Symphoria concert celebrates Lunar New Year in CNY
Lunar New Year is Saturday, but Symphoria celebrated it this weekend with a concert at the Redhouse Arts Center in Syracuse.
Orchestral works spanned Asian genres, composers, and countries, though most of the music was Chinese. There were also a couple Korean pieces, and the show concluded with a piece from the seminal Japanese film, My Neighbor Totoro.
Taiwanese audience member Lily Kuo said hearing familiar music in Central New York made her feel welcome.
“Knowing that the music is played by musicians that is not celebrating that holiday, it’s really touching in some ways, because that is saying how they can appreciate your music and where you come from,” she said.
Kuo teaches Mandarin Chinese at Manlius Pebble Hill School. She said events like this, and the Asian food options at places like Salt City Market, are all positive signs of multi-culturalism in Syracuse.
“This event is great because Lunar New Year is not just celebrated in China, it’s the region. So, I think it’s representative of the Americans here,” she said.
The concert also intended to spark curiosity among those new to traditional, classical, or contemporary Asian music, said guest conductor Ho-Yin Kwok.
“It’s an immersive experience. I think that’s the point," Kwok said. "And people shouldn’t come and feel ‘If I don’t understand this, then I’m missing out on something.’ No! You hear what I hear, at the same time you interpret it a little differently."
Kwok was born and raised in Hong Kong. He has several jobs, one of which is director of orchestras at Ithaca College. He said collaborating with Symphoria on this project has been a learning experience.
“There is some music that I grew up listening to, but I’m classically trained, I’m Western-trained,” Kwok said. “So I myself learned a lot in this process.”
Kwok said an example happened during rehearsals. A percussionist in the orchestra had lived in Taiwan for a while. They were exposed to traditional percussion instruments during that time. The percussionist helped Kwok figure out how to incorporate that sound, which wouldn’t exist in a Western orchestra, into the performance.
Lunar New Year is considered the most important holiday in China, and is celebrated in other Asian countries and among diasporas across the globe.
Following legislation signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in September, this is the first year that Lunar New York is being recognized as a public school holiday in New York.
Correction: The original article stated that Lunar New Year is celebrated by "populations across the globe." That has been clarified to diasporas of Asians abroad.