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Triton Free Fridays: Transported to China the Easy Way

Triton Free Fridays: Transported to China the Easy Way

The exotic sounds of the bamboo flute, the hammered dulcimer, the zither and the erhu combined with other Chinese instruments, filling the air at Santa Clara’s intimate Triton Museum of Art October 2 with Chinese traditional music.

A dozen members of the California Youth Chinese Symphony (CYCS) performed a dozen solo and ensemble pieces, transporting audience members to far-away China, where only the lucky performers have ever visited. They are the ABC generation of Chinese–American-born Chinese, whose parents hope to connect them to their ancestors through music.

“My daughter enjoys the music. It relieves pressure and gets her into Chinese culture,” says Fremont resident Fei Xu, born in China and the mother of 13-year-old Angelina Xu, who plays the Chinese zither and a two-stringed violin, called the erhu.


Sunnyvale resident Michelle Fan, also born in China, adds, “You don’t have to be Chinese to be in the orchestra. This music can introduce Chinese culture to American people.” Fan’s daughter, 17-year-old Jessie Shek, plays the pipa (a four-string Chinese lute).

The ensemble instruments, which also included the hulusi (a gourd instrument with three bamboo pipes) and a big red Chinese drum, were intriguing and other worldly to the western ear.

Solo music pieces reflected natural aspects of the world: “Riverside” on the zither, “Beautiful Peacock Dance” on the hulusi, “Rolling the Walnut” on the drum and “Beautiful Africa” on the dulcimer, for example. The concert finale featured two ensemble pieces, “Step by Step Higher” and “Golden Snake Dance”–a loud and lively classic festival piece played at occasions such as the Lunar New Year.

CYCS founder and executive and artistic director Yongping Tian explained that Chinese traditional music is based on the pentatonic scale (five notes per octave in contrast to the familiar seven-note heptatonic scale) and is very expressive.

Triton Free Fridays: Transported to China the Easy Way

“This kind of music is good for your soul and embraces diversity,” says Kansen Chu, state assemblymember for the 25th Assembly District, which includes Santa Clara. Chu presented the approximately 100-member non-profit youth symphony with a California Certificate of Appreciation at the concert.

“I want to thank the California Youth Chinese Symphony for their commitment in making Chinese traditional music and instruments accessible to all,” wrote Chu for the program of the CYCS concert last May at the California Theatre in San Jose.

“It was wonderful. I enjoyed the music very much,” says Chu’s wife, Daisy Chu.”I always wanted to learn the dulcimer.”

The CYCS ( performance was part of the Triton Free Fridays entertainment series, held on the first Friday of most months. The series is sponsored by the city of Santa Clara, the Santa Clara Cultural Commission and the Triton Museum of Art, with volunteer support from the Santa Clara Performing Arts Foundation. “Like” Trition Free Fridays on Facebook:

On November 6 at 7:30 p.m., Triton Free Fridays will present a double show–performances of new works by the Santa Clara Players and treasures from the Latin and Flamenco guitar repertory of the South Bay Guitar Society. The Triton Museum (, always free, is at 505 Warburton Avenue, Santa Clara.


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