BOSTON—Arthur Bowes, a vice president of human resources for North Shore Medical Center, is a regular patron of the renowned Boston Symphony Hall. But when he stepped into the symphony hall Saturday afternoon, he heard for the first time the grand traditions of the East and West coming together in Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra.
“It was clearly different and unique,” said Mr. Bowes, despite that “there’s so much that’s been done with music over the centuries. This seems very new and enriching.”
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra accomplishes what no other ensemble has to date: classical Chinese instruments—from woodwinds to strings, to percussion—are mixed into a full Western symphony orchestra. The Chinese instruments carry the melody across the backdrop of the western orchestra, and the two worlds blend harmoniously.
The program includes several original Chinese compositions that draw inspiration from several different dynasties and regions, as well as classical pieces like Hector Berlioz’s “Hungrarian March.” Chinese music dates back over 9,000 years, and every dynasty has its defining styles.
Watching the performance, which marked the start of Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra’s third season, was more than a novel experience for Mr. Bowes. He said it gave him “a message of joy and enlightenment.”
It is an ancient belief that music has the power to harmonize a person’s soul. In fact, the Chinese character for medicine is derived from the character for music.
“It took away all the negative news that we get and brought you into a place that was just enjoyable,” Mr. Bowes said.
“It felt removed the earthly pressures of today,” Mr. Bowes said. “It just felt enchanting and heavenly.”
Mr. Bowes felt similarly enchanted with the orchestral pieces and the unique vocal performances, with soloist soprano Haolan Geng performing an original Chinese composition in the bel canto style. It’s difficult in technique, as the soloists have to retain the clarity in the Chinese syllables.
Geng sang an original piece, “A Song for You,” which is layered with a philosophical reflection about human life, transcending nation, race, and culture, according to the program book.
“I like music very much and I thought it was very unique,” Mr. Bowes said. “It’s something I want to see in here again.”
Reporting by Sherry Chen 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 http://www.shenyunperformingarts.org/symphony/index.