Section: Arts

Kenyon students say ni hao to Chinese music in Brandi

Kenyon students say ni hao to Chinese music in Brandi

Cora Markowitz | Collegian

By India Amos, Staff Writer

Kenyon was given a little taste of China on April 19 when the Chinese Music Ensemble demonstrated their skills on instruments such as the erhu, sheng and pipa.

Under the direction of Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian Music and Culture Mei Han, 14 students performed a range of Chinese songs that personified emotions and nature through their use of serene music. Members of the ensemble took to the stage in authentic Chinese clothing and proceeded to captivate the audience for a little over half an hour.

Throughout the course, students learn how to play their respective instruments at an advanced level, and basic musicianship skills, as well as ensemble skills, are taught. Each semester culminates with a public performance that showcases the students’ achievements and abilities.

Brandi Recital Hall swelled with the sounds of “Beaming with Joy,” a lively piece that traces its origins to Northern China. Followed by a classical piece that has captivated the Chinese music scene for 80 years and a song infused with folk music, the Chinese Music Ensemble brought its audience to “Guan Shan Yue.” This historical ensemble piece, which traces its roots to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE), was performed in conjunction with the poem “Moon Over the Mountain Path.” Students recited the poem first in Chinese and then in English, which appealed to a different aspect of the audience’s auditory senses. History buffs would have appreciated the rendition, too, because replications of authentic period instruments were used to add a unique tone to the music.

The next song, titled “Tiger Gnashing Teeth,” was a stunning piece for percussion performed by a reduced ensemble. By using drums and cymbals, students worked to personify a Chinese forest. Tension rose as the booming of the drums increased, representing a tiger awakening and beginning its prowl for food. The song increased in speed and intensity as the tiger hunted for its meal before, finally, ending in an explosion of emotion and sound, symbolizing the end of the hunt.

The performance concluded with “HuluFunk,” a song arranged by Han herself. The piece was written by Randy Raine-Reusch, Han’s husband. The composition included a myriad of beautiful sounds and syncopated rhythms, but the song ended with members of the ensemble emerging from the audience and playing their instruments down the steps of Brandi until finally reaching the stage. This brought a more aesthetic appeal to the performance, and the crowd was engrossed in the beautiful song until its close.

Not only did the performance provide its audience with a pleasant experience on a windy Saturday afternoon, but the performers themselves also appeared to be entertained by their activities. While some performers at this particular concert had prior experience with their instruments, the majority of students were newcomers. It was evident by the expressions on their faces that they enjoyed learning about the history and culture of the music they were playing. Considering how many  students were new to their instruments, it was surprising to see how much progress the students had made in only a semester.

Chinese Music Ensemble will be offered next semester and is recruiting new students. Experience in Chinese instruments is not needed, nor is any musical experience. Chinese Music Ensemble meets Tuesday 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. and Thursday 12:10 to 1:00 p.m. and is taught under the instruction of Han. All students who are interested in Chinese culture — whether music, history or traditions — are welcome to come be a part of the Fall 2014 Chinese Music Ensemble. 

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