By Ma Xiao adapted by Simone Jonker.
Shen Yun Orchestra is the first company ever to bring traditional Chinese instruments and Western symphony together. With over 90 musicians, Shen Yun has charmed and brought people to tears and countless standing ovations worldwide with its unmatched melodies.
All other orchestras perform solo or concerto, but not a symphony.
The mission of Shen Yun Orchestra is to introduce the world to and revive through music, the ancient 5,000-year-old culture of China.
Chinese instruments, especially the sound of the pipa and erhu are unique. They cannot be replaced with traditional symphony instruments and they cannot be covered by other instruments.
To use them successfully in combination with the instruments of the symphony orchestra is a challenge in itself.
Shen Yun is successful in this because of its particular arrangement method and system. The traditional arrangement method needs to be adjusted to accommodate this.
There are special requirements that enable instruments to work with the erhu or pipa. It is like cooking—ingredients can’t arbitrarily be mixed together.
Only inventive selections of various ingredients will yield dishes with appetising appearance, aroma, and taste.
Therin lies Shen Yun is uniqueness.
To bring East and West together, the western harp replaces the guqin (ancient zither) and guzheng (the Chinese zither.)
The xiao (a Chinese vertical end-blown flute) and the bamboo flute are substituted by the flute and piccolo. The trumpet is used instead of suona.
Shen Yun Orchestra strives to achieve perfect sound. If the musical notes overlap too much in the same frequency band, the additive effect would push the volume too high, resulting in unbalanced melodies.
The erhu is often referred to as a two-string violin, but its sound is very different from the violin. Nevertheless, it blends very well with stringed instruments while offering a unique tone.
The erhu can play solo, duet, ensemble, or concerto. With erhu, pipa, and traditional Chinese percussion instruments such as gu (drum), luo (gong), muyu (wooden fish), and qing (sounding stone), not only do they introduce Chinese ethnic character to the music, they also harmonize and complement classical Western symphony music.
In fact, it makes the combined melody sound richer, more expressive with greater effect.
When selecting these musical instruments, factors related to traditional Chinese culture was carefully considered. The five music notes, five elements, and five internal organs all connect and influence each other. Upon being absorbed by the human body, it can reach deeper of the soul
Commentating on the performance, Mr. Liu Suan-yung, director of the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra exclaimed “Perfect! I felt like I was transported back to the world as it was two hundred years ago.”
“I really admire the composer who has the ability to overcome the big differences between Western and Eastern instruments and exhibit the styles of both,” he commented.
Chuck and Laura Bokar enjoyed Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra at the Orchestra Hall, Chicago Symphony Center, on Oct. 19, 2019. (Stacey Tang/The Epoch Times)
Chuck Bokar said he also enjoyed the “Ties of Affection,” and liked the fact that each piece has a story behind it and lets the listener “imagine what’s actually being played and happening.”
Mr. Bokar added that the music performed by Shen Yun “is not from the human world,” it’s “celestial, heavenly.”
When listening to the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, we should not limit ourselves to the formats of a classical Western symphony or Chinese music. Rather, we need to appreciate the cultural inner meanings and messages within it, so that we can benefit from its divine power.
Enjoy the video below!