NEW YORK—Laurie and Wes Parks of Camden, South Carolina, were on their annual visit to New York City when an upcoming concert at Carnegie Hall caught their attention: Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra.
“It just sounded fascinating,” said Mrs. Parks, Camden City Councilwoman.
Indeed, the performance moved both Camdens to tears. “I’m so glad we came,” Mrs. Parks said during the intermission.
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra is the world’s only philharmonic including traditional Chinese instruments as permanent members. The Western orchestra serves as a foundation, accentuating the distinct sounds of the Chinese instruments.
Mrs. Parks was amazed by the variety the program offered. “I mean, you’ve got Puccini, you’ve got Dvořák, you’ve got everything. And then you’ve got the Chinese element in it,” she said. “It was beautiful.”
Aside from the Western classics, the orchestra features original Shen Yun compositions based on ancient Chinese melodies.
Mrs. Parks praised the original compositions, specifically the “Steadfast Lotus,” a piece depicting a story of “a young girl who summons great inner strength” after her mother is persecuted to death in modern-day China for practicing the spiritual discipline Falun Dafa, according to the orchestra’s website.
Falun Dafa is an ancient practice of self-cultivation persecuted in China since 1999, after its practitioners outnumbered the ruling communist party.
Mrs. Parks’ husband, vice president of one of the nation’s largest construction and industrial equipment rental companies, was surprised to also see Puccini on the program.
“The Puccini was very moving,” he said, referring to “Nessun Dorma,” an aria from an opera by Turandot, performed by Shen Yun tenor Tian Ge. “It was fabulous,” Mr. Parks said.
Mrs. Parks highlighted a spiritual aspect of the performance’s opening piece, “Grand Descent of the Deities.”
Connected to Chinese cosmology, “the sound of the gong brings us to a heavenly realm replete with divine beings,” the orchestra’s website says of the piece. “They answer a call from the Creator to descend with him to the world, evoked by the descending lines of the woodwinds and harp.”
“I thought that was … uplifting,” Mrs. Parks said.
Spirituality, in general, was something she said she could feel through the music.
“Can’t wait for this next half,” she said.
Reporting by Catherine Yang and Petr Svab
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