.

The orchestra’s North American tour runs through Oct. 27. For more information, visit

Toronto, Canada
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra