Chinese New Year and The New York Philharmonic

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The celebration of Chinese New Year has steadily risen in importance. Until now the Chinese community and their friends continue the tradition throughout what seems to be almost two weeks.

Highlights of the Season are spectacular fireworks over the Hudson seen from The Chinese Consulate at 42nd Street and 12th Avenue. Plus the New York Philharmonic Gala Benefit at Lincoln Center attended by dignitaries from the United Nations, the Consulate and occasionally the Embassy in Washington — although Kennedy Center has its own celebrations during the week, as well.

The year 2017 is “The Year of the Rooster” inasmuch as each of 12 years in succession is named for one of God’s creatures: Rooster, Dog, Pig, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep and Monkey. Much is made of horoscopes for each year. Other favors are offered to guests during traditional dinners of many courses complete with chopsticks (and requested forks). The favored attire is, of course, RED!

This year, favors included a toy Rooster (last year’s Monkey hangs on a lamp by my bed), a complete horoscope, the Chinese “Almanac” with suggestions for behavior each day, a “Trump Dollar” with the image on both sides, plus various sweets in little packages and other trinkets… all charming and sometimes tongue-in-cheek. Many dinners celebrate the Shanghai Museum, The China Institute, Museum of Chinese in America and just friends in a restaurant private room complete with red and gold decorations.

At the Philharmonic, Long Yu is the principal conductor who travels between Western classics such as Ravel, Puccini and Saint-Saens to Chinese works by Li Huanzhi, Chen Qigang and Huang Zi. This year a “tour de force” was performed by Sumi Jo, a Korean coloratura, and Robert Langevin on the Flute. “Ah, vous dirai-je, maman” adapted from Le Toreador, showcased Ms. Jo echoing the flute with perfect pitch and time throughout a tremendously difficult aria with flawless accuracy. It was truly staggering, probably for her as well as the audience!

Anyone who has inhabited concert halls and opera recently has obviously noticed the extraordinary rise of musicians and singers of Chinese origin and birth. The pride of this community in their progeny’s expertise and accomplishments is clearly indicated in their support – from Tangs, Youngs, Hsiehs, Peis, and others who care deeply about the arts. It is always a joy to participate in their continued emphasis on talent and excellence.

Barbara Tober

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