WASHINGTON, D.C.—John Hemleben raised an interesting question after attending a Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra (SYSO) performance at the Music Center at Strathmore: “[We’re] humans here on earth, I mean. If we were just something out of the abyss, we wouldn’t need music, would we?”
If we were just made of bits of flesh and bone, of only material substances, would we need something soulful in our lives?
“But we are human beings, created from God and by God,” he said. Mr. Hemleben is the dean of academics for the College of Distance Education and Training at the Marine Corp University.
Mr. Hemleben and his wife have attended Shen Yun Performing Arts before, the classical Chinese dance and music company that has become so renown around the world. The couple felt that it was just phenomenal.
“We heard about this, and we thought we’d give this a try,” he said on Sunday, Oct. 13. “Beauty about this is you can focus on the music. … So it’s really breathtaking. It’s wonderful.”
The Shen Yun orchestra has created musical magic by seamlessly combining traditional instruments from both the East and West. What emerges when ancient Chinese instruments like the pipa and erhu sit side by side with clarinets and violins of a Western symphony is a whole new sound: Chinese melodies with classical orchestration.
Mr. Hemleben commented on the wonderful blending of the woodwinds and brasses, and the precision of the strings. “And the percussion is just fantastic. So it’s a great, great performance.”
Having been stationed in Japan as a Marine, Mr. Hemleben admits to a fondness for Asian music in general. He even has a small collection of Chinese music on CDs.
The performance by SYSO offers a “kind of a tour of the East,” he said, by folding the traditional Chinese instruments into a bigger sound. “I like the traditional instruments. Those are really fantastic. It’s just brings me … a mysterious music, maybe not mysterious, but it’s such a different type of music. The blending of the notes is so different than Western music.”
That tour to the East extends farther than a trip around the globe. It offers a reminder of our souls. “So, yes, I totally believe that [music] is, it is a gift from God. It is—it is wonderful,” he said.
Reporting by NTD Television and Sharon Kilarski.