NJPAC Celebrates Chinese New Year!

NJPAC Celebrates Chinese New Year!

Olivia Mistretta and Stephanie Zhang

For the first time ever, Chinese New Year was celebrated at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center! NJPAC is known for hosting a variety of cultural events throughout the year, and this event was truly an exceptional night for all. The idea was proposed by the Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Xian Zhang- Who encouraged everyone to wear colorful attire for the evening and experience the joy of Chinese culture. Starting with demonstrations and performances of Chinese music, calligraphy, knot-tying, and other activities in the lobby, guests were able to get a taste for the culture before the big event. After making a beeline to the calligraphy table and getting our own hanzi painted by an artist, we made a quick stop at the knot-tying table before the performance was about to begin.

The concert opened up with Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture, which is described in the program as a “work depicting the celebration of the Spring Festival, or New Year.” Since this orchestration is a stable during the holidays, the piece was a great way to start the concert. Its joyous and uplifting melody woke up most of the audience. Next up, came The Triple Resurrection for Violin (Eric Wyrick), Cello (Jonathan Spitz) and Piano (Min Kwon). It was a mesmerizing performance as we watched, enchanted as Kwon’s fingers danced up and down the piano keys. Wyrick’s expert violin playing along with Spitz’s impeccable cello performance were both equally as remarkable. According to the program, the composer, Tan Dun, was “well-known for his film scores—including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” His music also uses unordinary instruments and substances such as water, terracotta pots and cell phones. In The Triple Resurrection, unique instruments were indeed included, such as the use of water, which was manipulated by the percussionist, as the nearby the microphone magnified the dripping sounds of water. Verdi’s Anvil Chorus was next, a traditional Italian chorus blended with Chinese traditional songs. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fantasia for Piano, Vocal Soloist, Chorus and Orchestra, or the Choral Fantasy, also made an appearance in the concert. It began with Kwon’s piano solo, that in accordance with the program was “free and almost improvisatory.”

Beethoven’s piece was followed by Puccini’s Humming Chorus from the Madama Butterfly opera, performed by the Peking University Alumni Chorus and the New York Festival Singers alongside the NJSO Orchestra. The singers, as in the opera, hummed throughout the entire song, creating a unique and magical resonating sound. The widely popular classic, Jasmine Chorus closed the gap between traditional songs and operas. Finally, the show concluded with a traditional piece, 送别 (“Farewell”). While both songs were performed, there were nostalgic feelings all around as the audience sang along and swayed with the music.

In addition to the concert, there were two encore pieces along with two traditional dances—the Long Sleeve Dance and the Lion Dance. The first encore piece was the old classic, 让我们荡起双桨 (“Let’s Paddle Together”). The Starry Arts Group Children’s Chorus collaborated with the orchestra for this song, along with other songs in the concert. The second one was a popular Chinese New Year song called Gōng xǐ, which roughly translates to “Congratulation”. This was an interactive song, which meant the audience was allowed to loudly belt out the lyrics, with the help of the pinyin in in the program. The Lion Dance was performed by the Edison Chinese School Lion Dance Team. There were ten dancers and each “lion” was controlled by two dancers, and they impressively moved around the stage to a traditional drum. At the end, the dancers took off their costumes to reveal that they were children! It was very surprising to see such talent from young children, but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. The Long Sleeve Dance was performed by the Nai Ni Dance Company. Several dancers were dressed in white and held lanterns, and one was dressed in a flowing orange and yellow dress with elongated sleeves. They moved gracefully around the stage to a calming tune played by the musicians, and it was a wonderful conclusion to the dances.

All told, this was a memorable and enriching experience for all to enjoy. We definitely recommend attending this event again next year, if the NJPAC celebrates Chinese New Year again.