Heaven may be just a concept for some or a remote reality for others, but that insurmountable separation between heaven and earth may be bridged, on occasion, through the arts.
Inspired by myths, legends, and China’s 5,000 years of civilization, Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra presents a vivid storytelling experience: In one moment one is sitting in a brightly lit concert hall; in the next, one is promenading with ancient Chinese princesses who wear long silk sleeves. Then, without ado, one is dropped onto a battle ground from the Three Kingdoms era.
Among audience members at Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, two years ago was Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese civil rights activist who is known for organizing a class-action lawsuit against China’s one-child policy.
He said he was gravely concerned by how traditional Chinese culture has disappeared in modern China. “If you want to find true traditional Chinese culture, you need to look overseas,” Mr. Chen said.
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, calligraphy, paintings, classical books, and scriptures were burned. Temples and statues were smashed. Traditional holidays, etiquette, and forms of entertainment were never quite the same again in China.
An Assorted Group of Prestigious Artists
Shen Yun Orchestra is able to play a major role to revitalize traditional Chinese culture because it is comprised of world-class musicians who perform original compositions that connect the soul of Chinese music with the grandeur of a Western orchestra.
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra conductors include Milen Nachev, who was formerly a chief conductor and artistic director for several major orchestras in Eastern Europe, and William Kuo, who was the founding conductor of the Taiwan Formosa Chamber Ensemble.
Shen Yun’s notable composers include Jing Xian, who studied ethnomusicology at Oxford University on scholarship, and Junyi Tan, who studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and performed as a pianist for the China Opera and Dance Theater.
Another audience member, Donte Griffin, a rapper, was among the first to stand up to applaud.
“I can’t even express it,” he said. “Words can’t even explain this experience.”
He stopped to take off his glasses and wipe away tears.
Mr. Griffin said he often listened to classical music and assured us that he usually doesn’t cry during concerts.
Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra is, by all accounts, the No. 1 orchestra in the world to harness the precision and power of Western orchestration and animate it with the authentic instruments and rich melodies of ancient China. When it returns to Carnegie Hall for one performance only—Sunday, Oct. 7, at 2 p.m.—it will be the musical event of the year.