CAST 最近演出

Rising Stars Gala - An Online Concert

November 2020


Cello Solo & Orch. Allegro appassionato, Op. 43Saint-Saëns

Cello Solo:. Austin Dong, CAST Philo musica Orchestra


Flute Solo & PianoStandchen, D957, NO. 4Franz Schubert

Flute: Queenie Hung, Piano: Ingrid Qiu


Solo Voice & Piano Memory Andrew Lloyd Webber

Vocal Soloist: Ariel Liu, Piano: 徐晓红


Violin Solo & PianoViolin Concerto in E Minor, 3rd Mvt. Mendelssohn

Violin Solo: Glenn Huang, Piano Accompaniment: Irene Huang


Harp SoloImpromptu Caprice Gabriel Pierne

Harp Solo: Sunshine Quan


Solo Voice & OrchestrateOn The Mt. EastZhang Qian Yi,

Erhei Liang Orch.

Solo Voice: Jennifer Lee. CAST Philo musica Orchestra

An Online Concert to Meet New Musicians, 2020 Autumn, Aug. 2020

2020 秋季新人新曲云端音乐会


Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor RV 531 , by Antonio Vivaldi

cello Soloists: Peter Yan and Austin Dong, Academy of Chamber Music for Young Musicians


Picture Of My Heart, Song Ga In Music, Haiyang Huang Arr.

Violins: Jenny Li, Shuran Wang, Viola: Stephen Murray,Cello: Keli Chen, Piano: Ingrid Qin


Violin Duo op. 70, no. 1, 1st mvt: Allegro Moderato, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Violins: Eros Tang, David Lin


Batti batti o bel Masseto, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

SopranoLing Bei, Piano accompanimentChia-Pao Hsu


Shanghai Tan, by Andy Lau

CAST Youth Orchestra, Conductor: David Lin


Huntington Castle, Traditional Scottish tune, Stephen Murray Arr.

Violins: Irene Huang, Jeremy Zung, Glenn Huang, Viola: Haiyang Huang,

Cello: Jacob You, Piano; Stephen Murray


Violin Sonata No. 21, 1st movement, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Violin: Eros Tang, Piano: Jessica Zhang


Meditation, by Jules Massenet

Harp: Andrew Chan, Violin: David Lin, Academy of Chamber Music for Young Musicians


"The Same Heart Concert" is a large-scale  Online concert organized by Toronto Chinese Artists Center with the efforts of the members of Chinese artists from all over the world. It was posted online  in late June 2020. When mankind experiences a sudden catastrophe, only the concerted efforts of all mankind can overcome the catastrophe. This is the theme of this concert, in which there are many works, composed by Canadian composers.

"The Same Heart" Composed by Erhei Liang*

CAST Philomusica Orchestra, Conductor: Erhei Liang


"Stars in the Sky" Lyrics and music by Vicky He*

Soprano: Vicky He, CAST Philomusica Orchestra, Conductor: Erhei Liang


"Les larmes de Jacqueline" by Offenbach

Cello James Xia, CAST Philomusica Orchestra, Conductor: Erhei Liang


"The Strength of Love" by Lyrics by Yiping Chao* and Music by Kevin He*

Soprano: Yiping Chao Tenor, Guitar and Cello: Kevin He


"Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 Movement 2 " by Mendelssohn

Violin: Ding Huang, Cello: Chris Chen, Piano: Jia Yu Xie


"Song of the Yangtze River" Lyrics by Hu Hongwei and Music by Wang Shiguang

Soprano: Vicky He, CAST Philomusica Orchestra, Conductor: Erhei Liang


(* Canadian composer)


Spring Festival Concert (January 2020)

The Chinese Spring Festival is an event much looked forward to for performers and audience members alike. As winter rolled around, the CAST Philomusica Orchestra hosted its annual concert on January 19, 2020, at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts to celebrate the much-anticipated arrival of spring. In particular, this year’s concert focused less on traditional Classical works, fixating more on premiered performances by new Canadian composers. Many composers got the chance to present their new work at a large-scale concert and audience members had the fantastic opportunity to listen to music written today. The concert incorporated many Chinese elements as well, featuring iconic Eastern instruments including pipa and guzheng.

The first performance, the “Longing Suite for Voices and Orchestra” was a collection of four songs composed by Vicky He and orchestrated by the conductor of the CAST Philomusica Orchestra, Erhei Liang. The first song in the suite was “Memory of Childhood”, performed by the We Sing Children’s Choir. It was heartwarming to hear a children's choir sing about their younger innocence, hinting that everyone will eventually grow up but they will always cherish their childhood memories. These children will continue to build on their vocal talents to acquire a mature and controlled sound. The second song was “Longing of Homeland”, performed by the composer, Vicky He, with the We Sing Children’s Choir as accompaniment. This song incorporates the tune from the famous Chinese folk song, Jasmine Flower. At the concert, Ms.He lovingly sang about one thinking of their homeland, ingeniously having the children sing the familiar tune from Jasmine Flower to represent young kids singing merrily on the streets of China. The third song was “Longing of Maple Leaves”, performed by the distinguished Alata Harmonia Chorus of Canada who sang with yearning and devotion. The fourth and last song was “Same Starlight”, performed once again by Ms.He and baritone Han Xing Guang. Same Starlight was accompanied by a small group of talented singers, and the contemplative melody sung by Ms.He and Mr.Guang reminded some of two people looking out the window at the moon at the beginning of nightfall.

