VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Dec. 07, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — When the dulcet tones of Ms Wu Man’s Pipa permeated Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre at Image China: East/West Symphonic Concert, the audience was startled and astonished. How could such an instrument create such an inscrutable yet melodic sound? Such is the power of the Pipa, a traditional string instrument from China dating back 2,000 years. And such is the virtuosity of Ms Wu, a Grammy Award winner and a founding member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, and an iconic figure in crossover music and cross-cultural exchange. While in Vancouver, Ms Wu went on to stage a Pipa masterclass at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s (VSO) School of Music on November 23, the day following the successful East/West Symphonic Concert. There, Ms. Wu shared her illustrious career as an ambassador of Chinese music, infusing strong interest in Pipa amongst the students in attendance at the master class. “If you look at the history of the Pipa, you’ll see that it doesn’t come from just one place,” said Ms Wu. “It’s not only Chinese, it comes from a long line of plucking instruments descended from places around the globe. I want to highlight the connections that instruments and cultures have through music.”
Indeed, Ms Wu’s contributions to Image China were instrumental in achieving that east-west cultural awareness in a symphonic celebration Vancouver has rarely seen. Presented by China Arts and Entertainment Group Ltd., Image China: East/West Symphonic Concert was a cross-cultural tour de force inspiring pancultural connections when Ms Wu, along with an ensemble of artists, made their VSO debut on November 22. Led by the incomparable Chinese conductor Ms Tong Chen, in partnership with the VSO, the east-west repertoire was masterfully performed by violinist Ms Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, bass Mr. Hao Jiang Tian, and soprano Ms Raquel Suarez Groen. “Music has no borders and has the magic to penetrate everyone’s heart. This is a celebrated cultural exchange between China and the West,” said Mr. Shu Yang, Chinese Consul General in Vancouver, “We hope this kind of activity can be featured in Vancouver more often to strengthen the social bonds driving friendly and cooperative relationships between China and Western countries.”
The concert was staged before a full house attracting an audience in the thousands. Dignitaries representing various countries and local VIPs attended the concert and expressed appreciation for the beauty and power of the repertoire. Joining Consul-General Shu Yang were the Consul Generals of Romania, Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Italy and Argentina. Other dignitaries included Allan Harmon, Chair of Directors Guild of Canada; Randall Sun-Kue Bud Wong, the first Chinese-Canadian Supreme Court Justice of BC; Jill Bodkin, Governor of Greater Vancouver Board of Trade; Bill Allman, President of BC Entertainment Hall of Fame, Ms Lisa Lu, award-winning actress, along with other titans of industry, culture, and community.
Auspiciously, Image China: East/West Symphonic Concert began its cross-cultural program with a soundtrack excerpt from Opera Warrior, a large-scale Chinese dance drama that made its Canadian premiere in 2016. Following this, Conductor Chen led the orchestra through a performance of Canada Mosaic Suite: Introduction and Three Folk Songs, composed by Canadian composer and music educator Jean Coulthard, for a proposed VSO tour of China in the 1970s.
These pieces proved to only be warmups for the acclaimed The Pipa Concerto No. 2 featuring Ms Wu Man on Pipa, among the many musical highlights of the evening. From her astounding first note, Ms Wu Man coaxed and commandeered the Pipa weaving a musical dreamscape that soared and whispered, held together by melodic expression. Bravo! Next, one of China’s best-known classical exports, The Butterfly Lovers, was performed, featuring Chinese-Canadian violinist Ms Yi-Jia Susanne Hou. Full of emotion, sensitivity, and musical storytelling, the epic piece combined colourful orchestration and familiar melodies delivered with dazzling and dramatic effect by Ms Hou.
The evening’s most rousing applause came during the final piece when Ms Raquel Suarez Groen, in flawless Chinese, inaugurated the Chinese contemporary classical work, On the Field of Hope, surprising the audience with her mastery of the language. Performed with Mr. Tian Hao Jiang whose bass voice perfectly complemented the brightness of Ms Groen, the performance inspired the audience to sing along, harmonizing with the artists and clapping along. Equally impressive, was the duet All I Ask of You from Phantom of the Opera performed by the duo as the penultimate piece.
All-in-all, Image China: East/West Symphonic Concert was an unqualified success bridging cultures through the common language of music and song. The reaction? If the shouts of ‘bravo’, thunderous applause, and the standing ovation were measures, then indeed the concert accomplished its goal and more. Following the performance, audience members expressed universal accolades, making special mention of the Pipa, a rarely seen musical instrument — undoubtedly made more special by Ms Wu’s outstanding performance. The concert was truly the art of music without borders.
Image China is a cultural exchange initiative presented by China Arts and Entertainment Group Ltd.. Since its inception in 2009, Image China has drawn more than one million spectators in the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand, with more countries on the roster.
|Opera Life from Dance Drama “Opera Warriors” |
Canada Mosaic Suite: Introduction and Three Folk Songs
Pipa Concerto No.2
Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto
Non più andrai
All I Ask of You from “The Phantom of the Opera”
On the Field of Hope
|– Fang Ming |
– Jean Coulthard
– Zhao Jinping
– Chen Gang & He Zhanhao
– W.A. Mozart
– Andrew Lloyd Webber
– Shi Guangnan/Xiaoguang
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