Members of the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan visited the Ann Arbor District Library Sunday afternoon to present a demonstration of traditional Chinese and Taiwanese music, instruments and techniques. Soloists introduced community members to five instruments: the Dizi (transverse flute), Sheng (reed organ), Yangqin (dulcimer), Erhu (two-string spike fiddle) and Gehu (cello).
This event marks the beginning of the orchestra’s four-day residency in Ann Arbor, which will include lectures and demonstrations and will culminate in a gala performance at Hill Auditorium on Oct. 4. The orchestra’s residency is hosted by the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments and is also part of the broader 2023 Festival of Asian Music at the University of Michigan, which will continue for the rest of the semester.
Katie Sucha, Stearns Collection program manager, told The Michigan Daily that she encourages people to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the orchestra’s musicians.
“This is a really engaging group of people, and they’re being very generous with their time,” Sucha said. “There’s a lot of free events open to the public, and I hope people take advantage of that because it is a very welcoming environment … they’re excellent at explaining this to people who might not know, like myself, how these instruments are used.”
The Michigan Taiwanese American Organization also helped host the event. In an interview with The Daily, Director Theresa Chang said she was excited to share the diversity of Taiwanese music offered by the orchestra with attendees and hopes to collaborate with the University on similar events in the future.
“They can truly enjoy the music that is so different than what we usually listen (to) here on a regular day-to-day basis,” Chang said. “We really, truly hope in events like this in the future, we could have more collaboration down the road.”
Sucha also said she hoped the demonstration helped younger attendees appreciate the different cultures demonstrated.
“I just hope that any students or kids really come away with more of an understanding of music across cultures,” Sucha said. “They’re playing on traditional instruments, but I heard a lot of different influences from, obviously, folk (music), but a lot of classical technique involved in there as well … The different techniques that they use to get totally different sounds from their instruments was really amazing.”
LSA freshman Jennifer Gage attended the event and told The Daily she enjoyed hearing how traditional East Asian instruments sound compared to classical Western instruments.
“I’ve been to previous demonstrations when I was little with similar instruments,” Gage said. “It was really beautiful. The sounds were similar, but it was really nice to hear the similarities but also, at the same time, the differences (compared to) Western orchestras.”
Angela Bolon, a student at Ann Arbor Huron High School, has played the pipa for nine years and gave a demonstration of the instrument after the main performance. Bolon told The Daily it was meaningful to watch the orchestra members display representation of the traditional music she usually plays.
“It’s amazing because usually, we don’t have opportunities to see stuff like this here in the U.S.,” Bolon said. “Being able to see this makes me feel relatable.”
Tzong-Yu Cheng, a senior at Pioneer High School, translated for the musicians at the event and said she feels it is important to share Taiwanese music and culture.
“I know that the Taiwanese community hasn’t really been recognized in the past,” Cheng said. “I really hope that everyone gets to experience a little bit of it at some point in their lives because it’s definitely very unique.”
NCO concertmaster Chen-Ling Liu said she was excited to share Taiwanese music with the Ann Arbor community. Cheng translated Liu’s responses in an interview with The Daily.
“She wants everyone to feel the warmth and the kindness of the Taiwanese people and also get some exposure to some new music, some Taiwanese music, that maybe they’ve never heard before,” Cheng said.
Daily News Contributor Evangeline Doolittle contributed reporting. Daily Staff Reporter Astrid Code can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.