Next, two impressive chamber ensembles showcased two contrasting styles from different parts of the world. First, the string quartet consisting of violinists Ryan Shen and David Lin, violist Erick Oliver Wawrzkiewicz, and cellist Chris Chan performed the first movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s “String Quartet in A Minor”. This was one of the most special moments of the concert thanks to the well-rehearsed collaboration and intense emotion expressed throughout the piece. All four players are also members of the orchestra and synchronized very well, using body language to pass along musical gestures. They sounded impressively like one large singing instrument and played passionately to symbolize the beginning of the composer’s more mature and Romantic approach to composition. As well, a few Classical elements were mixed into this work. Mendelssohn composed this piece a little after the death of the famous composer, Ludwig van Beethoven. Heavy influences from the latter are prominent in Mendelssohn’s earlier works such as this one. The beginning Adagio consists of the beautiful main motive, played poignantly by members of the quartet. The first violin’s heart-wrenching melody shone through the other harmonies. Unbeknownst to many people, the Adagio section takes ideas from the slow movement of Beethoven’s “String Quartet No.11”. In a way, it feels as if the composer is honouring Beethoven, his childhood influence, through the short yet wistful introduction. Important chordal changes were highlighted by the cello’s strong bassline, and the cellist adequately used warm and soulful vibrato to add to the overall aura. The tempo transitioned quickly into Allegro vivace, showcasing technical skills and challenges. The second violin and viola neatly weaved sixteenth-note runs through the melodies, giving the feeling of water flowing gently in a stream. The overlapping melodies between all the parts increased the tension, making it sound much like a musical argument. This performance was a great example of an ingenious combination of Classical and Romantic expressions that formed another style completely. Although the Adagio section was slower and less technically challenging than the Allegro vivace, many thought it to be the most memorable and touching moment of the evening because of its simple and transparent beauty. This just proves that performances do not necessarily have to be the most exciting or the most complicated to truly stay with listeners for a long period of time.

The second chamber performance was “Impression of Tianshan Mountain”, performed and arranged by percussionist Fei Yun, pipa player Ye Lan, and guzheng player Jiao Ping. These three women clearly portrayed the somewhat candid style of the song. All three musicians played with confidence and flair, reminding listeners of a large group of local people celebrating joyfully with entertainment and festivities. The instruments’ unique Eastern tones were highlighted with energy and brought a contented feeling in the large hall, making many audience members feel as if they were part of the celebrations. This program well-suited the initial intent of the concert; to celebrate the change of season. Overall, the three musicians delivered an exhilarating performance, creating a nice contrast between the distinct Chinese style of the piece and the passionate Romanticism of the earlier Classical performance.

Last before intermission, pianist Jiayu Xie, violinist Ding Huang, and cellist Johnathan Tortolano performed the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous “Triple Concerto Op.56”. The piece was performed by this distinguished trio and the CAST Philomusica Orchestra in honour of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary year for his birthday. Dotted-rhythms played a prominent role in this movement and created an air of nobility, fitting the march-like style of the work. This was further heightened by the use of triplets. The cello soloist first introduced the main theme, playing with ease and comfortability with all shifts. He added musical inflections to fit in with the character of the work. Throughout the piece, the cellist provided a stable bassline for the trio to build on, and all three members of the trio showcased high levels of virtuosity when playing variations on recurring themes. Different melodies were beautifully interwoven among the three soloists, and they often skillfully passed the melody along to one another. The orchestra provided a nice light accompaniment, serving the Classical characteristics of the song, and the flutes added a bright illuminated effect. The harmonic tension evoked a sense of surprise and drama, reminiscent of the composer’s style. The performance was very well-received by audience members, who were delighted to witness these three acclaimed musicians perform together as a trio with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.

After intermission, bamboo flutist Chun-Jie Wang performed “Spring of Pamir”, a Chinese folk song composed by Li Da Tong and orchestrated by conductor Erhei Liang. Mr.Wang is renowned all across Toronto and has performed numerous times with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra in the past. The second song was “Happy Songs of Ranch” by Lu Jin Sang and orchestrated by Dr. Liang. Mr. Wang performed this song with his gifted student, Zhang Wen Ding. Both flute players radiated energy and certainty, blissfully reminding certain audience members of the traditional Chinese music played in their homeland. One interesting moment was after the performance when MC and host Lan Li called Zhang Wen Ding to the podium to talk about his thoughts on coming from China to Toronto for this performance. Wen Ding answered enthusiastically and his mature responses for such a young age of 9 were intriguing and entertaining for the audience. Following the bamboo flutes, soprano soloist Helen Chu, an ensemble of experienced singers, and the CAST Philomusica Orchestra gave the premiered performance of Water Tune “May All Loved Ones Last Forever” by Canadian composer Kenneth Yip. The original piano accompaniment was rearranged for the orchestra, but still contained many piano idomacies evident in the strings’ and woodwinds’ parts. As well, the modern harmonies and chromatic movement added to the rich texture of the piece. The balance between the orchestra, choir, and soloist was sometimes ambiguous, but overall the performance showed an interesting mix of Chinese and lyrical styles and introduced another Canadian composer to the general audience. Lastly, pipa player Ye Lan and guzheng player Jiao Ping returned to the stage to perform “Variations on a Theme of Red Sorghum by Ah Kun”, another premiered piece composed by the orchestra’s conductor, Erhei Liang. The pipa and guzheng soloists both put emphasis on slides to give the performance an Eastern effect. As well, the audience was very happy to hear this famous theme being played, with variations on the theme that they hadn’t heard before. The special instrument combination was effective, and the pipa and guzheng mixed very well with the orchestra’s accompaniment.

On a special note, the MC for tonight’s performance, Lan Li, did an amazing job of engaging the audience and hosting the concert as a whole. She expertly introduced the pieces and made many jokes, earning a good amount of laughter from the audience. The Spring Festival is a concert where people gather to celebrate the beginning of another season through music. At this year’s concert, the CAST Philomusica Orchestra introduced many new composers to the stage and focused largely on traditional Eastern music, showcasing Toronto’s avid multiculturalism and diversity that will continue to rise.

Rising Stars Gala (November 2019)

Rising Stars Gala is one of CAST’s most noteworthy annual concerts. Like many of CAST’s other performances, Rising Stars Gala promotes the idea that young musicians should have the opportunity to perform in front of a large-scale audience and let their potential thrive. Through this concert, many talented musicians are given a chance to shine in the spotlight and receive acknowledgement for their hard work.

For the first performance, We Sing Children’s Choir performed three songs with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra. The first one, “Memory of Childhood”, composed by the chorus’ director Vicky He, has a simple folk style that matched the children’s pure voices well. The playfulness and innocence of the song were depicted through vocal imitation between the two parts and detached articulation. The second song, “The World with Love”, was composed by Gu Jian Fen and arranged by the orchestra’s conductor, Dr.Erhei Liang. This song provides a nice contrast with its tranquil aura and resembles a lullaby with its soothing harmonies and slow tempo. The young soloist sang with passion and confidence. The last song, “Grandpa Makes Mooncakes for Us”, was composed by the famous Chinese composer Liang Han-Guang. The song was originally written for the movie “Ah! Cradle”, revealing the true story of an old soldier taking care of orphans during the wartime. With the composer’s son conducting the orchestra and the composer’s great-granddaughter singing in the choir, this heartwarming ballad carries special memories in the music and is passed down to four generations of the family.

The next piece on the program was “Spanish Dance” by E. Granados, performed by Victoria Ongko on the piano. The composer himself was a great pianist and wrote many Spanish Dances in honour of his home country. Victoria successfully interpreted the exotic Spanish style and maintained the distinct sense of rhythm needed for the dance. The second pianist of the night was Annie Wang, performing “Rondo Capriccioso op.14” by the famous Romantic composer, Felix Mendelssohn. Annie masterfully managed the subtle contrasts between the slow and fast passages. She played the Andante section in a singing style and the Presto with liveliness and clean fingerwork.

The two piano solos were followed by three chamber works and a violin solo. The first chamber piece was Variations on a Folk Song “Running a Dry Boat”, composed by Dr.Erhei Liang. “Running a Dry Boat” is a form of folk dance widely circulated in rural Northern China, simulating a boat in the water. The trio consisted of Shuran Wang on the violin, Chris Fan on the French horn, and Frances Bai on the piano. The three musicians highlighted cheerful scenes of celebration evident in this composition. The French horn player kept the group together and his warm tone provided a nice contrast to the violinist’s distinct sound. The piano provided stable chords for the other instruments to build off of. This piece has many Chinese elements including imitation and traditional-style motives, and also incorporates Western tools such as chromaticism and the overall instrumentation.

The next piece was Beethoven’s famous “Spring Sonata”, performed by Irene Huang on the violin and Angela Huang on the piano. Irene and Angela passed the leading melody back and forth from one to the other and timed ritardandos and flexible tempo changes to maintain balance. They managed to depict the light, classical style of Beethoven’s earlier works and also emphasized sudden dynamics that were evident in his later compositions. Subsequently, violinist Clara Ho performed Fritz Kreisler’s “Preludium and Allegro”, accompanied by pianist Elena Prokopienko. Clara brought out the singing melodic line at the beginning of the piece and used rubato to effectively create the cadenza-like feeling the composer was aiming for. Clara also achieved to a high degree the challenging bow strokes Kreisler wrote in for this piece. This piece is well sought-out among violinists, and Clara’s interpretation was exciting and special for the audience to hear. For the last chamber program of the evening, violinist Daniel Dastoor and pianist Chris Soong performed two sonatas for violin and piano by Debussy and Brahms respectively. The two musicians interacted skillfully to bring out each other’s unique strengths and personalities as the music flowed. In Debussy’s Sonata, they played with different colours and ornamentation, clearly defining the Impressionist style. The complex

rhythms and tricky runs were achieved through synchronization and defined shaping of the melodic line. The alternations between diatonicism and chromaticism provided variety for the listeners. For Brahms, the musicians’ understanding of the Romantic style was evident in the violinist’s rich vibrato and the pianist’s delightful phrasing.

The orchestra returned to play three more pieces with soloists. The first piece was “Crescent Moon” by Li Hai-Ying and was sung by the five-year-old Chenrui Wang. The orchestra began by creating a dreamy mood to depict the title. The singer’s voice was warm and well-suited for the atmosphere of the song. He sang with confidence and reached varying ranges with no difficulty. Next, violinists Glenn Huang and Faye Wan, both members of the orchestra, performed the first movement of “Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor” by the Baroque composer, J.S. Bach. The soloists played with a clear sense of rhythm and the string orchestra provided a steady beat as accompaniment. The melodies repeated back and forth between the two violinists, sounding like a vivid musical conversation. The harmonies between the instruments also created interest and were appealing to the audience’s ears. Last before intermission, cellist Jacob You performed “Allegro Appassionato” by Camille Saint-Saëns. This was an exciting performance, and the quick but constant tempo was affirmed right from the orchestra’s introduction. The lively tune and the use of melodic material were made clear by the cellist. The cadenza-like material and technical challenges were skillfully accomplished as well.

After intermission, two songs were performed, the first being “O mio babbino caro” by G. Puccini and performed by vocalist Sophie Li. Sophie’s voice was well-developed at such a young age, fitting the overall melancholic aura of the piece. Using hand gestures and clear movements, she synchronized the fermatas and tempo changes well with the orchestra. Next, singers Lilla Jiang and Stephen Murray performed Stephen Murray’s arrangement of “Liang Liang” by Tan Xuan. This piece was newer compared to other performances on the program, telling the fictional fantasy of heartbreaking love and struggle. The use of cymbals and drums formed a powerful and mysterious atmosphere of ancient China. The orchestra’s dramatic sound paired with the singers’ tender voices created a resonant effect that filled the entire hall.

As the finale, pianist Richard Yeh performed the first movement of Frederic Chopin’s acclaimed “Piano Concerto in E Minor” with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra. This concerto was written by Chopin in 1830 when he was twenty years old. The piece began with a full orchestral introduction featuring the main motive. The orchestra maintained good balance throughout, playing softer during solos and playing out more during orchestral passages. The pianist came in with a bold fortissimo and demonstrated the contrast as the slow theme entered, which was played with personal emotion and character. Richard interpreted the masterwork with poetic expression and passion throughout. The orchestral background, though simple, blended well with the piano and created a rich tone quality. The many technical challenges presented in this piece were accomplished with ease and there was always a sense of heightened intensity whether loud or soft. The pianist paid careful attention to the shape of each phrase and clearly demonstrated Chopin’s romantic style with his pianistic inflections.

We live in an age where different types of music are frequently discussed yet rarely understood. Often, people are unaware of music outside their own culture and don’t have the chance to gain exposure to other kinds of music. From Bach and Beethoven to traditional and recently composed Chinese songs, Rising Stars Gala features a variety of music genres for people of all ages to enjoy. Moreover, this year’s concert offers promising young musicians rewarding opportunities through solo performances, chamber ensembles, and as part of the orchestra. Young musicians rise to the challenge with great musicianship and put forth their best effort to make it a wonderful night to remember.

A Concert To Meet New Musicians (August 2019)

To celebrate the work of young musicians from Toronto, the CAST holds a biannual Concert To Meet New Musicians, featuring the talents of aspiring music enthusiasts who will one day pass on our music culture to younger generations. Compared to other CAST events, this concert took on an innovative approach, experimenting with modern and contemporary music in addition to the traditional classical music that has largely structured our music society. The concert was held on August 24, 2019 at the Yorkminster Citadel and highlighted a family quartet, a children’s choir, an improvisatory act, and two premiered compositions among many others.

The concert opened with the We Sing Children’s Choir, a singing ensemble under the direction of Vicky He, accompanied by the Academy of Chamber Music for Young Musicians. The We Sing Children’s Choir was formed in June 2019 and consists of children from ages 3 to 13. In the span of two months, the choir has successfully developed their skills in uniting as a group. The first song, Songbie (Farewell), was originally written by John P. Ordway, an American songwriter. It was titled “Dreaming of Home and Mother”. Inspired by the song, the Chinese composer, Li Shutong wrote Chinese lyrics to the melody borrowed from Ordway’s original theme. The choir emphasized important vowels and formed a well-rounded sound, bringing out the lyrical and melancholic mood of this song. Together with the orchestral accompaniment they created a nostalgic feeling in the concert hall, portraying the introspective aura the composer sought to illustrate. The two solos were sung by Katie Zhao and Joyce Tang, both of whom delivered a heartwarming message through their expressive and choral voices. The second song of the night was Singing and Smiling, composed by Gu Jian Feng. In contrast to the previous song, Singing and Smiling contains a cheerful, high spirited melody similar to that of a folk song. The choir’s singing lightened the overall atmosphere and the two soloists sang together with passion and contentment.

The next few performances consisted of chamber ensembles and soloists, starting with Mingmei Huang’s Piano Trio in D Major. Tonight’s performance was the premiere for this piano trio and was performed by Frances Bai on the piano, Irene Huang on the violin, and Lisa Yang on the cello. Recently graduated from the Claude Watson Arts Program of the Earl Haig Secondary School, Mingmei originally wrote the trio for piano, clarinet, and cello but later changed the clarinet part to the violin. She chose to use ternary form (ABA), giving her the opportunity to experiment with two different themes. At the beginning, the three instruments enter one by one, gradually building up the intensity. Mingmei chose the key of D major because it is relatively easier to play for string instruments. The first and last sections (Andante cantabile) are slow and lyrical, consisting of similar materials. The second section (Moderato animato), in contrast, is more dramatic, with staccatos and alternating dynamics creating interest for the listeners. The key is B minor (the relative minor key) and the composer intended to have it resemble one of J.S. Bach’s many fugues. The last section is similar to the first section, with the instruments passing off the melody to one another. In particular, the cello score is slightly more difficult due to the composer’s familiarity with the instrument as a cellist. At the concert, the three performers well established the different settings portrayed through the music.

Next, French horn player Chris Fan and pianist Glenn Huang performed Notturno Op.112 by Carl Reinecke, a German composer, conductor, and pianist. This melancholic duet corresponds nicely with the warm sound of a French horn. Chris played the piece with a lot of emotion and led the pianist on with clear signals, resulting in exceptional coordination and clear tempo changes. The two players highlighted chromatic notes to create a dramatic effect. Chris’ French horn range was flexible and his sound was very resonant, matching well with the piano and filling the concert hall. Phrase ends were nicely delayed and arpeggios, trills, octaves and other idiomatic qualities of both instruments were accomplished with confidence and ease.

This program led in very well to the next, with both performances establishing a sense of melancholy and sadness. Next, Nocturne Op.48 No.1, composed by the famous Romantic composer Frederic Chopin in 1841, was performed by pianist Jacob You. Jacob is the principal cellist of the orchestra in this concert and has an ARCT degree in piano. He performed the first of the Deux Nocturnes Op.48, which many critics claim to be one of Chopin’s most emotionally powerful work. At the performance, Jacob played the beginning (marked lento) with compassion and accentuated the grief Chopin felt when composing this work. The technically challenging octaves, recurring chords, and strong dynamics were played with grandness and were performed with skill and proficiency. The ending, instead of being powerful and agitated as it was before, concluded with a dismal C minor chord played softly, as if the composer was finally giving up.

Subsequently, cellists Lisa Yang and Austin Dong performed Musical Moment, a cello duet composed by Lu-Tan Guo. Lisa and Austin both study cello with the celebrated cellist, Mr. James Xia, and have progressed rapidly under his guidance. Their duet was played with a lot of body movements to achieve good synchronization. The beginning was played very lively and detached at a comfortable tempo. The harmonies between the two cellos were very consonant. When the theme repeated, it contrasted well being played by the lower voice. The middle section became slower, using a habanera rhythm much similar to that of a tango. The coda was built on the A minor triad and accelerated much faster, giving the ending an exciting feel.

The following two performances were both chamber ensembles among family members. Coming on stage first was the Chang’s family, performing a quartet version of the famous Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto composed by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang. The Chang’s Family Quartet was formed about a year ago, consisting of first violinist Mr. Hong Chang and his three daughters: flutist Rachel Chang, second violinist Sophia Chang, and the youngest, cellist Stella Chang. Dr.Chang learned violin when he was young, but later pursued a career in medicine and medical research. However, he still loves to play violin whenever he can, particularly with his kids. The family started playing classical music but later looked more into Chinese music for the cultural aspect. They are aiming at exposing more people in Canada to the beauty of the Chinese culture. In the past year, the Chang’s Family Quartet has performed at various retirement homes, community events, and hospitals (e.g. the Toronto General Hospital). The quartet brings the entire family together to share a common love for music. The quartet’s performance of the Butterfly Lovers highlighted the skills of all four family members. The flutist secured the beautiful and iconic intro to the concerto, the cellist played with a well developed vibrato and impressive tone quality for such a young age, and both violinists showcased a high level of virtuosity through tricky passages written for the solo instrument. Their interpretation of this famous concerto was elegant and the quartet managed to express the Chinese style of the concerto naturally with the use of only four instruments.

The second family chamber group was the premiere performance of Dance in Barcelona, a piece for violin and piano, written and performed by siblings Irene Huang and Glenn Huang. Irene and Glenn were recently introduced to a number of Spanish ballads by their piano teacher Mr. Chan, much of which inspired this composition. The piece is based on a theme and variation structure and consists of nine contrasting variations. At the beginning, the piano and violin enter together to play the introductory theme. The first variation is a more developed version of the theme, portraying singers and dancers celebrating festive occasions on Barcelona streets. The climax of the piece is reached at the sixth and seventh variations to express hope and passion. This first variation returned at the end to conclude the performance. Throughout the piece, Irene and Glenn alternated between instruments, experimented with polyphony and various textures, and managed to coordinate dynamics, tempo changes, and tricky rhythms fairly well thanks to their abundant rehearsal opportunities.

Afterwards, violinists Charlie Sun and Frances Bai, violist Haiyang Huang, cellist Lisa Yang, and pianist Stephen Murray performed the famous song Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia, arranged by Stephen Murray. This contemporary song was inspired by the beauty the band found in Australia when they were visiting. The song was one many of the younger audience members could probably relate to. It has a very touching melody, and the violins’ singing voices paired with the viola’s harmonies and the cello’s bass line. The piano’s expressive accompaniment further brought out the style of the music. As well, the viola solo in the middle created variety compared to the higher ranged violin which took most of the melody.


The following performance was “Out of Nothing” performed by Marc Lung. Using integral chance music (otherwise known as Aleatoric music), Marc used his own innovations and integrated composers, performers, and audience members into his performance. True to his word, Marc came onstage and performed a piece based entirely on his improvisation and advanced musical understanding. First, Marc asked for five volunteers to provide him with random notes on the piano. He invited one of the volunteers to stay onstage to act out random scenes or emotions. Based on what the man acted, Marc improvised on the piano using the five notes he was given. For example, when the man used jagged, sharp movements, Marc accented certain notes, giving the audience a sense of surprise. When the man began to act sleepy, Marc gradually altered his tune into a more lyrical melody. Marc’s job was quite tricky since the notes he were given were quite dissonant. Regardless, he managed to improvise a piece with vivid expressions and depict different scenes in full colour. Only one with a deep comprehension of music itself could improvise at such a level of expertise. This made Marc’s performance especially impressive and enjoyable for musicians and audience members alike.

As the last chamber performance, violinists Charlie Sun, Irene Huang, and Faye Wan, cellist Jacob You, and pianist Glenn Huang performed Melodies from Carmen, arranged by Louis V. Saar. Carmen is a very famous opera by French composer Georges Bizet. It is situated in Spain, therefore using the habanera rhythm and other Spanish idioms. The arranger took the famous themes used in this opera and put them together to form a medley. The tempo changes were coordinated very well with the help of the conductor. All in all, this piece was very exciting with so many instruments and such a familiar melody. The piano provided a steady beat on top of the string instruments’ melodies. The harmonies from all five instruments produced a rich tone colour and the conductor led the group with fermatas, ritardandos, rubato, and other difficult coordination spots. Careful attention was paid to small details such as accents, giving the performance a sophisticated flair.

