The 3rd annual Chinese Orchestra Night concert, organised by the UNMC Chinese Orchestra, lit up the night of 3rd November 2016 vibrantly. Entitled “Travel With Rhythm,” the theme of this concert aimed to bring the audience on a “flight” to different countries, such as India, Korea, and China, through Chinese orchestral interpretations of diverse world music. Certainly, it was inspiring, amazing and enchanting! Prior to the concert, it is worth noting that tickets to the event, priced at RM10 for UMNC Chinese Cultural Society members and RM 12 for non-members, were sold out within a week, demonstrating the enthusiasm of the UNMC community towards Chinese music.
At the beginning, a brief video prelude was played to provide an introduction to the audience about the origin of the following pieces. The concert then opened with two Malay folk songs, “Lenggang Kangkung” and “Chan Mali Chan,” which served wonderfully as an introduction to the concert. “Lenggang Kangkung” outlines a peaceful and traditional life in a village, while “Chan Mali Chan” establishes the love between two lovers in a cheeky tone that will make you feel like dancing. As I listened on, both pieces struck my heart with nostalgia – a sentiment that could be shared with many members of the audience. The combination of Chinese musical instruments, Western percussion instruments and hand-clapping created a unique harmony.
The orchestra then gave an alluring performance of “Mukala Mukala,” a popular Indian song composed by A. R. Rahman in 1994. With the accompaniment of Chinese musical instruments, the lively atmosphere of the hall brought to my imagination thoughts of a cool and edgy but graceful dance. Next, the musicians proceeded to a romantic song from the Korean drama “The Descendants of the Sun,” which is one that has a huge international following. Being a K-pop fan myself, its melody conjured scenes of this drama in my mind. The audience seemed equally enthralled, with smiles all around as if love was in the air. I felt a shivering sensation when they ended the song with the vibrating rhythm between the strings of the erhu and guzheng.
After a short intermission, the song “Comptine d’un autre été” was performed on the daruan and zhongruan, which possess the bass and tenor parts to replace the actual solo piano piece. Composed by Yann Tiersen for the soundtrack of the French film Amélie (2001), illustrating images of a sweet summer. Next, they proceeded to a performance of another film soundtrack – a Chinese song titled “Mo” from the 2015 movie You Are My Sunshine. It captured the listeners’ attention and aroused a tremendous cheer as the merging of two bamboo flutes, a Peruvian cajón drum, and other instruments produced a melancholy yet affectionate feeling of love. During this performance, the heart-breaking tune permeated into my heart, as if having a soul-to-soul talk with it – the result was a feeling I could barely describe but left me hankering for more.
The musical journey then took us to Japan with its blossoming cherry trees. One of the most well-known pieces, “Senbonzakura” or “Thousand Cherry Trees” in Japanese, was played aggressively fast at the start and continued with a slightly matching style. It was then followed by curtain call but after passionate yelling from the audience, we were taken on one last trip to Hawaii with the encore of “Aloha Oe”. It set the seal on memorable and joyous concert and was performed magnificently, like an easeful river flow that meditated the audience’s souls.
Overall, the Chinese Orchestra Concert was incredible as it was not only a fascinating concept in taking the audience on a musical “vacation,” but also delivered artistic and inspiring traditional Chinese orchestral music. I was totally impressed by the musicians’ talent towards music: their amazing concentration and beautiful physical movement in playing the instruments blended very well in every song. The combination of traditional Chinese instruments and Western ones, too, created a performance that was both fresh and out of the ordinary.
By Joann Chua Rou En
Photos by Hailey Ng