Musician: Shen Yun Orchestra Soothing and Fluid

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
December 1, 2012 Updated: August 14, 2015

HOUSTON—Stirling Ablack, a professional trumpet player, also works for an energy company in Houston. Mr. Ablack celebrated New Year’s Eve with Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company at the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts. 

“I think it’s beautiful. I think the thing that most impresses me is how fluid everything is—so gentle and so light,” Mr. Ablack said.

Based in New York, Shen Yun presents colorful and exhilarating performances of classical Chinese dance and music, according to its website.

Mr. Ablack has been recognized for perfect pitch on the trumpet. Mr. Alback trained as a classical trumpeter and has played in orchestras, and in salsa bands. Mr. Alback is currently with the Houston Brass Band, Houston’s premier musical ensemble and shares “the unique spirit and beauty of British-style brass band music.”

Speaking of the Shen Yun Orchestra, the musician said, “The music itself, being a trumpet player, the strong points are not so harsh. It’s very clean, very rhythmic with the rhythms they use.”

Mr. Ablack responded to the unique musical flavor that comes from including Chinese instruments with the orchestra. “What I really like is also when they use the authentic instruments. The two-stringed erhu—that’s my favorite. When they do that it’s like that’s it—there it is—there’s the sound.”

He loved both how the music evoked the ancient civilization and how the music works with the choreography. “It actually takes you back in time to exactly what that sound could’ve been. It’s just beautiful to see the typing in of that music with how fluidly they move,” Mr. Alback said.

According to Shen Yun’s website, the erhu is one of the most important Chinese instruments, with a history of over 4,000 years. Though it has only two strings, it can convey a wide range of emotions. It is often referred to as the “Chinese violin.”

Shen Yun’s blends East and West like no other, and the distinct Chinese sound of ancient instruments like the erhu and the pipa are bathed in a rich sea of Western strings, percussion, woodwinds, and brass, according to its website.

“It’s funny because I want to hear more of the Chinese instruments. It actually works pretty good,” Mr. Alback said. “On a Chinese scale there’s more than twelve notes in a scale, and they’re handling it very well as they pitch bending. They use quarter tones [the Western instruments], and it’s beautiful that they’re in sync with each other.”

“A lot of times when they [musicians] do something like that there’s clashes—but you don’t hear it at all [here], they’ve worked it out. I like the mix of it,” Mr. Alback said.

He was really focused on the trumpet player during the performance. “Because I play trumpet I was focusing on him and he played very beautifully, especially when he was articulating up and down the horn—how smooth it was. So, I’m taking that back with me,” he said with a little laugh. “I’m very aware of it.”

Spending the New Year at a Shen Yun performance held special meaning for Mr. Alback. He said he was really grateful to spend the evening “with people who respect and love all this stuff, and to be with family—as well as just seeing something new.”

He came with a friend who is an opera singer and another friend who is a sculptor. 

“I’m really appreciative of the arts. It kind of sets you free for the New Year—for new ideas, new thoughts, and something new to see,” he said.

Reporting by Sunny Chen and Kelly Ni.

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s International Company will be performing in Houston through January 1. For more information, visit

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