Last before intermission, baritone Blair Jia performed Per me Guinto, an aria from the Italian opera Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi. The scene takes place in a prison, where Don Carlos resides. His good friend, Posa, comes and tells Carlos that he has saved Carlos from death by sacrificing himself. At the concert, the orchestra entered with a slow ostinato pattern, followed by the entrance of the singer. Blair’s voice conveyed the deep anguish and suffering depicted in the scene. He was flexible in both high and low registers and created an intense setting with his warm and varying vibrato. Blair’s singing gave off a Romantic feeling with his deep baritone sound and natural sense of rubato. Blair commanded and led the orchestra with confidence, finishing with an anxious, dramatic, declaration then restated by the orchestra.

After intermission, two soprano soloists performed with the orchestra. The first was Grasslands in July, composed by Shang De Yi and performed by Amy Wang. Frequently performed by CAST in the past years, this song features a traditional Chinese style found in most folk music. Amy’s voice projected clearly and she sang the high notes with charisma, conveying the folk spirit using slides and other small inflections. Amy always sung the long notes to their full length without taking a breath, maintaining a steady phrase structure. The second soprano solo was A Lark Flying in A Military Camp, a song composed by Jiang Yi Min and performed by Michelle Mi. This song is joyful and uses light pizzicato accompaniment to create a lively effect. Michelle’s singing was lighthearted and she sung with precise intonation, portraying the text well with clear enunciation of the lyrics. During the chorus, she reached the high notes with ease and projected throughout the room, while maintaining a level of delicacy during the verses, creating variety. At the end, a cadenza like passage is played by the soloist and the piano accompaniment. Michelle nailed the intonation of the arpeggios and used a comfortable amount of rubatos.

Lastly, Stephen Murray performed the famous Chinese pop song Little Apple with a refreshingly innovative interpretation. Stephen has received piano education earlier on in his childhood. He is a violinist in the University of Toronto Campus Philharmonic Orchestra, and has played viola and cello in the McMaster Chamber Orchestra. He also likes to compose and produce music; in particular in the electronic music genre. Being of the Western origin, Stephen’s accurate Chinese pronunciation was extremely impressive. He paid a lot of attention to musical elements and presented the originally cheerful melody with much slower tempo, warm tone and artistic quality. His voice was clear, resonant, and strong in the lower register. Small inflections of vibrato also added to the effect of his performance. Throughout the second half of the concert, the orchestra provided a steady and flowing accompaniment to help soloists feel at comfort and focus on their individual performance.

Tonight’s concert is a hybrid of both classical work, pop songs, and experimental music. By combining different genres into one concert, the Concert to Meet New Musicians has sparked interest from people in Toronto and hope to continue exploring new ideas in the future to attract audiences of all ages.

Celebration Gala Concert (May 2019)

How does music transform our world?  In short, it alters the way humans think emotionally and interact with others.  Orchestras and music ensembles all around the world put time and energy into bringing people together to enjoy the pure beauty of music.  The CAST Philomusica Orchestra is of no exception. Every year, CAST hosts a Celebration Gala concert highlighting some of Toronto’s most acclaimed artists who work hard to bring music to life.  This year’s Gala concert on May 25 showcased soprano soloist Vicky He, violinist Eros Tang, violists Steven Dann and Samuel Choi, and many more, with music from the baroque, classical, romantic, modern and contemporary periods.

The CAST Philomusica Orchestra kicked off the evening with the Colorful China Symphonic Suite No. 2 by the composer and conductor, Erhei Liang.  Dr. Liang is the music director and conductor of the CAST Philomusica Orchestra and has contributed effortlessly to the music society with full dedication.  At tonight’s performance, the orchestra first performed the third movement in the suite, “the West”, which is built on a nursery rhyme in the Sichuan dialect, “Granny Wang, Selling Tea”.  For most of the piece, oboes, trumpets, and trombones took the centre stage to mimic the Sichuan dialect and successfully brought out the humorous spirit. Strings gently accompanied with lilting arpeggios and slurred figures.  The theme and variations alternated throughout the piece, leaving a long-lasting impression on listeners. The next movement in the suite, “the North”, featured a Mongolian nursery rhyme, “Happy Little Shepherd”. This movement contrasts with the third movement, with a light and charming melody highlighted by the strings and lower brass instead of the woodwinds.  The movement’s title paired with the delightful music portrays a shepherd tending carefully to his flock while humming a merry tune. A joyous theme was introduced featuring chromaticism and the use of percussion instruments, in particular, the triangle and the timpani. The flute and clarinet played a delicate and intricate solo passage followed by the slightly altered return of the original theme.  Both works in this suite established the connection between the higher and lower ranged instruments and addressed important roles to all sections of the orchestra.

Tonight’s concert was joined by a special member, the Xiao Ping Chorus.  This choir has performed with CAST in the past and is set as one of Toronto’s leading choirs in the Chinese community.  The first song, “Lake Baikal”, was composed by the famous Chinese singer Li Jian during his trip to Russia. The piece began with an elegant solo violin melody presenting the dreamy and romantic theme of the piece.  The choir’s warm voice alternated between the female and male singers. Harmonies were intensified by the full orchestral sound. The timpani accentuated dynamic markings and moving sections of the piece. The trumpets built up a crescendo leading to the main theme sung by the choir.  The piano also received a solo role accompanied by the flute’s melancholic tone. The Xiao Ping Chorus vividly interpreted the serenity of the mysterious Baikal Lake and the Russian sentiment. The second song was “Songbie” or “Farewell” by Li Shutong. Li used a melody from the American songwriter, John P. Ordway’s Dreaming of Home and Mother, and wrote new Chinese lyrics to suit the theme of the song.  Li heard the song while he was in Japan, and was inspired to write and arrange a Chinese version upon returning to China. The passionate compound meter set by the orchestra gave way to the sombre theme sung by the choir. The brass, led by the French horns, produced a warm and sentimental tone contributing to the general effect of the performance. The Xiao Ping Chorus succeeded in creating an impressive choral collaboration with the poetic work many of the audience members were familiar with.

The first chamber performance was played by Michelle Lin on the piano, Ryan Shen on the violin, and Chris Chan on the cello.  They performed the opening and final movements of Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C Minor. Written in a traditional sonata form, the first movement shifts between a stormy and tender tone, creating a fascinating harmonic contrast.  The piano passages are technically challenging but were delivered masterfully by the pianist. The last movement consists of a lyrical melody taken from a 16th-century Genevan chorale and alternates between major and minor keys. The effective rehearsals between the three performers were evident as they synchronized comfortably. The performers had the opportunity to experiment with different musical techniques and showcase their artistic talent.

Next, Vicky He and Leo Zhou performed La ci darem la mano, a song from Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni.  This opera tells the story of a playboy, Don Giovanni, who flirts with many girls and shows people the consequences of doing such.  In this scene, Don Giovanni is attempting to seduce Zerlina into falling in love with him. Mr. Zhou acted as Don Giovanni while Ms. He took in the role of Zerlina.  The two of them sing with expression and pay attention to small details to enhance the work. Their natural gestures made the performance seem all the more like a scene in the opera.  Next, Leo Zhou returned onstage to perform Ode to Yellow River, a famous Chinese song composed by Xian Xinghai. Mr. Zhou sang powerfully and confidently, expressing his love for the Yellow River and his home.  The concert continued with the world premiere of Ms. He’s latest composition, “Same Starlight”, a vocal duet accomplished by both Mr. Zhou and Ms. He. The melody was wishful and the singers succeeded in expressing the feeling travellers share for their hometown.  The verses were sung lightly with breath marks taken at appropriate points. The main melody of the song required a high range. Nevertheless, they both sung effortlessly and maintained great spirit and skill.

Violinists David Lin and Eros Tang returned with a small strings ensemble to perform Steve Reich’s duet for two violins and a strings orchestra.  This minimalist piece was composed in 1994 and dedicated to the world famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin. The entire piece is a canon, beginning with the first violin (David) leading the melody and echoed by the second violin (Eros).  What differs is the amount of delay there is between the first violin and the second violin. This methodic approach to writing music is reminiscent of the Renaissance era. The strings accompaniment played long whole notes. The players did a great job of following the conductor and playing together.  This piece was tricky due to the canonic movement between the two violins, but David and Eros both played with emotion and stressed the imitation between the two instrument parts. The duet resonates with what the composer once remarked: “I discovered that the most interesting music of all was made by simply lining the loops in unison, and letting them slowly shift out of phase with other.”

Travelling 300 years back in time, violists Steven Dann and Samuel Choi performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.6 in Bb major with an ensemble of six players, two violas, two cellos, one double bass and one harpsichord.  Steven and Samuel are both respected violists whom CAST had the pleasure to work with at tonight’s concert. The first movement was played at a comfortable tempo, and the triplet figures making up most of the work were emphasized. The alternation between Steven and Samuel’s voice parts was well coordinated.  The second movement was slower and broader. Trills and other ornamentation were executed nicely and the use of vibrato was notable. The third and last movement was technically difficult. It was played at a rapid speed and the synchronization between the violists and the ensemble was a challenge. However, all the players followed the conductor well and the emphasis on the first beats helped keep the group together.

After intermission, violinist Eros Tang performed the first movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1 with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  The performance began with a slow and lyrical violin melody interwoven between the orchestra’s soft background. The woodwinds joined in with the melody the two voice parts coincide well together.  In the development, the violinist plays a pizzicato passage and a new theme is demonstrated. The recapitulation consists of the same theme from the exposition restated by the principal flutist. It is accompanied by tricky scale-like passages in the solo violin’s harmonic role.  Being the concertmaster of the orchestra, Eros comfortably led the orchestra and played with confidence and aura.

Next, Wang Chunjie performed Sheppard Flute with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  The piece was adapted from Liu Zhi’s dance music by Liu Sen for the bamboo flute. It describes the happy life of innocent young couples in rural areas in the 1950s.  Mr. Wang has performed extensively with CAST at many of their concerts. He highlighted the special features of the bamboo flute and played with energy and character. As an encore, Mr. Wang performed Happy Harvest, an extremely fast and technically challenging work.  The orchestra effortlessly followed the soloist, giving Mr. Wang the ability to focus on the quick fingerwork required of the bamboo flutist in this piece. Wang Chunjie’s continued success performing on stage is clear evidence of his commitment and strive for excellence.

Lastly, soprano Vicky He returned to perform three more pieces with the orchestra.  The first piece, Quando men vo (also known as Musetta’s Waltz), is from the opera La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini.  In this scene, Musetta sings a soprano aria to her friends and expresses her desire to regain the attention of her boyfriend, Marcello.  Ms. He well expressed the desire and longing Musetta felt. Then, Ms. He remained onstage to perform I Love You China. This song is composed for the Chinese movie, Overseas Compatriots, expressing patriotism towards one’s homeland.  It was first sung by soprano Ye Peiying in the film. Vicky He’s performance of the song was very touching and brought back memories for audience members who once lived in China. Finally, Ms. He performed Rime Flowers, an award-winning work composed by herself.  The strings produced a smooth melody, with the flutes playing occasional sixteenth note figures separated by a third. Ms. He sang confidently in both high and low ranges and created variety using natural hand gestures to depict the lyrics through her melodic voice.  As an encore, Ms. He sang Cup of Wine, a lighthearted song serving as a lovely conclusion to the evening.

