The inaugural concert of CHICO’s World Music Gala will feature music of the Orient. Ode to Hero,Ode to Love (2015) is an award winning Double Erhu Concerto composed by Chinese composer Bo-Chan Li (1992- ). The Erhu Concerto will be performed by the internationally renowned Taiwanese Erhu masters, Dr. Ming-Yen Lee and Dr. Hsin-Chih Lin.
Hearing an erhu for the first time, you will find yourself surprisingly enraptured by its singular sounds and moving melodies.
The erhu is an alto instrument with a middle-high range that delivers notes both tender and sonorous. In its lower ranges, the erhu is especially somber. It is because of this quality that Chinese have chosen it for conveying the grand pageantry of their history and the depth of their passions.
This delightful concerto-like work in two parts is based on Taiwanese songs. The Swiss composer Fabian Müller wrote this work for his Taiwanese wife, a cellist. The first part, “DiuDiuDeng,” is a song about a train chugging through a tunnel as water-drops fall on its roof, while the second part, “Longing for the Spring Breeze,” is both tuneful and timely. Both melodies are recognizable as Asian-influenced music because of the frequent use of the pentatonic scale. It is interesting to note that the pentatonic scale is the most common scale in the world if you include all the world’s indigenous music. (It can easily be heard by playing only the black keys on a keyboard.) Müller wraps both songs in Western harmonies, producing a fascinating cross-cultural effect, made even more fascinating by today’s performance featuring the Chinese erhu accompanied by Western European instruments.
Taiwanese Folk Songs
Like the previous work, “Flowers in the Rainy Night” and “Dark Sky” form the basis for two more pieces which Fabian Müller wrote for cello and orchestra. Here too, Oriental pentatonic melodies are backlighted by Western harmonies, and an Oriental instrument is accompanied by a Western European orchestra. Listen for the raindrops at the end of “Flowers in the Rainy Night” and the thunder and lightning in “Dark Sky.”
Ode to Hero, Ode to Love
This work is a double concerto for two erhus and orchestra written by the young composer Bo-Chan Li when he was just 22 years old. The concerto depicts two thematic images of the “hero” and “love” as they are represented in the traditional Chinese opera “Farewell My Concubine.” (Lilian Lee’s novel by the same name and its subsequent film adaption are partly based on the story of this opera, as follows: King Xiang Yu is battling Liu Bang for the unification of China. Surrounded by Liu Bang’s forces, the king summons his horse and begs it to run away for its own safety, but the horse refuses. Then he summons Yu, his favorite concubine, and when she sees the hopeless situation, she begs to die alongside her king. When the king refuses, Yu waits until he is distracted, then commits suicide with his sword.
Yellow River Piano Concerto
Xian Xinghai is one of China’s most famous and frequently-programmed composers. A writer of much nationalist and propaganda music in the 1930s, he is best known for his eight-movement Yellow River Cantata, for chorus, soloists and orchestra, written in 1938-39. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76), at the request of the Central Philharmonic Society of China, it was revised in the form of a Piano Concerto, with several composers contributing to its final version (not unusual in Chinese classical music). Yin Chengzong wrote the piano part and gave its first performance in 1970. While the piano was frowned upon by the Communists, it was Yin Chengzong’s friendship with Mao Zedong’s wife that made the performance possible.
The first movement, “Yellow River Boatman’s Song,” describes the boatman’s struggle with the strength and power of the river. The second movement, “Ode to the Yellow River,” features an expansive and moving melody beginning in the cellos, which was a tenor solo in the original cantata. The lyrics told of the history of the Chinese people who lived along the Yellow River. The third movement, “The Wrath of the Yellow River,” begins with a lovely piccolo solo, after which the piano picks up the pentatonic tune and develops it, sounding much like the ancient Chinese instrument called the guzheng. The orchestra joins in, and the mood suddenly becomes more serious and somber as the music depicts the suffering of the Chinese people during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The final movement, “Defend the Yellow River,” is a march-like patriotic call to the Chinese people. It features music from the original cantata, and after a thrilling crescendo, the orchestra and the piano play the Chinese Communist anthem, “The East is Red,” a not-so-disguised tribute to Chairman Mao. The exciting climax blends music from the original cantata with a brief musical quote from the Socialist anthem, “The Internationale.”
Hsin-Chih Lin is an Assistant Professor of Music at the School of Arts, Minnan Normal University. He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Chinese Music of National Taiwan University of the Arts and at the General Education Center of National Tsing Hua University.
Lin received his B.A. and M.A. from the Department of Chinese Music, Chinese Culture University, under the tutelage of Lin Yuting, Liao Muchun, Ou Guangxun, Chen Shufen, Wang Huode, Gao Yuqing, Zhao Yichen, Yan Jiemin, and Song Fei. He also studied conducting under the guidance of Li Ying, Guo Liangchang, and Ye Hezhong. He received his Ph.D. from Feng Chia University with his dissertation entitled, “The History and Musical Development of Chinese Folk Songs and xiaoxi.”
Lin is Founder and Artistic Director of the Yuenyun Chinese Orchestra. An experienced performer and conductor, Lin has performed and conducted at various colleges and social organizations in Taiwan and overseas. He has been invited to serve as a writer for the “Taipei City National Orchestra” annual exhibition and as a judge for the “Hu Qin and “Chinese Orchestra” categories of Taiwan Music Competition.
Ming-Yen Lee is Assistant Professor of Music at the Graduate School of Art and Humanities Instruction, National Taiwan University of Arts. She received her PhD in Ethnomusicology from Kent State University. Her research interests include musical interactions in Greater China, modern Chinese orchestra, Indonesian music, and Buddhist music. She is currently working on her book manuscript, “Making Music in Greater China: The Chinese Orchestras of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan,” which explores the evolution and musical interactions of three modern Chinese orchestras across Greater China. She has published articles and reviews in journals such as Asian Culture, Asian Music, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Kuandu Music Journal, Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, Malaysian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Modern China Studies, and Taiwan Folk Art.
Dr. Lee is also an erhu player and has performed around Taiwan and internationally. She founded the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble in 2008 with the goal of introducing Chinese music to the northern mid-west of the United States.
Miriam Arichea has been privileged to perform with CHICO since its inception in 2004. Miriam has also performed with the Ventura College Symphony and San Luis Obispo Chamber Orchestra, as well as in solo and collaborative performances at the Ojai Arts Centre and Ventura Music Festival.
Miriam is slated to perform with the Ventura College Symphony on May 4, 2019, in a concert honoring retired conductor Dr. Burns Taft, with whom Miriam played for many years.
Miriam has also served as music director and pianist for a number of community groups and events, including the Rubicon Theatre Company, the Ventura Unified Festival of Talent, and Temple Beth Torah. Miriam founded and directed the Rubicon Harmonix, a youth vocal troupe that has performed with CHICO twice, and was known for its performances throughout the community. Miriam was the honored recipient of the 2014 Ventura Mayor’s Arts Award for Arts Educator.
Miriam studied with the late, renowned pianist Sofia Cosma, as well as with Tibor Szasz and Loren Withers of Duke University, and Halimah Brugger. She presently receives valuable coaching from Natasha Kislenko, faculty at University of California Santa Barbara.
A lawyer by training, Miriam received her undergraduate and law degrees at Duke University. She presently handles criminal appeals as a court-appointed attorney with the California Appellate Project. Miriam also coaches the Ventura High School mock trial and academic decathlon teams. Miriam and her husband Jeff Brackett have three adult children – Josh, Arielle, and Daniel.