NEW YORK—Judy and Michael Nyquist wanted a refreshing experience for their 25th wedding anniversary, and the couple found it through music. It was a marriage of ancient Chinese culture with the tradition of the grand Western symphony, performed at Carnegie Hall by Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra.
“It fills your spirit,” said Mrs. Nyquist after the performance Saturday afternoon. The couple praised the unique performance, which included original compositions featuring Chinese instruments, bel canto solo vocalists, and familiar pieces like Antonin Dvorak’s “Carnival” overture and Leroy Anderson’s “Bugler’s Holiday.”
Beyond the technical feat of integrating ancient Chinese instruments into a full symphony, the experience gave Mrs. Nyquist “a new awakening, a new awareness.”
“Being an artist, it was very heartfelt,” said Mrs. Nyquist, a sculptor. “I took it very much internally; it was very emotional at moments.”
Mrs. Nyquist wanted to delve into the inner meaning of the pieces performed. She gestured as she referenced in the program book the lyrics of “A Song For You,” performed by soprano Geng Haolan.
The song ends with, “This melody is from Heaven above,” which Mrs. Nyquist felt resonated throughout the performance.
“This philosophy … is very intrinsic to the symphony,” said Mrs. Nyquist. “I thought this was very eye opening—the universal knowledge—not just what you see and hear, but tapping into this.”
Behind all of Shen Yun’s music lies the belief that the enduring traditions of classical Western and Chinese music are divine gifts, according to the orchestra’s website.
The original compositions performed, including the bel canto solos, were arranged from pieces created for previous seasons of Shen Yun Performing Arts. The orchestra combines about 100 musicians from the four touring companies’ orchestras.
Shen Yun was established in 2006 to revive the divinely inspired Chinese culture, and the orchestra seeks to restore those melodies, according to the website.
Two of the prominently featured instruments, the two-stringed erhu and plucked pipa, were especially notable to the couple. According to the website, the Chinese instruments carry the melody while the symphony provides a backdrop—allowing Shen Yun to seamlessly combine these sounds on a scale no other ensemble has been able to before.
Mr. Nyquist, a builder, said he felt at a loss for words to fully describe the experience.
“Beautiful,” Mr. Nyquist said. “It was very relaxing.”
“Music has that effect on you, and it certainly kind of held me,” Mrs. Nyquist said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra is on a seven-city tour with performances in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, Chicago, Miami, and Sarasota, through Oct. 27. For more information, visit www.shenyun.com/symphony.