SAN FRANCISCO—A. Randy Johnson, a San Francisco-based saxophone player, composer, and arranger trained in Classical and Jazz music, was delighted to listen to Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 22 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.
“Everybody here is a stellar musician,” he said. “I’m really enjoying listening to such high quality music.”
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, which is part of New York-based and world-renowned Shen Yun Performing Arts, is on the last night of its seven-city tour that it began in late September at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington, DC.
The orchestra is one-of-a-kind. It “melds the spirit, beauty, and distinctiveness of Chinese music with the precision, power, and grandeur of the Western symphony orchestra,” according to its website.
“I was really enjoying seeing the mixture of traditional Chinese instruments with the Western classical instruments,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that he was “watching people’s fingers while they were plucking furiously with all five. I was really enjoying that.”
He was referring to the pipa, or Chinese lute, a plucking instrument that is one of the most expressive Chinese instruments.
“My favorite part was the flute duet,” Mr. Johnson said, referring to A.B. Furstenau’s Rondo Brillant for Two Flutes and Orchestra, op. 102. “The intervals and the harmonies were amazing, and the ladies were incredibly talented. Their timing and their synchronicity was amazing.”
From an analytic perspective and as a trained musician, Mr. Johnson said he enjoyed “the pentatonic feel and a lot of the really quiet, quick tremolos on the violin and cello. Listening to things that are indicative of a different culture but played on Western instruments—beautiful.”
Mr. Johnson understands the challenge of using a Western symphony orchestra to present China’s authentic traditions.
As the company’s website says, “Interpreting Chinese musical styles on Western musical instruments requires remarkable versatility, informed imagination, and rigorous collaboration on the part of the composer, conductor, and performers.”
“I’m enjoying it all,” Mr. Johnson said. “If I could smell the orchestra, I’d probably enjoy that too. I’m really just listening to it, watching it, feeling [it], listening to things I haven’t heard before, especially in such a beautiful hall with so many amazing musicians. It’s nice.”
Reporting by NTD and Albert Roman
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra has finished its seven-city tour with performances in Washington, D.C.; New York; Boston; Houston; Dallas; Los Angeles; and San Francisco. Hear the orchestra as part of Shen Yun Performing Arts, Jan 4–12, 2014, in San Francisco. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts