UNLV World Music Chamber Ensemble celebrates Lunar New Year

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The UNLV World Music Chamber Ensemble and Las Vegas Modern Kung Fu perform “Meet Taichi.” (Grace Kelly/ Scarlet & Gray Free Press)

The UNLV World Music Chamber Ensemble held a Lunar New Year Concert on Feb. 10 in the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall.

Directed by Tianxi Wen, the show ran from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. The concert was filled with traditional Chinese, Korean and Japanese dances, as well as renowned musical pieces of Asian culture and heritage celebrating the Year of the Dragon. There was also inclusion of traditional instruments, such as the erhu, pipa, yangqin and guzheng.

The opening speech was given by faculty advisor Dr. Richard Miller, providing context to the opening song “Spring Festival Overture”, which, in 2007, was selected to be broadcasted into space on China’s first Lunar probe. Dr. Miller joins the performers on stage intermittently to provide context and background as the concert continues. 

Director Wen, who played the yangqin and serves as conductor of the UNLV WMCE, is a Doctoral of Musical Arts conducting student at UNLV. She earned her master’s degree in Music in Orchestral Conducting from Indiana State University and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sichuan Conservatory of Music in China.

Huan Zhao played the erhu and performed “The Grapes Are Ripe” as a duet with Michelle Kim on piano. Zhao is also a professor from the Nanjing Normal University School of Music and is a quality national performer who once served as the head of the Jiangsu Performing Arts Group. 

Xinque (Serena) Li, who played the guzheng and performed “Fighting the Typhoon” solo, started practicing the Chinese plucked zither in 1998. She received her bachelor’s degree in Music Performance in 2014 in China. Around the same time, she was offered to teach the guzheng at elementary schools and music education institutions.

Following “Spring Festival Overture,” UNLV WMCE played a rendition of Geukyoung Yoon’s “Magpie New Year’s Day,” which represented a history of repression by the Chinese government due to its nature of a positive depiction of solidarity in the Korean Peninsula. This provided a well-rounded and true-to-history depiction of the celebration and importance of the Lunar New Year and Seollal.

The Kung Fu Suite was performed by Las Vegas Modern Kung Fu. The UNLV WMCE played “Meet Taichi,” “Legend of the Condor Heroes” and “Your Legend,” while Las Vegas Modern Kung Fu performers demonstrated many different styles of Tai Chi and Kung Fu, including the popular “drunken style.” Director Wen also included the audience in the performance of “Your Legend” and instructed the audience to call out with the strikes of the performers.

Traditional and classical Chinese dances were performed by Happy Face Dance Studio. These performances included “Folding Paper Fan Scholars,” “Standing on the Prairie to look at Beijing” and their youth group joined the stage to perform “Endless Happiness with Chopsticks.”These dances feature elegant techniques that embody Chinese dance culture, such as Chinese bowl balancing and chopstick dancing.

The concert ended with a vocal performance of Meng Weldong’s “No Sleep Tonight” by Xinqu Pan-Herrington and Yile Huan and a bow from all members of the celebration, followed by applause and the shutter of cameras. All attendees were offered a ticket for a free week of Kung Fu or Tai Chi classes at the Shaolin Tai Chi Heritage Center. 
UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall hosts many concerts and performances, including this year’s Lunar New Year celebration. Tickets are on sale in the Box Office on the south side of Cottage Grove Parking Garage. Students with valid IDs received free tickets to the Lunar New Year Concert, as well as many more performances, which can be found on the Performing Arts Center Website https://www.unlv.edu/pac.

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