Saturday, February 25, 2006

Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble

I paid for my first Paramount show- boy was it ever worth it. There are not enough superlatives to describe how much I enjoyed the Silk Road Ensemble on Thursday night.
I also volunteered at the school show on Friday afternoon- thanks to Chris I got to see the brilliance of this group twice.

The two programs had all the same performers and similar music but were very different. The first was a beautiful concert with Nicolas Cords introducing songs and other performers. Yo Yo barely spoke except to say "I will be your cellist tonight" in case we had a question about that. The concert started with only the Western instruments: viola, 2 violins, a bass and Mr. Ma. Nick introduced Wu Man (the only female in this show) who played a pipa (a musical instrument from China). Wu Man played the pipa like a rock star. The percussionist and Iranian fellows came out and played some tunes with the assembled group. Iranian fellows are Siamak Aghaei, (santur) Siamak Jahangiri, (ney) and Kayhan Kalhor (composer/kemancheh). Their instruments gave the ensemble a diverse sound. I had never seen most of these instruments but I recognized the sounds. The group played a waltz, concerto and other familiar tunes (with the twist of expanded # of instruments and a Asian, Persian twist to them). In general the performers really seemed to enjoy themselves and the audience got two encores (with three standing ovations).

The school audience was great- they were enthralled. The performers were a lot more relaxed. They played the same songs, but the abridged version AND answered questions from the audience. Everyone in the group spoke at this performance (and I learned the second violin player is from Russia). The questions were really good and I could tell the ensemble could go on all day (the students had to get going though).

I heard two complaints (and I couldnt disagree more)
1) Yo Yo Ma did not play any solos- it is true. The show was an ensemble, the only instrument featured prominently was the pipa. I found Yo Yo's lack of prominence refreshing in the mad egomanic world of musicians. Moreover, the performers brought out the smiling academic in Yo Yo so I felt that the audience got to see a different side of him. Of course, it is called an ensemble for a reason.
2) "we didnt know it would be persian music" um what the ... ? It is called the Silk Road Ensemble- what the heck would people expect?

I attended the folk life festival in DC several years ago that featured the Silk Road (2001?), I really enjoyed it. The festival showcased the culture, economy, food and music of the Silk Road. AS a result of the festival I am particularly interested in the blend of Western and Eastern cultures brought about by this historic passage.

I am so grateful I could go to this event (since the ensemble added a second show, I would not otherwise). My only complaint is about the Friday afternoon show- I ushered on the balcony and the sound did not compare to the great seats I had for the Thursday evening show. Still I loved it.

1 comment:

mckora said...

It was a great show. I am so glad I was able to attend.