MADAM SU RO
April 18, 2019
The finale for our June 9, 2019 concert is a Canadian premiere, Madam Su Ro: Concerto for Janggo, Super Janggo and Chinese Orchestra, written by Korean composer Cecilia Heejeong Kim. We are very excited to have Dr. Kim, wHOOL, and her team come join us all the way from Korea! More about that later..
This is the early 8th century legend that inspired the music:
1.During the rule of King Seongdeok, Duke Soon Jeong, the governor of Gangneung province, was having lunch by the sea with his beautiful wife, Madam Su Ro. They were surrounded by steep cliffs and azaleas could be seen blooming along the edges, high above the beach.
2. Madam Su Ro saw the azalea blossoms and asked: “Is there anyone who can pick those beautiful flowers and bring them to me?” But the servants answered: “It is too dangerous to go up those high cliffs – it’s not a place any man can climb.”
3. At this time, an old man who was passing by heard Madam Su Ro and was captivated by her beauty. He climbed the cliffs, picked the flowers and brought them to her. Then he sang to her the mysterious Song of Offering Flowers (獻花歌). No one knew who that old man was.
4. A couple of days passed and once again, Duke Soon Jeong and his wife were eating lunch at the beach. Suddenly, a dragon appeared and dragged Madam Su Ro into the sea. The Duke chased after the dragon but could not save his wife.
5. Then the old man appeared and said: “There is an old proverb that says the words (groans and complaints) of many people can melt even iron. How can the dragon not be afraid of the words of many? Gather your people and let them sing songs while beating rocks by the sea, and you will be able to see your wife again.”
6. The Duke did not believe the old man, but because there was no other solution, he obeyed. Finally, the dragon released Madam Su Ro. As she reappeared, the odd scent of her clothes from the sea was not of this world. She smiled mysteriously and seemed to have enjoyed her adventure.
PRINCESS MIAO SHAN
April 16, 2019
According to Chinese folklore, Princess Miao Shan is believed to be one of the incarnations of the Guanyin Bodhisattva, also known in Chinese mythology as the Goddess of Mercy. Though there are many variations on the legend of Miao Shan, the general story holds that she was the third and youngest child of a cruel king. As Miao Shan showed a desire to pursue a monastic life from an early age, she defied the king’s orders to marry a wealthy man. After she entered the temple, the king arranged for her to take on the toughest chores in a bid to discourage her, but legend has it that due to her compassionate nature, all the animals in the temple helped her out with her chores. Out of desperation, the king then ordered for the temple to be burnt down, but Miao Shan managed to put out the fire with her bare hands in a miraculous display. Struck by fear, the king ordered for Miao Shan to be executed, but Miao Shan was rescued (different versions of the story point to different causes), and eventually retreated to the Fragrant Mountain where she meditated. Years later, the king was struck by illness, and was told by a mysterious monk to seek help from the hermit living on the Fragrant Mountain, and obtain an eye and an arm from the hermit to make medicine. Upon receiving a visit from the king’s messenger, Miao Shan gave up both eyes and both arms without hesitation, and the king was cured. When the king and queen visited the mountain to return their thanks, they were shocked to discover that the hermit was in fact their estranged daughter, and was overcome with regret and begged for her forgiveness. Miao Shan replied, “Having given up these human eyes, I shall see with diamond eyes. Having yielded up these mortal arms, I shall receive golden arms.” At those words, Miao Shan transformed into the thousand-armed, thousand-eyed Guan Yin Bodhisattva, and then ascended into heaven.
NIGHT MOORING BY MAPLE BRIDGE
April 14, 2019
One of the works that we will present on June 9, 2019 is based on a famous Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) poem by Zhang Ji. The following is the poem and the story behind it.
“The crows at moonset cry, streaking the frosty sky
Facing dim fishing boats neath maples, sad I lie.
Beyond the city wall, from Hanshan Temple
Bells break the ship-borne roamer’s dream in midnight still.”
The poet Zhang Ji left only a few works for us, but Mooring by Maple Bridge at Night touched many people’s hearts.
One year, Zhang Ji took part in an examination in which all his friends passed but him. Being very unhappy, he decided to travel to Suzhou to relax. In this beautiful city, Zhang Ji travelled around by boat. As evening approached, he asked the old boatman to anchor the boat by Maple Bridge as he did not want to go any further. He hoped that a good night’s sleep would help put him in a better mood. However, as the boat swayed gently in the water, Zhang Ji could not fall asleep. He thought of the years he had spent studying, the hopes of his parents and grandmother, and the weight of their disappointment. Finally, he abandoned the idea of sleep and decided to sit outside. Zhang Ji watched the moon as it set down beyond the maple trees and disappeared. He heard a crow call from the trees and saw the lights along the river extinguish. The chilly autumn wind blew and Zhang Ji could hear the bell from Hanshan Temple ringing in the distance. Zhang Ji, feeling lonely and homesick, wrote this famous poem.
The composer, Jianmin Wang integrates the elements of Kunqu Opera, Suzhou folk songs, Silk and Bamboo style, and other musical forms and tone features, creating a delicate and elegant work for guzheng and Chinese orchestra. Our wonderful soloist is Lina Cao.
April 9, 2019
Butterfly Lovers is one of the most well-known Chinese tragic love stories of all time. The Chinese title is actually a combination of the names of the two lovers: Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, which was then shortened to Liang Zhu. The tale begins during the time of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (265–420 AD), when women were not allowed to have an education. A young woman, Yingtai, manages to persuade her parents to let her attend school disguised as a man. On her way to school, she meets another student, Shanbo, and they became good friends. For three years, they studied together, and during that time, Yingtai fell in love with Shanbo, but could not let him know her true identity.
One day, Yingtai was called home. Shanbo accompanies his best friend on the journey, during which Yingtai hinted that she was a woman. But Shanbo remained oblivious. When they arrive at Yingtai’s home, she asks Shanbo to return soon to meet her “sister”. When he does, he finally realizes who she is and he falls in love. Shanbo decides to propose, but discovers that Yingtai’s father has arranged for her marriage to a wealthy merchant. Shanbo is devastated and shortly after, dies from heartbreak.
On the day of the wedding, the procession passes Shanbo’s grave. Yingtai stops to pay her respects when suddenly the gravesite opens! Yingtai immediately leaps into the grave to be with her love. Moments later, two beautiful butterflies emerge and fly away.
This love story has been adapted into operas, plays, TV dramas, and music. The most well-known is the violin concerto, which has been performed world-wide. For our concert, we are using the adaptation for erhu and Chinese orchestra.