BY EMMA RUBIN '20
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst Chinese Music Association and Mount Holyoke students came together in Chapin Auditorium on Dec. 1 to celebrate Chinese folk music. The event was sponsored by Love Across the Coast, a Mount Holyoke org that seeks to promote equal educational opportunities in rural China.
Kuan-chi Chen ’19, treasurer of Love Across the Coast, told the audience that the performances will travel “through time and space.” The showcase of music and dances encompassed not only traditional Chinese folk songs, but also modern styles.
First, five students in red traditional dresses danced to a guitar and flute melody, then Chen returned and read a 1,300 year old poem entitled, “Departure At The Front.”
A student then played “Departure at the Front,” a song which was inspired by the poem, on the guqin, a seven string acoustic instrument. Next, a three person ensemble featuring two bamboo flutes and a guzheng, a 16 string acoustic instrument recreated the song “Annual Ring,” which is the theme song of the popular show “Journey of the Flower.”
The final performance by the UMass CMA was a rendition of the main theme from the 2016 Chinese animated film “Big Fish & Begonia.” A bamboo flute, guzheng, piano and keyboard harmonized as UMass student Zilu Wang sang the lyrics in Chinese. At the end of this interpretation, a brief intermission ensued. Bubble tea and Chinese snacks were offered for everyone present.
As the crowd reconvened after the short break, Love Across the Coast offered more information about their organization. They host an annual summer camp in rural Chinese provinces to offer students in need “a non-traditional learning experience.”
The show continued with the performance of a Mount Holyoke Chinese musical ensemble. The six instrument orchestra featured the guzheng, the Yangqin, a type of dulcimer, the pipa, a four stringed acoustic, the xiao, an end blown flute and two types of percussion. Bingyao Liu ’19, the leader of the ensemble, concluded their set by thanking the audience. “It really means a lot to us,” she said.
Two students, one on the yangqin and the other on the cucurbit flute, played, “Loving Smile from Wind and Water.” Chen called the song “a message from nature.”
Chen then talked about the history and role of bamboo in China to introduce the final performance; a rendition of the song “The Bamboo Under the Moonlight.” It featured the guzheng, yangqin, cucurbit flute and percussion.
Yue Wang ’19 is the event coordinator for Love Across the Coast.The goal of the organization and the camps they organize is to promote a liberal arts education. “Many of [the camp students] don’t even know what liberal arts is,” Wang said. She explained that events like Rhythmic China help to inform people about Chinese culture, but that also “We do all these kind of events to get more donations and to raise more money.” LAC relies on volunteers and donations to hold their annual camps.
Sarah Shuler-Barwick ’20 attended the performance and despite a limited background knowledge of Chinese folk music and culture she thoroughly enjoyed it. “It has piqued my interest and my wanting to know more about a culture that I know very little about,” she said. Shuler finds it very important that all people seek opportunities like this to learn more of different cultures, “You need to understand different cultures and experiences that may not represent your own to have a more worldly view.”