Program Notes

Dance of Yao
Dance of Yao Liu Teshan & Mao Yuan Arr. Yin Qiying
This piece was originally composed for the Western philharmonic. It became popular after Peng Xiuwen arranged it for the Chinese orchestra. The arrangement of this piece for the guzheng was superb as it brought out all the expressive potential of the instrument. Its slow melody backed by light drumbeats evokes the image of young girls dancing lithely in the moonlight. As the tempo gradually picks up, it paints the picture of the Yao minority tribe joyously celebrating festive occasions with songs and dances.

Wild Geese Landing on the Lonely Shore
The vista of a flock of wild geese descending gracefully on sandbanks has inspired many great works of art and literature in ancient China, including this classic guzheng piece. The spotted-head geese now found on Bird Island in Qinghai Lake are legendary for their romantic devotion. They are always in pairs. Legend has it that when one fowl dies, its partner will remain solitary for the rest of its life to honor their love. Inspired by the tale of the spotted-head geese, famed dancer Xiaopei He Gelb has choreographed a dance to the music of this classic piece which she will premiere tonight.

Three Variations on Plum Blossom
TraditionalArranged by Weishan Liu
The plum blossom, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum were metaphors ancient Chinese scholars used to denote superior moral characters. The plum flower, in particular, earned praise for its ability to remain strikingly beautiful amidst the bitter cold of winter. This old classic was originally composed for the flute by Huan Yi in the Jin Dynasty (280 – 300 AD) and adapted to the Qin (ancient zither) during the Tang Dynasty (618-881 AD). It is known for its forceful tempo and feisty melody. Tonight, Weishan will perform this classic by improvisation.

Galloping on the Grassland
Arr. Weishan Liu and George Winston
In her performance tours to Inner Mongolia and Montana, Weishan had opportunities to visit the vast grasslands there. She was deeply impressed by the open space and the horses that roamed freely. When the San Francisco Guzheng Music Society decided to use the grassland as the theme for its 2005 annual concert, she and George Winston arranged a duet for guzheng and harmonica based on folk melodies from the South and Inner Mongolia. What you will hear tonight is the part for the guzheng. It starts out with a peaceful prelude, like the grassland under a warm sun. But the stillness is soon interrupted by the approaching rumbles of a galloping herd, coming yet closer, and crescendoing in a frenzy of heavy footsteps and deafening neighs. Serenity finally returns after the stampede moved away, but lasting only until the next wave hits. This piece portrays the rhythm of life on the grassland, as well as what make it so fascinating: tranquility, vigor, confidence, and power.

Polly’s Journey
Weishan Liu
Weishan first heard about Polly when she participated in the sound track recording of the 1991 movie Thousand Pieces of Gold. The movie was based on a book written by Ruthanne Lum McCunn on the life of Lalu Nathoy, a Chinese immigrant woman sold as a slave bride to America during the Gold Rush who later became known as Polly Bemis and settled in Idaho. Ever since she heard Polly’s life story, she has been deeply touched by it. Her subsequent tours with George Winston to places important in Polly’s life gave her the impetus to compose this piece in her memory. This was written in ternary form to reflect the sentiments in different phases of Polly’s life. The melancholic first passage recalls Polly’s hardship early in life as she was passed from hand to hand like a commodity. The middle one offers a glimpse of hope, which soon evaporates in a cruel reality check. The final passage celebrates her indomitable spirit in the face of adversity and her eventual triumph.

Ali Mountain
Taiwanese folk song
Every Chinese schoolchild knows how to sing this folk song, “the mountain is green, the creek water is blue, the girls of Ali Mountain are as beautiful as the water, and the boys of Ali Mountain are as strong as the mountain…”

Great Ocean
Diana Stork
Great Ocean is inspired by the Tibetan chant OM MANI PEME HUNG which is a prayer to awaken compassion for all sentient beings. The celestial sounds of the harp and the guzheng evoke a feeling of peace and serenity.

Bring It on Home to Me
Sam Cooke
This is based on the popular 1962 love song by soul singer Sam Cooke, performed for the first time with guzheng, harp and Chapman Stick.

Morning Bell
Arranged by Weishan Liu
The phrase “Evening Drum Morning Bell” refers to the Buddhist temple’s daily ritual of ringing bells in the morning and striking drums in the evening to signify a day in the ascetic life of a monk. Over the years it has come to symbolize one’s effort to cultivate virtues and reach spiritual fulfillment. During her extensive travels in China, Weishan made a point of visiting every Buddhist temple that she came across. The worshipers’ devout demeanor and facial expressions have always left a profound emotional impact on her, and gave her the inspirations for this composition. Drawing from the elements in the somber, peaceful “Thousand Chants” that she learned as a child from her teacher, Master Cao Zheng, she incorporated her own emotions and a great deal of free-form improvisations to the imaginary scene. This piece starts out with slow and steady chants (Adagio) and then quickens to reflect the internal conflicts and struggles of the worshipers (Andante). After an abrupt stop to signify resolution, the music returns to the peaceful “Thousand Chants” at the opening.

Life seems like heartbreak hotel
Good from bad it’s hard to tell
Where’s the Answer – could it be
The solemn tolls of morning bell?

Yet life can be full of glee
Taking things as they come is the key
The little bell deep in your heart
Has quietly been ringing for thee

Song of the Returning Fishermen
Rearranged by Weishan Liu from transcription by Cao Zheng & Zhu Yuzhi
The happy life of fishermen has been a popular topic amongst Chinese classical literature. Weishan re-arranged this piece from the 1950’s guzheng and gaohu duet version arranged by Cao Zheng and Zhu Yuzhi. It vividly paints the picture of returning fishing boats under the brilliant hues of the evening sky and the cheerful contentedness of the fishermen.

Qin Rhapsody
Zhou Yanjia Improvised by Weishan Liu
This piece was adapted from a classic Shaaxi melody about a lovelorn young girl. Weishan included her own interpretations and inserted a large segment of improvisation to add a touch of sadness and hope to the sentimental feelings in the original song.

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