Sound of Dragon Music Festival 2018

The Toronto Chinese Orchestra Chamber Players were invited to take part in the Sound of Dragon Music Festival in the beginning of April. It was our first time going as a group and we are grateful for the Canada Council of the Arts‘ support in this project. We were excited to meet new and old friends and hear and perform new works for Chinese instruments.

The TCO CP consisted of Lina Cao (guzheng), Kenny Kwan (percussion/piano), Wendy Zhou (pipa), and myself (erhu). We presented Alice Ho’s Tempered Moon, Marko Koumoulas’ Reincarnation Suite, Kenny Kwan’s 1-2-3, and Matthew Van Driel’s Whiteout. All these composers are from Toronto and two of the compositions were world premieres. In Vancouver, we collaborated with the Sound of Dragon ensemble as well as with members of the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, led by Dr. Chih-Sheng Chen.

It was a wonderful experience, networking with musicians and composers, intense rehearsals, and of course, challenging repertoire! To me, this is an event that truly shows the Canadian spirit of bridging cultures, finding commonalities, and celebrating diversity through music. The most exciting part is being in the midst of this creation process and seeing it come to life!

Celebrating Canada’s 150th in Vancouver (2)

The BC Chinese Music Association (BCCMA) hosted the first Chinese Traditional Instrument in Canada Networking Conference on May 20, 2017. The panelists were Dr. Chih-Sheng Chen, Dr. Gloria Wong, and Dr. Mei Han. The focus was on the history and development of Chinese instrument music education in Canada and the sustainability and growth of the Chinese orchestra in Canada. Charlie Lui (BC Chinese Orchestra), Jason Wong (Edmonton Philharmonica), Jeffrey Chao (Calgary Chinese Orchestra) and I (Toronto Chinese Orchestra) spoke about our own experiences.

I hope that this will be the beginning of more such exchanges so that Chinese ensemble music can continue to flourish here in Canada. It was interesting to learn about how Chinese ensembles started in each of the provinces, how we evolved, and the difficulties that we face now.

This is a topic close to my heart. Since I was 12 years old, the Chinese orchestra has been an important part of my life. If it weren’t for musicians that felt responsible to teach and share their love of music to the next generation, I would not be where I am today – leading a Chinese orchestra. My personal passion is to develop our own niche here in Canada, where we can encourage Canadian composers to write for traditional Chinese instruments. Though our music is steeped in tradition, we need to grow and evolve, making music that is relevant to our life here in Canada, but not forgetting our roots. We face many challenges as members of the Chinese diaspora, but if we can share ideas and be open to change, anything is possible!


Celebrating Canada’s 150th in Vancouver (1)

I had the wonderful experience of performing with the Silk Bamboo and Maple Festival Orchestra in Vancouver on May 21, 2017 in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. We played contemporary Canadian works for Chinese instrumental ensembles. It was a challenging and amazing experience, under the leadership of Dr. Chih-Sheng Chen (Taiwan). It was great to collaborate with these talented musicians and composers.

On our program:
Slender Gold (Owen Underhill)
Yangguan Sandie (Gloria Wong)
Shadow of the Candle (Zhi-Min Yu)
Qui Qiao Xian (Mark Armanini)
Endless Sands of Taklimakan (Moshe Denburg)
Mo (Bruce Bai)

Loess Plateau Double Dizi Concerto



樂團/小巨人絲竹樂團 笛/施美鈺 黃俞鈞 作曲/瞿春泉 2010.4.29 絲竹室內樂系列 絲弦情XII 地點/台灣.台北市.國家演奏廳 

QU Chunquan, Loess Plateau Double Dizi Concerto, SHI Meiyu and HUANG Yujun with the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Classical Chamber Music Series – Love of Strings XII, conducted by Dr. CHEN Chih-Sheng, National Recital Hall, Taipei, Taiwan, April 29, 2010.

With horses galloping over the cave dwellings, and the wind swirling up the dry sand, the villagers are labouring beneath the kiln, as this is their beloved place. A duet of Bangdi and Qudi, woven with rich Northwestern flavours – expressing deep feelings and heartfelt melodies, can be heard over the Loess – an expression of love for their homeland by the people of the Yellow Sand Plateau.

