Going into Saturday night’s Kamloops Symphony Orchestra performance East Meets West it’s important to leave any preconceived notions at the Sagebrush Theatre door.
Yes, audiences will hear orchestral interpretations of traditional Chinese scores, with one of the pieces dating back 1,700 years. And the guest performer, Gemini-nominated George Gao, has spent his whole life playing the erhu or Chinese violin.
But the lively and sweeping sounds are nothing like the stereotypical music one might expect.
In fact, East Meets West is just that — western symphonic music livened up with eastern flare courtesy of a master musician unleashed on an instrument that creates sounds both beautiful and haunting.
Gao is a student of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. He’s played stages and compositions all over the world and has composed music for TV and film.
Having spoken with Gao earlier in the week, I know he loves all kinds of music, from jazz to the great classical masters. Good music is just that to Gao — good music.
He, KSO music director Bruce Dunn, and the entire symphony have crafted a concert that is full of good music. Kamloops audiences were treated to one show Friday night and another begins Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
The concert includes original work by Gao and pieces composed by Chinese born Canadian musicians An-Lung Huang, Xuan Dong, Chen Yao Xin and Chan Ka Nin.
Gao’s Capriccio is a chill inducing few minutes that starts slow and, like the very best classic music, builds to a crescendo. There are hints of romance and even a note or two that captures images of the Wild West.
Xin’s Galloping Horses has moments that feel like a full-on score to a John Ford western. Listen carefully and one can even hear odes to the William Tell Overture.
By the end of East Meets West, my toes were tapping and my head bobbing to the music. I know those are actions usually reserved for a rock concert, but the performance is just that good.
And good music is good music.