Tradition and legacy are alive in Philadelphia, a city once the focal point of the nation’s events. Blocks and corners of the city still boast of early American history, in which residents point out structures that housed monumental events and figures like Betsy Ross, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington.
On Sunday, Oct. 25, history over 5,000 years old will grace the stage of Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center in the form of an innovative orchestra. Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, though only four years old, draws on the history and tradition of thousands of years by combining traditional Chinese music with the grandeur of a full Western symphony.
In 2006, Shen Yun Performing Arts was formed by artists from around the world who gathered in New York. Their mission: to revive 5,000 years of Chinese civilization through art forms like classical Chinese dance.
Chinese culture is said to be divinely inspired, and its art forms are imbued with principles like harmony between heaven and earth, compassion, wisdom, and propriety. It is a culture once nearly lost. Under the 60-some years of communist rule in China, the Chinese Communist Party has systematically tried to uproot the traditional culture through campaigns like the Cultural Revolution.
Today, Symphony Orchestra follows in Shen Yun’s mission to revive traditional Chinese culture.
The orchestra is, on one level, a technical feat.
Instruments like the Chinese lute (pipa), which is propped up on the musician’s knee and played vertically by plucking the strings, join a full symphony orchestra. The Chinese instruments play on a different scale and have a distinctly different sound, but Shen Yun’s composers, conductors, and musicians have found a way to seamlessly harmonize the two grand traditions of Chinese and Western classical music.
“We are working so hard to achieve the best possible ensemble, it’s really very tough work that we are doing, but our desire is to be known for our ensemble,” conductor Milen Nachev says on Shen Yun’s website.
“Also, we are working a lot on the balance of different groups of instruments. We always want to make the melody extremely transparent. At the same time, we want every single detail inside the score to be so clear and articulate that we’ll bring a different spectrum of colors behind the melody,” he said.
On another level, the music is a refreshing experience with a touch of the divine, according to audience members who have attended the performance in other cities.
“I feel blessed, I feel very blessed,” said Marcella Pazcohen, who attended a performance in Miami on Oct. 15.
Electronic musician and artist Juliana Possi said it was like magic: “I feel inspired, I feel uplifted. I feel as if they had brought some beautiful, magic music into Miami.”
In Chicago, the music was like a breath of fresh air for the Teagues.
“You feel in parts very lighthearted and sweet, and being in the fresh air,” said Karon Teague, who attended the Oct. 18 concert in Chicago.
She and her husband, both with degrees in music, were symphony musicians in their home state Texas.
“The singers especially brought out the compassion and the various emotions in the music,” said Mr. Teague.
At the Kennedy Center in Washington, business owner David Wallace said, “It felt like you were in heaven.
Blind lawyer and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng attended the Washington performance and afterwards felt hopeful that Shen Yun could revive traditional Chinese culture. “This, I think, is the most important meaning behind these songs,” he said.
After that, the orchestra will travel to Atlanta for one performance on Oct. 27 and finish its tour in Providence, R.I., on Oct. 31.
New York-based Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra comprises musicians from the four Shen Yun Performing Arts touring companies. Shen Yun Performing Arts begins its 2016 world tour on Dec. 22, 2015.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.