A look at Chinese culture through music and dance
When you think about Chinese music, you might picture traditional ballads with ringing bells along the Yellow River, wispy chimes sounding outside bamboo huts and tonal flutes echoing through tall reeds. What you might not imagine are symphonic, classical pieces, ballets or quartets. The latter, however, are what you’ll experience during the “Musical Trip to China” event sponsored by Elizabethtown College’s Modern Language Department at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, in the College’s Leffler Chapel and Performance Center.
Suping Chen, assistant coordinator of international recruitment and adjunct instructor of Chinese, is the host of the event and a soloist in the musical stage show. She said she hopes months of planning and training culminate in bringing something culturally diverse to E-town’s campus. Often, bigger venues such as those in Hershey host performances such as this. Chen said she is trying to bring her spin on the Chinese culture to E-town’s stage.
We can appreciate all of the other cultures that exist within America and be inspired by them.”
“We’ve really tried to bring something different to practice,” she said. Chen is changing the way the format for traditional Chinese musical shows are performed. “You’re trying to bring a different culture, so you want it to combine more than just traditional songs or folk songs.” This is why the musical event will include more than just singing and piano pieces.
Throughout the show, the audience has the opportunity to experience traditional music accompanied by dance performances by Hershey area schools students and the Sunshine Dance Club, a Harrisburg group working to share the Chinese culture through its dancing. Jose Johnson’s Chinese Martial Arts and Wellness Center will perform a martial arts demonstration to add an athletic element to the production. There also will be student members of the Harrisburg Youth Symphony Orchestra and the York Symphony Orchestra performing classical Chinese pieces. Students from Elizabethtown College will be featured in choral pieces with students from Trinity High School in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
“These younger students are trained very well and are very professional for their age. I want them to be able to have learning about the culture outside of their Chinese classes,” Chen said. Featured performer, Connor Rohrer, a junior at Trinity High School, is the only soloing pianist of the evening.
“This experience has just opened my eyes to a lot of different things,” Rohrer said in a phone interview. The classically trained pianist had to adapt to a new style of playing and performing. “This was something totally different to me. I had never really known anything about the (Chinese) culture, but learning about it and accompanying Suping was really great.”
Rohrer expects the audience will not only experience the incredible music but take away what he believes is an important message, he said. “We can appreciate all of the other cultures that exist within America and be inspired by them.” Rohrer will solo on piano as well as perform alongside Chen. “The music is really hard and emotional and takes a lot of planning,” Rohrer said.
Training, rehearsals and planning for the cultural event began in April with students coming to learn with Chen four hours each week. “Once a year for this type of event is enough,” she said. “It takes a long time to prepare, and there are so many details.”
The College’s Modern Languages Department and Asian international students coordinate to bring other cultural events throughout the year, showcasing holidays, meals or films about the culture. It is with the lure of music and dance that Chen hopes brings a large audience to Leffler. “I’m really trying to bring an educational and promotional theme … to show the people traditional dress and costumes, but I also want them to see that you can combine [Chinese] history while making things modern.”