If you were somewhere around the F1 building on the evenings of the 10th and 11th, I bet a string of traditional Chinese orchestra music flew through your ears. Yes, the UNMC Chinese Orchestra were back with their 4th annual concert, in conjunction with UNIPERARTS! Just like their theme, “Loud or Never,” this time they showed up with more variations and more power.
A Journey Through Chinese History
The musical journey started off with an impressive opening theme song that was produced by our three talented students – Lim Kim Je, Cheong Choon Kit and Chan Kin Weng – titled “Loud-Ever”. Utilising the notion of China’s glorious history in trade and commerce, the piece involves a dramatic combination of traditional Chinese percussion instruments and 24 Festive Drum that depicts the establishment of the nation’s commercial sector which was divided into four parts: the departure, journey, trading, and its return.
Leaving the audiences in awe, the music then continued with “Dunhuang, the Silk Road”, a small piece that covers a wide range of music styles. The piece, began with a string of reverberating sound of the guzheng, deliberately merging with other Chinese traditional musical instruments. At the same time, the piece was cleverly composed using a mix of Eastern and Western influences to clearly illustrate the beautiful historical background of the converging point of the four major ancient civilisations – Dunhuang, the old Silk Road – one of the ancient world’s most important convergence of the desert.
Nostalgia, romance, melancholy, and a sprinkle of Spanish amor
Next were my two favourite pieces of the night: “The Beautiful Fernleaf Hedge Bamboo” and “Childhood Memories,” both very sweet and delightful. “The Beautiful Fernleaf Hedge Bamboo” that depicts the Yunnanese convention of young couples courting each other under the aforementioned bamboo trees in the moonlight, using the bawu as the refrain in the whole song. On the other hand, “Childhood Memories” has brought us onto a time machine back to our childhood with its soothing melody. As the song went on with different tones produced by different instruments, a ring of scenarios of my playful childhood was triggered in my head, and I believe many members of the audience shared the same sentiment with me.
Moving on to the highlight of the night’s show, “Discerning Spain,” a meaningful piece that was particularly arranged by Dr. Sergio Camacho, the founder and current head of UNIPERARTS. Conducted by himself, Sergio aimed to dedicate this piece to his homeland with the help of the Chinese Orchestra. Inspired by work of three influential Spanish composers – de Falla, Albéniz, and Rodrigo – Sergio has showcased the song as an embrace to Spain as well as to demonstrate the country’s characteristics – vision, language and culture – with the power of Chinese traditional music. The calming, breath-taking melody beautifully filled up the hall and caught everyone in wonder of the beautiful country.
Dr Sergio Camacho of UNIPERARTS conducts “Discerning Spain.“
Lining up next were soundtracks from “The Little Nyonya,” a Singaporean Chinese-language TV series, and “Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?”, a Taiwanese movie. Both piece started off with a sorrowful, depressing tune, which added a sense of melancholy to the atmosphere. Being a movie lover myself, these two soundtracks immediately inflamed this little candle in my heart to check out the two popular movies!
Like a plot twist, the musical jumped from a sad platform to a festive one where they played “Dance of the Yao People”, a work orchestrated by Liu Tieshan and Mao Yuan. The piece was innovated by the long drum dance from the Yao tribe, which then became one of the best known Chinese instrumental composition in the late 20th century.
To wrap up the night, “Capriccio Taiwan” was chosen as the finale because of its meticulous structure that demonstrates the complete process of Taiwan’s social development. Ending with a triumphant and glorious tune, the piece at the same time symbolised the success of the musical. Having attended several Chinese Orchestra musicals myself, I would say the amalgamation of the musicians’ talents and the perfect list of song selections had made this musical an impressive and memorable one!
By Vicki Lai; photos by Lee Zan Hui