By Karen Bliss
As part of York Region’s activities for nationwide Culture Days — three-weeks of free arts and culture performances, workshops and other happenings (Sept.23 – Oct.16) — York Chamber Ensemble (YCE) will perform “The Butterfly Lovers Concerto” on Oct. 1 (2:30-3 p.m.) at the Aurora Public Library (15145 Yonge St.).
Noted violinist Joyce Lai is the feature soloist.
Lai has not only been a featured player on home soil for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Stratford Symphony Orchestra, Etobicoke Philharmonic, Scarborough Philharmonic, and the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra. but for top orchestras around the world, including the Szeged Symphony Orchestra of Hungary and the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong.
The Butterfly Lovers Concerto is a famous Chinese orchestral work, centred on the ancient legend of the Buttterfly Lovers, the tragic love story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai.
“This one-movement concerto includes three sections that correspond to the three phases of the story—Falling in Love, Refusing to Marry and Metamorphosis,” reads the description.
Composed by He Zhanhoa and Chen Gang in 1958, while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, it is written in the pentatonic scale but uses melodies from Shaoxing opera, and has a distinct Chinese sound. It debuted in 1959 as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the People’s Republic of Chinese, featuring a teenage violinist Yu Lina.
Sometimes the violin part is played by Chinese instruments but Lai, like Lina, will perform at this Culture Days’ event on violin.
The York Chamber Ensemble (YCE) formed in 2001, consisting primarily of a string orchestra (York Strings) but frequently inviting winds, brass and percussion players. In 2020, YCE became a designated not-for-profit corporation and registered charity.
“This dynamic approach also allows for large choral works to be performed as well as smaller chamber works,” YCE’s web site states. “Local soloists are often featured, including talented young artists. YCE presents three to four annual concerts in York Region as well as performances with other community groups such as the York Festival Chorus and the Tapestry Chamber Choir.”
Michael Berec has been music director since Sept. 2019.
Karen Bliss is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Billboard, Rolling Stone, Pollstar and others. She has interviewed thousands of musicians, including Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Eminem, Shania Twain, Metallica and Michael Bublé.