The orchestra’s seventh-annual community-building event features music ranging from the “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack to “South Pacific” to a world premiere by composer Ye Yanchen.
A symphony orchestra, as with any major cultural organization, should not only be a destination for arts aficionados but part of the fabric of its urban home.
Now in its seventh year, Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s “Celebrate Asia” concert at Benaroya Hall is one measure of SSO’s commitment to audience inclusiveness in a diverse city. Conceived by local Asian leaders as a way to strengthen bonds between their communities and broader Seattle, “Celebrate Asia” (to be presented this year on Sunday, March 1) presents both new and familiar music in a program that bridges cultures.
“ ‘Celebrate Asia’ is a concert for families, for people who love orchestral music as well as for people who have never been to Seattle Symphony,” says Carolyn Kuan, guest conductor. “It’s important to include a variety of pieces, to involve as many cultures as we can.”
Seattle Symphony: ‘Celebrate Asia’
4 p.m. Sunday, March 1, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $20-$76 (206-215-4747 or seattlesymphony.org).
Kuan, music director for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in Connecticut since 2011, is a former assistant conductor and associate conductor at Seattle Symphony. She previously led three “Celebrate Asia” concerts and had a hand in their programming.
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This time around, Kuan will conduct two premieres and selections from film and Broadway scores.
The bill includes music from composer A.H. Rahman’s “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack (Bollywood-style dancing in the audience has not been explicitly forbidden), as well as Tan Dun’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” SSO assistant principal cello Meeka Quan DiLorenzo will anchor a concerto from “Dragon.”
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Overture to “South Pacific” will get everything started.
The concert’s centerpiece is the U.S. premiere of Japanese composer Yugo Kanno’s “Revive: Concerto for Koto and Shakuhachi” and the world premiere of Chinese composer Ye Yanchen’s “Xixi.” Both Yanchen and Kanno will attend the performance.
“Xixi” is Yanchen’s winning entry in Seattle Symphony’s “Celebrate Asia” Composition Competition for 2015. It has been described as a “depiction of heartbreak and sacrifice in the lives of traditional Chinese opera performers.”
Elena Dubinets, SSO vice president for artistic planning, says “Xixi” is a “dynamic and colorful piece … [that] impressed the jury with [its] intensity of expression and colorful orchestral writing.”
“I’m really excited about it,” says Kuan. “It’s both serious and dramatic, perfect for a story about an actor in a Chinese opera. It has the feeling of ‘Pagliacci’ to it, the difference between what the actor presents and who he really is underneath.”
Kuan says “Revive,” the concerto by Kanno — a popular composer for film and television in Japan, as well as of concert music — “is fascinating. I’m really excited to do this. I’ve worked with a lot of Asian instruments that bring a whole other sound world, unique colors. I enjoy Kanno’s music, his tremendous sense of depth. He’s very imaginative, and I look forward to talking with him about the piece.”
As always, there will be colorful pre- and post-concert performances in Benaroya’s lobby, included in the concert ticket price. Among those artists will be Indian dancer Sharmista Mitra Dohray, Northwest Kung Fu Lion Dance Group and One World Taiko.
Kuan has brought leadership to Hartford Symphony’s participation in community life. She created a concert series called “Playing with Food,” during which the city’s star chefs create dishes on stage accompanied by music Kuan selected.
“The mayor wanted to revitalize the city core by getting more people to dine downtown,” she says. “This was a way we could help.”