A generous set of parents took me, Phil and a couple other teachers out to a performance by “Beauty and Melody” a traditional Chinese chamber group from Western China. The group, preparing for a tour to the US (first stop Chicago), used this performance in Chengdu as a dry run with a home field advantage.
Phil and I were sold on having a “night at the symphony” or so we were told, so we were a little surprised to find that “symphony” meant Chinese instruments, playing Chinese folk music. We put on our Chengdu “go with the flow” hats and settled in for a night of pentatonic scales.
The ensemble was very talented. It’s a pretty good bet that a dozen, conservatory trained, beautiful women from Western China are going to put on a good show. They made sure to feature each instrument giving the audience an up close listen to the sounds of the culture. For those of you not up on your Chinese instruments here’s a little run-down: you have your plucked instruments (ruan, guzheng and the pipa), your bowed instruments (erhu – there are others, but that’s all that we saw last night), your struck instruments (yanqin, and various percussion such as drums, tambourines, woodblocks, cymbals and gongs), and your wind instruments (the sheng, sona, and the guan).
The production was quite well done for foreign audiences. The lighting and sound were tasteful, there was even narration introducing the audience to the different families of Chinese instruments. Of course we giggled at mispronunciation (“eunuch” instead of “unique”, “percushion” instead of “percussion”) and Chinese costumes but overall it was a very entertaining glimpse into Chinese folk music.
I recommend it for those of you who live in the Midwest of the US as they’re touring for the next month or so. The only dates I could find for their tour are here. If you’re in the area check them out, it’s pretty entertaining stuff.
Thanks to Steven for lending us his camera as we forgot ours!