SARASOTA, Fla.—It is the year 208, and the legendary strategist Zhuge Liang is up against forces 10 times his own army. It is a scene from the well-loved Chinese classic “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” in orchestral form onstage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
Brass instruments emulate ancient battle horns, and Chinese and Western percussion instruments create a strong rhythm as the strategist devises a plan to outwit the enemy. Audience member Melissa Andres, a writer, is captivated as she pictures a dramatic scene, as if from a good old Western film.
“[It] felt very invigorating, like they were trying to save somebody,” Ms. Andres said after seeing the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra concert on Oct. 13. “It was exquisite, exquisite.”
The sound of the orchestra is unlike any other. A full Western symphony plays backdrop to ancient Chinese instruments and melodies. Instruments like the pipa, a Chinese lute considered the king of Chinese folk instruments, play alongside violins and trumpets.
No other ensemble has achieved this sort of harmonization before, and it allows the orchestra to showcase both the grandeur of classical Western music and the majesty of ancient China.
The program also includes bel canto solo vocalists who sing original Chinese lyrics and classical favorites like Tchaikovsky.
“Behind today’s choice of repertoire lies the belief that, like many enduring traditions, classical Western and Chinese music are truly divine gifts,” the program states.
For Annie Valdes, the music transported her to a different world. Perhaps it was the vibrant Hmong village on festival day, as depicted in one piece. Or maybe it was a scene from “The Power of Compassion,” in which a host of divinities descend to the world to offer protection to the good.
“I feel healed!” Ms. Valdes said. “I feel like I’m in a different place. I can relax. I’m in another world.”
Ms. Valdes said she felt she could forget all her problems and told her mother to do the same. “I think it worked,” she said with a laugh.
“It was absolutely beautiful. I loved it, every minute,” Ms. Valdes said.
The relaxation Ms. Valdes felt was shared by other audience members too.
Chris Vella, who had listened to the orchestra last year, came back and enjoyed the performance even more than before. She, too, said it was a peaceful, relaxing experience.
“It was unbelievable,” Ms. Vella added, showering praise on the conductor, vocalists, and musicians. “Unbelievable, the performance was unbelievable … just absolutely mesmerizing.”
It was the stories behind the music that Ms. Vella loved most. She immediately launched into an explanation about the Creator imparting that Fa, or the Great Law, as a story woven through.
In the opening piece, “Following the Creator to Renew All Things,” the Creator descends to Earth to set into motion 5,000 years of Chinese civilization. It follows the ancient Chinese belief that its civilization was bestowed upon humankind by higher beings.
The pieces take the audience through the dynasties to different regions of China, all the way up to the modern day, Ms. Vella explained.
Then in the piece of China today, it touches on the practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong, who are still being persecuted in China. It is a story where good triumphs and “mutual forgiveness and understanding are reached,” according to the program, but Ms. Vella lamented that is not yet the case today.
“I loved the stories behind the songs, and I’m looking forward to the dance performance in February in Orlando,” Ms. Vella said. “I’m bringing my friends.”
After tonight’s performance in Sarasota, Fla., the orchestra will give one performance in Miami on Oct. 15 before moving back north to Chicago and Boston for the weekend. For information about the orchestra’s October performances, visit ShenYun.com/Symphony
Reporting by Qingqing Qiu, NTD Television, and Catherine Yang
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.