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Stanford Pan-Asian Music Festival Highlights Chinese and Iranian Culture

Feb 24 2017

Posted In:

Faculty, Staff, Students
China, East Asia, Inner Asia

The 2017 Pan-Asian Music Festival was held at Bing Concert Hall on the Stanford University campus on February 3-4, 2017.  Now in its thirteenth year under artistic director Jindong Cai, this annual event features traditional and contemporary performing arts from across the Asian continent each year.  This year, the festival’s spotlight was on China and Iran.

On February 3, the festival collaborated with Symphony Silicon Valley, the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and United Chorus to present “Chinese New Year Concert: Music from Shanghai”.  Along with celebrating the Year of the Rooster, this concert took the audience on a fantastic journey through the history of Western classical music in Shanghai.

From the establishment of China’s first Western style orchestra in 1879 to the first national conservatory of music in 1927, Shanghai has been considered the cradle of Western classical music in China.  The concert covered a wide range of classical compositions, from the first orchestral piece ever written by a Chinese composer in 1929, to famous pieces up through the 21st century.  Featured soloists included world-renowned bass-baritone Shenyang, soprano Manhua Gao, violin virtuoso Runyin Zhang, and Peking Opera singers Hong Ding and Xiru Fu.

Following the Chinese New Year concert, on February 4 the festival presented some of the most celebrated musicians and dancers from Iran at two special concerts.  In collaboration with the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies at Stanford University, the festival hosted “Singing, Drumming, & Dancing from Iran: A Family Concert” and “Enchanting Melodies of Persia”.  The former featured lively music from the Zagros Trio Ensemble, and colorful dancers Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam and Sahar Dehghan.  The second concert brought Persian music and poetry to life through the vocal talents of Mojgan Shajarian and expert musicians Pejman HadadiAmir Nojan, and Hamed Afshari.

Iran has banned dancing by men and women, as well as public performances by female singers.  In light of this, the original intent of the festival’s concerts was to showcase vocalists and dancers whose arts are suppressed by those bans.  In a strange coincidence, when President Trump’s controversial “Muslim ban” went into effect the week before the festival, these concerts also became a platform for discussing cultural oppression at an even deeper level.

In addition to the main concerts, ancillary events were also supported by the Pan-Asian Music Festival.  An exhibit entitled “Mario Paci: An Italian Maestro in China” opened on January 23.  The exhibit, a collaboration between the East Asia Library and Music Library at Stanford University, brings to the forefront Mario Paci, an Italian conductor and composer who spent 25 years of his life in Shanghai strengthening the presence of Western classical in China.  The exhibit will remain open to the public through April 22 at the East Asia Library.

Furthermore, the festival supported a special performance piece entitled “In a Winter Garden: A Contemplative Performance Work for Dance, Music, and Sculpture”, which was hosted by Stanford Theater and Performance Studies and the Music Department.  This unique performance transformed the Bing Concert Hall lobby into “an ever-shifting environment” that explored Japanese aesthetics, “particularly the Japanese concept of “ma,” a breath-related sense of interval in time and space”.

The Pan-Asian Music Festival is administered by the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) at Stanford University.  Established in 1968, CEAS supports teaching and research on East Asia-related topics across all disciplines; disseminates knowledge about East Asia through projects of local, regional, national, and international scope; and serves as the intellectual gathering point for a collaborative and innovative community of scholars and students of East Asia.

Hong Ding, Peking Opera Singer  Hong Ding, Peking Opera Singer

Mojgan Shajarian, Iranian singer and artist   Mojgan Shajarian, Iranian singer and artist

Iranian dancers Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam and Sahar Dehghan   Iranian dancers Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam and Sahar Dehghan