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Chinese New Year for all

by Suzanne Yanko

One month after the last day of our calendar year, 31 January is the first day of Chinese New Year. In 2014 it’s the Year of the Horse,  a welcome year, with TravelChina Guide describing the spirit of the horse as “energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able.”

“People born in the year of the horse always want to be in the limelight, “ says the Guide. “They like entertainment and large crowds.” That’s fortuitous, as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is celebrating with a Chinese New Year Celebration – at Hamer Hall on 7 February.

It’s a week after Chinese New Year begins as people may still be away or (more importantly) have family commitments, for example the all-important family dinner on the eve of the first day. This would apply equally to the guest conductor, Tan Dun. The famous Chinese composer was in Melbourne last year to conduct the MSO in his Martial Arts Trilogy, including the acclaimed music for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Andre Gremillet, Managing Director of the MSO, says the concept of a Chinese New Year concert was not new, as many cities throughout the world had such a celebration. Encouraged by new Board Member David Lee and others, Gremillet was able to move forward quickly with the proposal. “It’s very exciting, there’s a strong level of support and enthusiasm for the concert”, Gremillet said.

“It’s more than concert: it’s a cultural event”, he continued. “It’s really showcasing Melbourne and the great cosmopolitan city it is. So it’s a celebration for all Melbournians – not just the Chinese community.”

The program is exciting, comprising two works by Tan Dun: Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa (soloist) and The Triple Resurrection – inspired by Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Tan Dun has said that Wagner’s “powerful orchestral drama” deeply affected him as a composer and Triple Resurrection is the fourth and final concerto in the Martial Arts Trilogy, composed as a salute to Wagner.

The program also includes Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor
 and selections from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev. Soloists are Lu Siqing violin, 
 Xie Yudan pipa, 
David Berlin cello and
 Adoria Li piano.

Gremillet points out that Tan Dun’s music itself crosses boundaries, making him “a wonderful person to bridge both cultures”. The program has wide appeal, not just to classical aficionados, he says. It may even lay the ground for an annual celebration.

“Melbourne deserves a Chinese New year Concert”, says Gremillet. “We’re very proud of our Chinese community in Melbourne and proud of Australia’s role in China, in Asia.

“And I don’t think there’s a better way to communicate with each other than through music,” he concludes.

Chinese New Year Celebration is on Friday, 7 February 2014 6:30pm at Hamer Hall.

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