Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra Returns to Boston

By Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
October 14, 2015 Updated: October 17, 2015

Boston—the Athens of America, as the wealthy Bostonian William Tudor put ithas long paid tribute to the best of the arts, and the Boston Symphony Hall is a testament to that.

Regarded as one of the top concert halls in the world, the McKim, Mead & White-designed concert hall is adorned with 16 replicas of Greek and Roman statues related to music, art, or literature. When Symphony Hall opened in 1900, it was to be the new and permanent home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the “Big Five” orchestras in the United States.

Through the ever-changing times, the orchestra and concert hall boast of spreading the classical arts via an increasing number of media, becoming the top-visited orchestra site in the country and a valued center of art and education. Now, one week after the 115th anniversary of Symphony Hall’s opening, Bostonians will welcome the return of two grand traditions in the form of one ensemble: Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra.

Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, in its fourth year, will be performing again at Boston Symphony Hall for one evening on Oct. 21 for its 2015 season.

While quite new compared to some of the country’s storied orchestras, Shen Yun draws from 5,000 years of traditional Chinese civilization. The orchestra harmonizes Chinese instruments like the two-stringed erhu (a 4,000-year-old instrument) with a full Western symphony orchestra, a feat never before accomplished on this scale.

The program includes highlights from Shen Yun’s vast repertoire of original compositions along with classical favorites like Pablo de Sarasate’s famed “Gypsy Airs,” and world-class bel canto vocal soloists.

Musical Magnificence

Audience members have found it to be both a new and refreshing, and familiar and moving experience.

“It just felt enchanting and heavenly,” said Arthur Bowes, a regular patron of Symphony Hall, of the performance last year. “It took away all the negative news that we get and brought you into a place that was just enjoyable.”

“It’s magnificent, absolutely magnificent—it brings me to tears,” said history teacher Vernita Weller also of last year’s performance.

Three-time Tony Award winning Broadway producer Bonnie Comley attended the concert at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 10, and had high praise for the talent. 

“The talent that it takes to get to this place, in someone’s career—they’re just at the pinnacle when they can come here and perform at Carnegie Hall,” Ms. Comley said. “It’s perfect; it’s just perfect.”

Her husband Stewart F. Lane, a six-time Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, couldn’t agree more. “I have to tell you, the sound is beautiful. The orchestra, very talented. And the voices, the voices are superb,” he said. 

“In fact, I wish it could go on even longer,” said Mr. Lane, who won best play in 2011 for “War Horse,” and best musical in 2014 for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. “I could have stayed for another hour and a half.”

Composer and principal oboist of the Regina Symphony Orchestra and the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Elizabeth Raum saw the first performance of this year’s season in Toronto.

“It was quite spectacular I must say, and I’m overwhelmed by the quality of the musicians—they are wonderful,” she said.

“I think the audience was overwhelmed too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two standing ovations and two encores like that, and I think it would have gone on, but the conductor left,” Ms. Raum said.

Technical Mastery

Even if you are unfamiliar with the tones or melodies of traditional Chinese music, it is a soul-stirring experience.

As Shen Yun composer William Kuo explained in a past interview with Epoch Times: “People always find it moving because it is a part of a basic characteristic of humanity to be able to connect with this kind of music.”

The instruments of the East and West play on different scales and inherently have different characteristics, so it has proven difficult to arrange such instruments in the same ensemble. So how does Shen Yun do it?

“Western instruments focus on the harmony, while Chinese instruments focus on the distinct flavor of the individual instruments,” composer Mr. Kuo said. By playing to strengths, Shen Yun creates a profound musical experience that has moved audiences’ hearts around the world.

Next, the orchestra will tour in Florida. After that, Mr. Kuo and Milen Nachev will be conducting the upcoming performance in Boston on Oct. 21 at the Boston Symphony Hall. 

New York-based Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra comprises musicians from the four Shen Yun Performing Arts touring companies. For information about the October performances, visit: ShenYun.com/Symphony

 Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra Trailer