On Feb. 8, 2016, Union students welcomed the Chinese New Year by playing various Chinese instruments. The show, entitled “33 Fire Monkeys,” featured four girls who alternated between playing the guzheng, the erhu and the guqin.
Dressed in beautifully ornate clothing, the students entranced the audience with their melodic tunes and gestures while also honoring the holiday.
One of the acts worth noting was that of Yujuan “Julia” Qiu ’18 and Junwen “Saralynn” Su ’17. Both girls played the guqin, seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family that produces a deep, quiet sound.
Symmetrically perched on benches with matching hairstyles, both girls were wearing beautiful pastel robes and mirrored one another by stroking the instruments in unison. The bitter, staccato notes were like the snap of a rubber band, filling the room with a “scattered” melody.
Another wonderful performance was Yawen “Padma” Yang ’18 on the guzheng. The show’s host, Ian Taylor Mowers ’16, explained the guzheng is often played as a solo instrument in rituals, in front of friends, outside or alone.
Her hands draped over the instrument, Yang filled the room with bright, sweet music. What really captivated the audience was the melody; although the tune was consistently ethereal, there was a battle between chaos, depicted by the quick, high notes and order, the slower, deeper notes.
One could not see her face, as she was peering down with her black hair covering some portion of her. Her lack of eye contact did not inhibit her ability to communicate the song; rather, it enhanced her intimate relationship with the instrument in contrast to her connection with the audience.
She was completely enveloped with the instrument and song, to a point where it seemed as if they were one entity.When she finished, she raised her hands triumphantly in the air, and then slowly placed them in her lap. Raising her head, her hair slipped away to reveal her face.
The effect was outstanding; everyone in the room felt the energy she radiated.
The final performance closed the show wonderfully.
Yisai “Lisa” Wang played the erhu, a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, while Yang plucked the guzheng again.
The melodies of the instruments intertwined beautifully: the velvety, deeper tone of the erhu contrasted against the high, celestial sound of the guzheng.
Wang played the instrument serenely; throughout the song she made conscious eye contact with the audience as she gracefully bowed the instrument. Because both girls effectively weaved their melodies together, the piece came off as well-executed.
The show illuminated why the Chinese New Year is celebrated.
Each song had notes of jubilance and hope. It was through this Chinese music that the campus body gained a greater understanding of the backgrounds of these string instruments and their repertoire.