Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year Concert 12-29-2008

My school, the Sichuan Conservatory of Music, broke some Chinese customs and celebrated the Western New Year's holiday with a classical concert. This year, the Chinese Lunar New Year actually comes on January 26th, but SCCM decided to show some international flare and celebrate 2009 with the rest of the world. The concert featured traditional Chinese instruements in various ensembles including the 大乐队 (orchestra). Between the ensembles were some very talented soloists. I must note that I was particularly impressed with the emcee of the night. She introduced every piece with eloquence and always had a very warm smile.

The concert opened with the 扬琴 (yangqin) ensemble (above video). This instrument is also known as the Chinese dulcimer. It is played with two bamboo bamboo sticks with a leather head. The sound is quite incredible in the large concert. I was amazed at the velocity that the player achieved on some of the more technical passages.
After a very talented erhu (two-stringed instrument) soloist was an ensemble featuring SCCM faculty members. As seen in the above photo, were the aforementioned yangqin and erhu (5 players) plus pipa, guzheng, dizi, zhongruan, harp and bass. I am finding that more and more, the chinese are incorporating Western instruments into the ensembles. I'm not sure if it is due to the fact that they need to fill out the orchestration or to feature gifted individuals, but I'm glad to see it. The only thing missing from this ensemble is the saxophone.

The following soloist was a pipa(ist?) from Beijing. He was spectacular. Many times have I heard this instrument in the halls of the conservatory, but never played with such technical prowess. He played two of his own compositions which not only featured the pentatonic scale, but many interesting Western scales including various minor modes and maybe even a blues. As you can see in the picture to the right, the pipa is a pretty complicated instrument. The two highest or four strings are played mainly as a quickly strummed drone by the ring and pinky fingers while the melodies are pluck by thumb, index and middle fingers. Although, he used multiple techiniques throughout the performance. He was followed by a 古筝 (gu zheng) ensemble featuring 12 guzheng (all women), timpani and multiple percussion. The guzheng is in what we call the zither family and is closly related to the guqin. The only difference is that the guzheng is plucked while the guqin uses bamboo mallets. It was interesting watching the performance as the players actually moved the bridges during the piece to retune the instrument.

The concert finished up with the full Chinese orchestra as featured in my SCCM Chinese Orchestra Blog. Overall, it was a great show. I got a chance to hear more of these ever-interesting Chinese instruments and gain more appreciation for Chinese classical music.

Chinese Food Fun! Ok, this time we've got a food from the Xinjiang province of China. It's: 大盘鸡 (da pan ji) Chicken stewed with root veggies, garlic, peppers, and all kinds of local whole spices. It's called 大 (big) because you can choose either a big or small portion. The big is rather big (as shown in the picture below).

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