Rarely heard voices of Shangri-La provide an intoxicating night

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2011, 12:00am


Sounds from a Musical Shangri-la
Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra
September 23
Concert Hall, HK Cultural Centre

Hong Kong's flagship orchestra of traditional Chinese instruments kicked off its 35th concert season by blending into its sophisticated symphonies the authentic sound and dance of a southwestern ethnic minority, the Dong.

For the concert, Sounds from a Musical Shangri-la, at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, the 85-member Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra brought in 14 members of The Ethnic Song and Dance Troupe of Rongjiang, from the region in Guizhou province.

The concert, billed as 'a riveting musical experience of the exotic and the contemporary', delicately juxtaposed orchestra and folk voice, performing with or without the other.

The effect was an organic whole featuring the Dong's distinctive sound, appearing in rare authenticity.

The opening piece, Rafting, by mainland composer Zhao Yongshan, set the tone with an excellent dizi flute solo depicting the river of a mountain village. Boisterous percussion made good the effects of rapids and movement of logs on the water.

Contrast came when eight women in ethnic costume sang enchantingly. Unaccompanied, the two-part chorus conveyed in their Song of the Cicada a youthful joy though the lyrics were in the Dong language.

In The Great Love of Our Father and Mother, the women were joined by Dong pipas, which is a lute-like instrument.

The six male Dong performers had their moment in the Lusheng Dance of Gunzhong, playing their sheng reed pipes while dancing.

The climax came when pupils of four local schools took part in the finale of Images of Southern Guizhou - A Song of Joy by the Shui Ethnic Group by Hong Kong composer Yu Chiu-for.

The piece had been commissioned specially for the concert.

The world premiere of the piece ended noisily when the choruses chanted a drinking, toasting song from Guizhou, and the volume doubled when conductor Yan Huichang called for the audience to join in the chant in an encore. The effect was certainly intoxicating.