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Muchas gracias, Marco Polo!!!  (Does that count as a mixed metaphor?)  If the great explorer had never made it to China, would we have had to wait a few more centuries to learn about the incredible tradition of Chinese music – or firecrackers, or paper, or gunpowder, for that matter?  But let’s just stick to the music, ok?

If you had the pleasure of attending the concert presented by the Shanghai String Quartet, you heard music I’ll bet you never heard before.  With Wu Man, who is the equivalent of a classical music rock star in Asia, the very polished quartet played evocative, calm music.  Then the quartet launched into Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet in F minor; I suspect they did it just to prove that they are masters of Western music, too.  I think “impeccable” is the word I’m looking for….  Finally, a modern Chinese composition, Ghost Opera, with its sly asides and rollicking humor, all tied up in a ribbon of marvelous sound.

…a modern Chinese composition, Ghost Opera, with its sly asides and rollicking humor, all tied up in a ribbon of marvelous sound.

And let’s discuss this very small Chinese lady with her beautiful Chinese lute.  She is a ballerina of four strings, each graceful movement  eliciting sounds that simply carried the listener to an idealized China.  And here’s a very good reason to join the SA Chamber Music Society as a Patron:  over dinner, we had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Honggang Li, the Shanghai Quartet’s magician of the viola.  He spoke about the music, of course, but he also analyzed modern China for us.  He allowed his dinner companions a view of where modern China has come from and where it seems to be headed.
…a ballerina of four strings, each graceful movement eliciting sounds that simply carried the listener to an idealized China.

So muchas gracias, señor Polo!   Not only did we learn about the pipa and the evocative music of China and how these particular musicians came to and mastered Western music, we learned something about China.  I’d call that an afternoon well spent.

– E Doyle

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