From the gentle breeze of the prelude titled “Tiger grinding teeth,” to the dynamic ending piece “Monkey”, played by a drum team, with a rich revelation of emotions with scores performed on violin, erhu, pipa, piano, and flute in between, the Rhythms of China concert at Jay Pritzker Pavilion last night was a very moving and superb program.
“We’re very excited to present such a wonderful ensemble to Chicago,” Julia Ma, Board President of the Chinese Fine Arts Society (CFAS), said to me at the reception before the concert.
Based in Chicago, CFAS has had a history of 30 years. It was set up by Ma’s mother, Barbara Tiao, who was a piano teacher and was aspired to promote the appreciation of Chinese culture via music, dance, and visual arts.
The entire program last night was mesmerizing. Sitting on the second row from the stage, I was able to observe the musicians in close range and hear the nuances of every tune and beat by every single instrument. I was very touched. The “Three Humoresques” played by violinists Rachel Barton Pine and Minghuan Xu mesmerized me, and my emotion was raised to another notch by “Mian Jiang Hong“, a piece composed to praise Yue Fei, a historical hero, by Pei Lu and was played by Pine and pianist Winston Choi. By the time Pine and Betti Xiang, who played Erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument, made the Duet penetrate to my heart, tears welled up in my eyes.
Ma introduced Conrad Tao, the composer of the Duet, as a very talented young man of 19, winner of CFAS’s previous competitions. The audience applauded with deep appreciation.
All the numbers presented last night, including Sojourners Song by Daniel Lo, Lakescape by Lei Liang, and Night Impressions by Vivian Fung were award-winning pieces. They combined the instruments from the West and East together and expressed a well of emotions—to me, mostly pride, longing, and excitement.
Ma said CFAS recently hired its executive director and is making the transition from a volunteer-based non-profit organization to a professionally run one. I wish them success and look forward to seeing more wonderful programs such as Rhythms of China to Chicago in the future.
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.