Doug Heywood, a renowned Australian conductor, found unity in the words sung on stage, while watching Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Regent Theatre on Feb. 14.
“The lyrics that were up on the screen in the translation are common thoughts for all humanity, the concept of caring, sharing, and looking for that which is good in people,” Heywood said.
Heywood, an Order of Australia medal holder, is a conductor for the Camberwell Chorale and Camerata Orchestra. He has seen Shen Yun perform in Melbourne for many years and is continually reminded of how important music and culture is to society.
“We need music, we need culture, so that we can understand ourselves. Shows like [Shen Yun] just reinforce the importance of those,” he said.
New York-based Shen Yun is a classical Chinese dance company, which tours with a unique live orchestra and includes solo musical performances like the bel canto soprano heard by Heywood.
As an experienced conductor, Heywood could appreciate Shen Yun’s orchestra and how the combination of the Chinese and Western instruments, which are unique to the orchestra, added meaning to the overall performance.
“Some of the new compositions were great; the use of the Eastern and Western instruments adds a particular color to it; the erhu was beautiful, that gives its own color to the orchestra. So the combination of the different sections of the orchestra, and the way they were arranged, it was very lovely.”
For Heywood, the combination of the orchestra along with the dancers and the animated backdrop aided in the portrayal of the stories.
“I’ve seen different interpretations of the stories, of the conflict between good and evil, and the story that’s told. I’ve seen that presented
each time in a different way, a very interesting way,” he said.
The mission of Shen Yun is to revive traditional Chinese culture—a culture believed to be divinely inspired. According to the Shen Yun website: “China was known as ‘The Land of the Divine.’ People lived in harmony with the universe and saw a connection among all things. But in 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party came to power, it set out to destroy this heritage of five thousand years. It nearly succeeded.”
Shen Yun performers and musicians base their training on traditional techniques and values. For example, dancers base their training on classical Chinese dance; soloists utilize the bel canto technique; and the orchestral composition blends Chinese melodies with powerful Western orchestration and traditional arrangement techniques.
According to Heywood, the conductor of Shen Yun, Milen Nachev, did a fantastic job with balancing all sections of the orchestra.
“He did a fantastic job. It was a nice tight orchestra, a good balance across the sections; it is well handled, well crafted and actually congratulations to him,” Heywood said.
Heywood believes there is always something to learn when people watch Shen Yun and “that’s something we all need to keep doing.”
“All art forms are an expression of humanity; the more you nurture those, the more you understand our humanity,” Heywood said.
NTD News, Melbourne, Australia