Voyage: Folk Traditions Anew

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At the Maritime Museum, Port Adelaide we were welcomed aboard the Active II by the captain,Lester Wong with his trusted crew, huqin players Felix Wang and David Da with, for this voyage, cellist Joseph Freer.  They were to take us on a musical  folk song journey that began in China, then to India, Romania, Ireland, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and finally docking at Singapore.

The Silk Strings Ensemble were formed over two years ago and have since then arranged music from various countries, along with traditional Chinese music. At time they combine with other instruments. They have already established a following as I learned from some of the audience members who had been to their other shows. What they bring is a unique glimpse into the music from other countries and cultures, which in turn enriches our own musical traditions.

The huqin is an intriguing instrument having two strings and two pegs, played with a bow, and able to produce a range of colour, flexibility and resonance. The music from China and the other Asian countries certainly had a distinctly oriental sound. However the Folk Dances by Bartok and a particularly lovely arrangement of ‘Danny Boy from Derry, Ireland, demonstrated how versatile the huqin can be in the hands of such skilled musicians and arrangers. The Australian song Great White Bird, was an inspired choice, being by an indigenous composer referring to the First Fleet arriving in Sydney Harbour. We even heard the sound of the birds!

Joseph Freer, on the cello, added  an extra element, sometimes as the contrabass, at others taking a melody line. While there might have been the danger of overshadowing the more delicate sound of the huqin the group maintained a good balance and played with the assurance which comes to ensembles who have been together for some time.

This performance was made more enjoyable by the use of videos  cast on to the main sail of the ship they were sitting on, from the various countries, some being filmed by Lester. There is still a chance to catch this performance before the end of the Fringe. Check the website.

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