New York Philharmonic Celebrates Chinese New Year

By Alison Ng

On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, the New York Philharmonic, in collaboration with CAMI Music, welcomed in the Year of the Goat with a Chinese New Year Concert and Gala at Avery Fisher Hall. The event, which celebrated Chinese culture and the Chinese-American community through music, featured Long Yu (conductor), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Wu Tong (sheng), Lei Jia (vocalist) and Gulinaer Yiming (aijieke).

The ceremony began in the late afternoon on Lincoln Center’s (chilly) Josie Robertson Plaza, with performances by talented students from the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company and the National Dance Institute. The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company presented a traditional dragon dance, followed by the National Dance Institute’s folk-inspired dances.

At 6 PM, guests in stunning dresses and traditional Chinese attire filled the hall for Gala events: a pre-concert champagne reception. The Hall’s second floor sparkled in various hues of red and gold as smiles and pictures were exchanged. The Honorary Gala Chairmen were Mr. and Mrs. Maurice R. Greenberg from the STARR International Foundation, the presenting Sponsor of the Chinese New Year Gala; H.E. Ambassador Liu Jieyi; James D. and Elaine Wolfensohn; and H.E. Consul-General Zhang Qiyue.

The concert began at 7:30, with Yu promptly beginning with Spring Festival Overture (Li Huanzhi). Yu is currently the director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director and chief conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra. He debuted with the New York Philharmonic back in January 2012.

The second piece, Jin Tune, for Sheng and Orchestra (Hai-Deng Yan (b. 1930) arr. Ye Zou), brought Wu Tong to the stage. Tong is a National Class One Performer of the Central Nationalities Song and Dance Troupe and also a founding member of the Silk Road Ensemble.

Followed was a Selection from Prince Igor – Polovtsian Dance, No.17 (Borodin) and Fantasy on Maqam Themes, for Ghijak and Orchestra, which was also Yiming’s premiere piece. Not only did she catch the audience’s attention in her bright pink dress, but she also stunned them with her beautiful execution of the work.

Lei Jia also made her debut with the New York Philharmonic that night. The fifth theme consisted of two traditional Chinese folk songs – “The Village of Sanshilipu” and “In Praise of Cattle.” Jia is a Chinese National Class-A performer and has won many awards and honors, including being recognized at the Golden Bell Awards and the National Young Singers TV Competition. While many in the crowd did not understand Chinese, Jia’s powerful voice had no trouble communicating the emotion and story of the lyrics.

The last work of the night, Duo for Cello, Sheng and Orchestra, featured the revered Yo-Yo Ma, who has worked on over 90 albums with over 17 Grammy Award Winners, and the wonderful Wu Tong. Comprised of three movements, it looked effortless to Ma, who played with focus and intensity. Tong, on the other hand, played with much emotion and vigor, moving his body to the music.

The marvelous convert received thunderous applause as audience members were left to grasp the fact that it was indeed the end. The great selection of musical pieces, coupled with very talented performers, did a wonderful job of celebrating and welcoming the in the New Year.

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