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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

A collaboration of culture

Students from Changsha Normal University perform traditional Chinese songs (Photo by Jeanmarie Egan, ’20).

Traditional Chinese Music and Dance Recital hits Bluett Theatre

Saint Joseph’s University played host to a collection of Chinese artists at the Traditional Chinese Music and Dance Recital in Bluett Theater on Sept. 22. Organized by the Office of China Programs, the Nealis Asian Studies Program and the Department of Music, Theater, and Film, this event showcased traditional Chinese music and dance performed by student performers from both Changsha University and St. Joe’s.

Julie Juan Yu, Ph.D, director of the Office of China Programs, was quite happy to see the program return after a six-year absence.

“At St. Joe’s, we strongly believe that art, in this case music and dance, is an incredible medium for cultural understanding and exchange,” Yu said. “We hope this concert will provide a connoisseur’s experience regarding the Chinese culture at its highest level.”

The night began with a reception in Post Hall, and was followed by the recital.  The event was packed with faculty, students and distinguished guests including families, those seeking entertainment for the night, and the members of the Changsha Normal University Faculty Performance Group. Also in attendance were St. Joe’s students enrolled in the Introduction to World Music course  taught on campus by Catharine Hughes, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of music.

“All of my other classes focus on Western music,” Hughes said. “This is the only course that the [music] department offers right now that is non-Western-based. Students learn to sing, and we talk about things like oral transmission or things like that that don’t come up or don’t easily fit in in other classes.”

The concert doubled as a benefit for victims of the recent hurricanes in the Southeastern United States.

“When our musicians heard the concert would benefit those affected, they immediately volunteered their time to support the victims,” Yu said. “Tonight, we will have representatives from the St. Joe’s Relief Fund collecting donations. All proceeds made will be going to the fund.”

A number of students turned out for the event as well as non-student patrons. The event also drew in a number of student volunteers from the Office of Student Life.

Carlee Harbright ’19, admitted that she had never heard traditional Chinese music and was only vaguely familiar with Chinese culture in general. For that reason, she was quite excited to see what the exhibition had to offer.

“Some people might think that it’s [Chinese cultural events] not really enjoyable for other cultures,” Harbright said. “But that’s mostly because they aren’t familiar with it.”

The recital began with an introduction from both hosts, Ma Liang and Yuan Yuan, in Chinese, with their remarks translated into English with the help of Shi Yangtanshi, the interpreter for the night. This bi-lingual presentation occured throughout the night as all three introduced nearly every performance piece, building a bridge between one culture and the other.

Audience members were engaged with the night’s performances, ranging from the opening ensemble piece “Mo Li Hua” (“Jasmine Flower”) to the Mongolian dance duo of Ma Liang and Zhang Qiwang in their presentation of “The Journey of Two Brothers.” The evening also showcased a number of solo pieces, such as “Dragon-Boat,” which was performed by guest performer Zhao Xian on the pipa, a pear shaped, four stringed, lute-like instrument.

The second act began with a choir piece featuring the participation of St. Joe’s students from the Introduction to World Music class. With the accompaniment of the ensemble, they performed an encore of “Jasmine Flower.”

Yu hopes that the performance will make Chinese culture more tangible and understandable to those with little exposure to the Chinese arts.

“Through the music and dance, I’m hoping that people will become more familiar with Chinese culture,” Yu said.

The Chinese Music and Dance Recital incorporated Jesuit ideals into a night of music and culture through solidarity, the acceptance of interdependence and the unity of multiple communities. Its success is a testament to St. Joe’s students’ ability to understand and enjoy the art and music of cultures beyond their own.

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