By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Shiva Shafii, Seattle Symphony’s director of communications, shared excitement about this year’s Celebrate Asia, which will include a mix of diverse artists and repertoire with folk music from China and Russia.
The 12th annual performance will also feature Chinese American pianist Conrad Tao, whom Shafii described as having “a lot of dynamite” in his performances. Tao, a Lincoln Center Emerging Artist, joins the Seattle Symphony to perform his own work, as well as George Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue.
According to Shafii, Tao last performed with the Seattle Symphony in January 2018 when he played Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2. In addition to Celebrate Asia, he’ll also be playing a recital in Benaroya Hall’s newest venue, Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center, on March 6.
Returning for her fourth year, Seattle LGBTQ icon Aleksa Manila will be hosting pre- and post-concert activities and performances for Celebrate Asia. Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist Lori Matsukawa will be hosting the main event.
Shafii explained that what’s also special about this year’s event is that it focuses on new and emerging composers. This is a unique opportunity where a major American orchestra holds a composition competition to allow these amazing composers to shine.
The annual Celebrate Asia Composition Competition receives a few dozen submissions each year. This year’s winner, Adeliia Faizullina, hails from Kazan, Russia. Her musical inspiration draws from traditional Tatar folk tales. Faizullina, who is visually impaired, is committed to sharing her experiences with other visually impaired musicians, according to her website. She will be performing Tatar folk tales “Sak and Sok” and “Arba.”
In addition, the program will also feature Tianyi Lu as the conductor and Huang Rao’s folk songs for orchestra, Chen Yi’s Si Ji, Tao’s The Oneiroi in New York, and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
To mix things up and be inclusive of the different communities in the greater Seattle area, Shafii said that they incorporate and rotate different performance groups that they can work with and align well with each year’s theme for the pre- and post-show performances.
This year’s pre-show performers include the Children’s Choir, Filipino Youth Activities Drill Team, Oolleemm (Korean Traditional Performing Arts Group), and Seattle International Lion Dance Team. The show will close with vibrant performances by CHIKIRI and the School of TAIKO and Rhythms of India.
Shafii said that Celebrate Asia is the only cultural event that the Seattle Symphony holds annually. Planning for the performances starts months in advance. Shafii said that a lot of the time, the conductor and composer will send music ahead of time to talk through details to make sure the essence is really captured. They generally hold two rehearsal performances: one a few days before the event and one day-of when they do the full run-through.
“What’s really special about Celebrate Asia is the relationships that we end up developing with artists and composers, and how they show themselves in future performances,” she added.
For example, Shiyeon Sung, who conducted last year’s Celebrate Asia concert, will be returning in October later this year to conduct one of Seattle Symphony’s Masterworks concerts. In addition, the Seattle Symphony announced their season for next year.
“There’s a pretty significant thread between music from three continents and it’ll be a cultural exchange from North America, Europe, and Asia,” Shafii said.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit seattlesymphony.org.
Nina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.