SOUND OF DRAGON featuring Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra & Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra
World music lovers will experience a unique expression of Chinese music when a small touring ensemble SOUND OF DRAGON featuring VICO (Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra) & Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra performs at the Aeolian Hall on Saturday, May 23, 8:00 pm.
SOUND OF DRAGON is a ground-breaking collaboration of players from Vancouver, Taiwan & Toronto in traditional, world, fusion, improvisational and contemporary music performed on Chinese and Western instruments. The ensemble brings the spirit of Vancouver’s acclaimed Sound of Dragon Music Festival to London on their debut Ontario tour (May 20-24, 2015, in celebration of Asian Heritage Month). This international collaboration assembles erhu (Chinese violin), sheng (Chinese mouth organ), zheng (Chinese zither), ruan (Chinese lute), western violin and world percussion for a lively program of uniquely interpreted folk music and original works. The range of influences includes Indian, Klezmer, Persian, Chinese, Taiwanese, and even Beatles music! One of the featured works is John Oliver’s Eagle Flies to Mountain, composed for cross-cultural instruments.
The Sound of Dragon Music Festival originated in Vancouver in 2014. By interweaving diverse styles – from ancient folk and classical repertoire to contemporary compositions, world, fusion and creative improvisation – in solo, chamber and orchestral settings, and by presenting musicians from different ethnicities, nationalities and music genres, the festival has helped to re-define ‘Chinese music,’ situating it within Canada’s multicultural environment.
This tour is co‐presented by the Sound of Dragon Society, Vancouver Inter‐Cultural Orchestra, Small World Music, Fort York National Historic Site, Markham Theatre, Sunfest‐London Committee for Cross Cultural Arts Inc, and Waterloo's Neruda Arts. The project is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council and the Province of British Columbia. The Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra is sponsored by Ministry of Culture, Republic of China (Taiwan), Overseas Community Affairs Council, Republic of China (Taiwan), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan), Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government.
The Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra is a professional concert orchestra devoted specifically to performing new intercultural music on a grand scale. Founded in 2001, it was one of the first such ensembles in the world, and is currently the only one of its kind in Canada. VICO’s core roster consists of 24 musicians from many cultural and artistic communities in British Colombia’s Lower Mainland, some of whom are trained in the Western (European) classical tradition, while others are performers in such culturally diverse traditions as Asian, African, East Indian and Middle Eastern. VICO’s composers and musicians are on the cutting edge, writing and performing the Canadian music of the future. Their mission is to be a fresh and relevant voice in the contemporary music of our country...a creative force for innovation, diversity and understanding. Since its formation, VICO has commissioned and performed over 45 new intercultural pieces by ground-breaking Canadian composers such as Elliot Weisgarber, Jin Zhang, Stephen Chatman, Mark Armanini, Rita Ueda, Farshid Samandari, Edward Henderson, Trichy Sankaran, Coat Cooke, Michael O’Neill, John Oliver, Grace Lee, Neil Weisensel, Joseph “Pepe” Danza, Moshe Denburg and Niel Golden.
The ensemble’s annual programming includes major concerts (each featuring over 15 musicians playing instruments from all over the world), a free public educational series (Music of the Whole World), programs for elementary and high school students, professional development workshops for musicians and composers, and a variety of other events.
Recently VICO percussionist, Jonathan Bernard, talked to Valerie Hill of the K-W Record. He said there have been so many cultural influences in China over the centuries, from Jewish Klezmer to Persian music that it's nearly impossible to define Chinese music as one particular style."The kind of diversity we are able to present will change people's viewpoints when they hear Chinese music," said Bernard, one of six members of VICO's sub-orchestra on their Ontario debut tour from May 20 to 24 including stops in Toronto, London and Waterloo. The touring ensemble sprang from the mind of Taiwanese-born, Lan Tung, artistic director of the Juno nominated Orchid Ensemble. That ensemble was established in 1997 and features Tung on the erhu (Chinese violin), Yu-Chen Wang on zheng (Chinese zither) and Bernard on percussion. All three are also members of VICO.
In 2014, Tung came up with the concept of the "Sound of Dragon Music Festival" in Vancouver which was so successful she wanted to maintain the momentum by taking the festival's music to Ontario via VICO's smaller ensemble. The subsequent "Sound of Dragon Music Festival Tour" features a unique blend of traditional, fusion, world, improvisation and contemporary music played on both Western and Chinese instruments. Each performance will be different featuring musicians from Vancouver, Toronto and Taiwan. These smaller ensembles are a hint of what the larger orchestra has to offer.The full Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra with its 24 core musicians represents music from Asia, African, India and the Middle East plus many other countries. Founded in 2001 the orchestra has been referred to by CBC Radio as "the United Nations of Music." Whether playing as a full orchestra or the smaller ensembles, the music is unique, ethereal and elegant, both ancient and contemporary at the same time and that is the beauty of fusion, to bridge all cultures and eras through music.
"Instruments are not limited to cultures," said Bernard, who added the interest in world music has been around for decades, brought into wider public view through the collaboration between the Beatles and India's iconic musician, Ravi Shankar."When you look at a lot of the intercultural music, it goes back to the 1960s," he said. "You see the artistic direction of VICO coming out of that era."Bernard said the evening's program will include Klezmer music, an original piece by composer, Moshe Denburg and a classic Shanghai silk and bamboo piece known as "Song of Joy." They are also performing the Beatles tune "Because," a Bengali melody and an original Persian piece called "Crossover."The music presented, though strongly influenced by Tung and other Asian musicians, is distinctly Canadian, reflecting a multicultural landscape. The Chinese element and the Chinese instruments are simply a stepping off point, a way for Tung to get the musical conversation started.