This spring, the Swarthmore College Chinese Music Ensemble will perform a selection of works showcasing the talented group of student musicians. The concert will be held on Sunday, April 30th at 3 PM in the Lang Concert Hall where audience members will hear pieces ranging from classic, festive music celebrating the Chinese New Year to repertoire popular in the southern regions of China.
This year’s ensemble is an “exciting group,” says Director Lei X. Ouyang. A majority of the 21-student ensemble is composed of returning performers which “allows [the ensemble] to do a lot more as a group,” Ouyang notes. Though many students are returning this semester, most had no prior experience on traditional Chinese instruments before joining the ensemble, and Ouyang hopes the audience will recognize “the extraordinary talent of [the] students” throughout the performance.
This year’s program will feature four parts: a classical piece traditionally performed to celebrate the New Year, a Taiwanese “Campus Song,” Jiangnan Sizhu, a genre of music directly translating to “Silk and Bamboo Music”, and a selection of small group pieces featuring four veteran members of the ensemble. Annie Ping ’24 is delighted with the varied repertoire being performed this semester. “I like the diverse range we have, from a lively song called In a Festive Mood to a gentler piece called Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake. Ping, who has been in the ensemble for four semesters, also enjoys the more traditional pieces as “most [Chinese] music that [I’ve] experienced [is in the] Western style.”
For many concertgoers, Chinese music is not a familiar genre and Ouyang recognizes that.“[The ensemble] has a responsibility or hope to introduce Chinese music [to new listeners].” Beyond the music, the community of performers is a central part of the ensemble experience. As Ouyang puts it, “Getting together to make music is always exciting” and the performers certainly agree. Ariel Zhao ‘24, who has been in the ensemble since her first-year at Swarthmore says: “We practice in separate parts before everyone plays together. I like the surprise it gives me when all the seemingly unrelated parts from different sections collaborate and make beautiful music.”
Wang Guowei, or as he is better known, Wang Laoshi, is the co-director of the ensemble. He works tirelessly to arrange music for the students and organize rehearsals and brings an “expertise and artistry,” Ouyang emphasizes, “We can’t do what we do without him.”
The Chinese music ensemble concert will be held on Sunday, April 30th at 3 PM in the Lang Concert Hall. The ensemble hopes you will be there!