BOSTON—American history teacher Vernita Weller had always sustained a passion for music and Asian culture, sharing the traditions with her daughters. At the Boston Symphony Hall Saturday afternoon, Ms. Weller saw the Western and Asian cultures combined on an unprecedented scale by the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, mingling the grand tradition of Western symphony orchestra and traditional Chinese instruments.
“It’s magnificent, absolutely magnificent—it brings me to tears,” Mrs. Weller said. “[It] makes you just want to close your eyes and be carried away.”
It’s long been believed that music can heal, and in ancient China people believed music had the power to harmonize one’s soul. It’s been reflected in Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra’s philosophy: “Behind all of Shen Yun’s music lies the belief that, like many enduring traditions, both classical Western and Chinese music are truly divine gifts,” its website reads.
“It’s very lifting and just inspiring, absolutely inspiring,” Ms. Weller said.
Since the debut of Shen Yun Performing Arts in 2006, the renowned New York-based company has become a global phenomenon, reviving 5,000 years of Chinese civilization on stage. In 2012, Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra was formed, combining 100 musicians from the four touring companies’ orchestras into one. The orchestra does what no other ensemble has before, integrating classical Chinese instruments in a full symphony orchestra.
The Chinese instruments, such as the two-stringed erhu and lute-like pipa, carry the melody, while the western symphony creates a harmonious backdrop.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” said Ms. Weller. “It feels so much more global, just so much deeper for me.”
In the original compositions, those familiar with the 9,000 years of Chinese music history can pick out the influences of the dynasties and regions. But the program also includes bel canto vocalists singing original Chinese compositions, and classical Western pieces such as Mikhail Glinka’s overture to the fairy tale opera “Ruslan and Ludmila.”
Even the pieces that do not include Chinese instruments give that deep, global feeling, Ms. Weller explained.
“It’s the way the music swells,” Ms. Weller said. Traditional Chinese music emphasizes the expression of inner feelings, Shen Yun’s website explains, while Western music focuses on the overall effect of the ensemble. The orchestra’s approach combines both.
“It’s just done so beautifully, with great harmony and a very spiritual expression,” Ms. Weller said.
Reporting by NTD Television and Catherine Yang
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra is on a seven-city tour with performances in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, Chicago, Miami, and Sarasota, from Oct. 4–27. For more information, visit Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra