MISSISSAUGA, Canada—Musicians Grant Slater and Sunshine Parry drove over an hour and a half from Barrie to catch the final performance of Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Living Arts Centre on April 28. And they were very happy they came.
“We are musicians, so we love the live band,” Mr. Slater said, referring to the acclaimed Shen Yun Orchestra. He is a keyboard player and has himself performed at the Living Arts Centre many times, such as with Colm Wilkinson, the tenor and actor in the title role in “The Phantom of the Opera.”
“The orchestra was fantastic,” said Ms. Parry, who plays the flute and enjoyed both of the flute players in the orchestra. “Very clear sound, good tune, good toning. Both players were exceptional,” she said.
New York-based Shen Yun was founded on a mission to revive the traditional culture of China through the universal language of dance and music. It takes an all-new program of classical Chinese dance and music on tour every year all around the world.
What makes its orchestra unique is its seamless blending of Western and Chinese instruments to create a fresh, harmonious sound. To achieve that effect, it has the Western orchestra play the foundation while traditional Chinese instruments lead the melodies.
Mr. Slater especially noticed the “beautiful, haunting” sound of the erhu, or Chinese two-stringed violin, which has a history of over 4,000 years and is capable of conveying a wide range of emotions.
‘Completely in sync’
True to his profession as a musician, Mr. Slater said that “half the time” he was watching the orchestra, and he and Ms. Parry both had high praise for conductor Chia-Chi Lin. “She was fantastic,” both said.
“I’ve worked with conductors and I could see I’d like to work with her,” Mr. Slater said, noting that Ms.Lin conducted very well and was easy to follow. “She was very expressive in her movements,” he added.
The orchestra was “completely in sync,” he said. “It just seemed so natural.”
Ms. Parry noted how “it was pretty flawless,” particularly in its synchronicity with the digitally animated backdrops accompanying each piece, showing dancers emerging from and entering into the background scenery according to the storyline.
“The scenes behind it, and how the performers were jumping and flying at the same time—everything was timed, precision timing is what I call it. It’s very, very good,” she said.
‘Roller coaster of emotions’
They both described having deep feelings after seeing Shen Yun. “Very emotional, it was a roller coaster of emotions, it really was,” Mr. Slater said.
This was because of the combination of the dance, the music, and the scenery being “all around you.” “At some points it felt like a really good old Disney movie,” he said, due to the music and the animation in the backdrop. “I loved this part of it, it made you feel like a kid!”
Ms. Parry said she felt “very inspired [by] the combination of the colours and the music and the message behind it.”
She was referring to the song texts of the vocal pieces performed by Shen Yun’s singers, who use the bel canto operatic technique to sing Chinese text. To meet the challenges inherent in this technique while retaining proper Chinese pronunciation and diction is not an easy feat, as noted by the Shen Yun website.
What spoke to Ms. Parry were the original works written for these pieces that were rich with philosophical reflection about human life. She appreciated seeing the lyrics projected on the backdrop.
“It was very interesting for us to see, and to be able to read in English, when the soloists were singing, to get the full sense of it,” she said.
“The singers were very emotional. Everyone involved put 110 percent into everything, every note, every movement, the costume designers, the choreographers, it all came together, just perfectly.”
“Definitely a group effort on that one. We’ll definitely see it again,” said Ms. Parry.
Reporting by Dongyu Teng and Cindy Chan
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s International Company is currently touring Eastern Canada. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.