WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield’s own New Jersey Festival Orchestra will bring its 2015-2016 season to a close this weekend with Dvorak’s "New World Symphony," the "Yellow River Cantata" and an aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Il Trovatore."
The program will feature rising opera singer Karen Ho and a mixed chorus made up of several choral groups, and will be conducted by NJFO Music Director David Wroe and his wife, Conductor Shuang Guo.
It is very rare to see a husband-and-wife team conduct together on stage at the same concert, noted Guo, who will conduct "Yellow River Cantata."
“I think we have an advantage in bringing different ideas and audiences from both ends of our experience,” she said.
“It seemed like a natural extension of our relationship as husband-and-wife and as musicians,” Wroe added.
Wroe explained the significance of his chosen pieces and their relevance to the title of the concert.
“The title ‘Enter the Dragon’ is a reference to the 'Yellow River Cantata.' It is a commemoration of the fortitude and the strength of the Chinese people during the buildup to the WWII,” Wroe said. “It’s truly a work filled nationalism and pride. It is always a big event among the Chinese community whenever it is performed.”
To perform the cantata, which was written for a soloist, large choir and orchestra, the NJFO is collaborating with a joint ensemble of several Chinese-American choral groups from the New Jersey and New York area: the Chinese American Music Ensemble, the Haiyun Chorus, the Xiang Yin Chorus and the Hua Xia Chorus.
“I have worked on this piece for seven years now. The 'Yellow River Cantata' is my favorite Chinese choral work, and it is always an exciting and unique experience to listen to and perform it,” Guo said. “In many ways it is political, but the music itself was very well written ... Just from the musical standpoint, it is a beautiful work, and I just feel it is a masterpiece to introduce to the American mainstream audience.”
Connecting to the Chinese national pride stirred by the "Yellow River Cantata," the "New World Symphony" evokes images of the landscapes and beauty of the new land of America that inspired Antonin Dvorak to compose this work, according to Wroe.
“One of the special things about America, a country of immigrants, is that it is made up of people who came from all over the world who brought their own cultural influences to create a culture that is uniquely American,” Wroe said. “The 'New World Symphony' is loosely a celebration of the diversity of American culture and people.”
“Enter the Dragon” will be performed on Saturday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield. In addition, music lovers can catch the performance on Friday, May 20, at 7 p.m. at the Richard P. Marasco Center for the Performing Arts in Monroe Township and on Sunday, May 22, at the Dorothy Young Center for the Performing Arts in Madison.
Soo Min Chung is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.