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Harmony Brings Two Cultures Through Music

The Great Lakes Confucius Institute Music Festival debuted at Duesenberg Recital Hall on Sunday, October 17 with extraordinary sound from fascinating instruments. The performance included professors and ensemble members from the famed Shanghai Conservatory, Valparaiso University orchestra students and student musicians from Bowman Leadership Academy

Jianyun Meng, Director of the Confucius Institute, stated that this annual festival “represents the continued effort and commitment of the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University and our partners to promote musical and cultural exchange between China and America. Our approach is rooted deeply in Confucian belief that harmony is the most valuable of all things and nothing is more effective in bringing harmony than music. “

Each number was opened with a narrative description presented by students both in Chinese and English. Program notes described that most Chinese instrumental music is linked to Chinese poetry and landscape painting and create peaceful scenes from nature. “Beautiful melody with extensive embellishment and expressive pitch blending” expand to mimic sounds from nature. The unique sounds from the erhu—two stringed lap fiddle, the pipa—a pear shaped, four stringed lute, the dizi—bamboo flute, the guzheng—twenty-one stringed pentatonic zither, the sheng—mouth organ, the suona—double reed with brass bell, the liuqin---soprano pipa and the zhong ruan—tenor round bodied lute made for an evening of spirited sound with animated, rhythmic fingering.

VU Senior music performance major Fritz Gross from Oak Park, IL volunteered to participate in this year’s festival ensemble orchestra, spending more than a month learning the erhu—Gross plays violin in VUSO. He shared that the transition to erhu was not too difficult. Sixteen other VUSO students participated as well—all were attired in traditional Chinese brightly colored, patterned silk coats.

The week continues with concerts in Milwaukee, University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel, area high schools with some added tourist highlights for our international guests—shopping and sightseeing.

If you would like to hear these unusual instruments or some incredible music, join the events at VUCA and Harre Union this Saturday, October 23.

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