(trans: KW Chan, A Ko, P Chan)

Introducing Bridges: “Dreamscapes” Erhu Concerto

Music has no boundaries – this is a certainty! With technology, the world has become more connected. We are able to explore and learn about different cultures and with this, new sounds! Since I published “Playing Erhu – Bridging the Gap” in 2011, I am still amazed at the interest world-wide in learning the erhu.

Sharing music is one of my passions. With the erhu instruction book, it helped people overcome the barrier of language. My latest fun project is the erhu design for t-shirts (if it works out, I will have other world instruments too!).

Another project that I am working on is introducing new music for Chinese instruments and ensembles, the composers, the programme notes, and the video recordings – in English! There are so many amazing works out there, but again, there is the language barrier. Many thanks to my translators, Karwah Chan and Anthony Ko for their time and efforts. I will be working with Dr. Chih-Sheng Chen from Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra on this project. Little by little, we will make this wonderful music more accessible to English readers. I will post these translations in “Bridges”.

Here is the first piece that we did:

樂團/小巨人絲竹樂團 天鼓擊樂團 指揮/陳志昇 二胡/段皑皑 作曲/劉長遠 2012.7.21 兩岸薪傳系列 夢 地點/台灣.台北市.國家音樂廳 Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra Conductor/Chen Chih-Sheng Venue/National Concert Hall, Taipei, Taiwan


LIU Changyuan, “Dreamscapes” Erhu Concerto, DUAN Aiai with Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra and Tien-Ku Percussion Group, conducted by CHEN Chih-Sheng, National Concert Hall, Taipei, Taiwan, 2012.7.21.

This erhu piece was commissioned in 2011 by the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra. The title “Dreamscapes” can be interpreted in two ways: exposing the mystery of the different forms of dreams, or giving meaning to these dream phenomena, through music. The entire work is divided into ten movements, to be played continuously, each describing a different dreamscape.
I. Musing Dream: memories returning in a dream;
II. Jubilant Dream: full of happiness;
III. Heartsick Dream: nostalgic yearning for one’s lover;
IV. Frightening Dream: the dream of fear and dread;
V. Struggling Dream: fighting to be freed from life’s powerful constraints, with loud cries;
VI. Melancholic Dream: the dream of sorrow, tears and sighs;
VII.Fantasy Dream: fantasy in a dream;
VIII.Lamenting Dream: sighing about the weariness of life;
IX. Leaping Dream: lively, and leaping in joy;
X. Half Dreaming: in a trance, but starting to awaken..?
(trans: KW Chan/A Ko/P Chan)

Jan 2017 – “Monkey Queen”

Storyteller and writer Diana Tso presented “Monkey Queen”, music composed and performed by Marjolaine Fournier (daruan and percussion), and Patty Chan (erhu).  As part of a storytelling festival at Arts Court Theatre in Ottawa, “Monkey Queen” tells of the adventures of the female warrior as she travels from Canada to India.16195764_1209955342391202_3352796130648495287_n

2016 World Premiere of “Comfort”

Red Snow Collective’s Comfort – Written by Diana Tso. Direction, Music Direction, Movement and Scenic Design by William Yong. Music by Constantine Caravassillis. Live musicians: Patty Chan, Cathy Nosaty, Brandon Valdivia. Lighting by Rebecca Picherack. Costume by Erika Chong. Set Construction by James Kendal. Photos by Dahlia Katz.

Comfort: A love story about two teenagers in Nanjing China who find joy and friendship in their shared passion for opera, which later become precious in their survival through the war and imprisonment in a “comfort house” in Shanghai. Over 200,000 girls and women across Asia were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII but yet their stories are ones that are often forgotten in their journey towards reconciliation and social justice.15326548_10157862565100506_2136596843718900060_nAs one of the musicians, it has been a challenging journey for me, delving so deeply into the emotions of fear, sadness, and helplessness with each performance. I have learned so much about the atrocities that the comfort women had gone through, and can also see how relevant their stories are even today. For me, every show has brought tears and a heavy heart. Very exhausting! What gives me hope is that art can move hearts, make us think, and motivate us to be better and to do better.15235611_10154744626928524_7788726727001315853_o

Playing Erhu: Bridging the Gap