From the Baroque era to the 21st century, not only is music entertaining to our ears, but it also touches our souls, evokes emotions, and brings those on stage and in seats closer together.  CAST’s concerts continue to help us remember how important of a role music plays in our lives.



A Concert To Meet New Musicians (April 2019)

A Concert To Meet New Musicians is an annual performance acknowledging the effort of young musicians and encouraging them to pursue their musical dreams. This year, the concert took place at the Yorkminster Citadel on April 6. Many young musicians were given the opportunity to gain onstage experience by performing numerous chamber and orchestral works before an audience.

The first piece on the program was composed by Haiyang Huang, a dedicated member of the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  Having been in the orchestra for almost 5 years, Haiyang is an avid music lover who composes in his spare time.  He considers Introduction and Waltz in E minor his first significant composition, therefore giving CAST the opportunity to perform it for the first time.  Through an interview with the composer, it was revealed that Haiyang began composing this work around the same time last year and used the span of ten months to edit and polish.  He was mainly inspired to write this piece thanks to his favourite composer, Frederic Chopin, who had written many waltzes during his lifetime.  In this waltz, Haiyang aimed to depict scenes of two dancers waltzing together.  The piece begins with an Andante cantabile in the key of E major.  This introductory passage highlights several of the woodwind players at the concert, creating a conversation among the flute, bassoon, and clarinet.  It represents two dancers introducing themselves to each other before the dance begins.  Then, the entire orchestra came in with triplet waltzlike passages and transitioned smoothly into the waltz.  Tempo changes and compelling musical techniques characterized this work.  The waltz began in E minor, the home key, and consisted of a romantic melody portrayed by violins and flutes.  The tempo changed to Moderato maestoso and cellos provided a stable triple meter beat to accompany the melody.  Not long after, the tempo changed once again to Piu Lento and the key changed to G major.  This section of the piece consisted of a beautiful theme presented by various sections of the orchestra.  The cello principal commenced with a heartwarming solo; the second violins took over the melody thereafter, and the piece landed with the same melody carried out powerfully by all violinists with the rest of the orchestra as background.  Not relying as much on the waltzlike accompaniment, this joyful theme played an important role in the work and was inspired by Chinese music.  Following  a suspenseful fermata and a dramatic coda, the piece finished with five powerful accented chords played at sudden accelerando in the home key.  Haiyang chose to dedicate this piece to Dr. Erhei Liang, an acclaimed composer and the conductor of the CAST Philomusica Orchestra, whose orchestral works have been performed at many concerts and inspired Haiyang to write his own music.

Next on the program came two chamber performances beginning with Isaac Albeniz’s Tango in D, a part of the suite Espana.  It was originally written for the piano but was eventually transcribed for the classical guitar and other instruments.  At tonight’s concert, Shuran Wang, Frances Bai, Glenn Huang, and Christopher Tsai created a new experience of this well-known piece with the string quartet arrangement.  Next, Eros Tang, Christopher Fan, and Irene Huang performed the first movement of Johannes Brahms’ Horn Trio in Eb major.  This melancholic work was composed in memory of Brahms’ mother, Christiane, who passed away earlier in the year.  The composer chose to use a simple and elegant theme derived from an unpublished work he wrote 12 years ago.  The theme alternated between the violin and the French horn, and blended beautifully with the piano.  The speed was slow and eloquent but sometimes altered to Piu Mosso.  The three players effectively conveyed the feeling of love and sorrow.  The deep and somber tone of the horn well suited the mood of the piece. 

The chamber works were followed by a guzheng solo by Sunshine Quan.  Sunshine was classically trained in guzheng and harp and won awards and scholarships for both instruments.  Her performance this evening of a Chinese song, Sleeve Dream, was played with confidence.  Sunshine mastered the technical challenges presented in the piece and evoked the style of Chinese music through her interpretation.  She used rubato as a very poetic musical device and built up tension in climaxes.  The performance brought the audience members back to the royal court of the Tang dynasty, where young ladies danced in long sleeved dresses to imitate the ripples of water and air. 

A highlight of the concert was Eros Tang and Jessica Zhang’s performance of Max Bruch’s Romanze for Viola and Piano.  Eros Tang is the concertmaster of the CAST Philomusica Orchestra and plays viola as well.  He has worked with many chamber ensembles and orchestras and has attended various music festivals.  Having studied under multiple renowned musicians, pianist Jessica Zhang is an active performer in both Toronto and China.  Eros and Jessica delivered a remarkable performance that left audience members with a lot to think about.  The violist’s rubato and the pianist’s delicate treatment of octave passages brought out the beautiful and touching melody of the piece.  Continuing beyond the stage of technical challenges and synchronization, Eros and Jessica experimented with expressing their musical ideas and adding their own interpretations to the piece while staying true to its form.  

“The Song of Wine Bottle Recycler” is the theme song of a Taiwanese musical centred around the life and struggle of a deaf man who raised an orphan girl by recycling used bottles.  The soloist, Carolyn Hao, performed with a small vocal choir and the orchestra.  Carolyn’s voice was brought out clearly and filled the performance hall.  The enthusiastic choir highlighted the lively monophonic melody repeated numerous times throughout the piece.  Next, soprano Guo Ya sang “A Lark Flies to Military Camp”.  Ms. Guo’s voice imitated the clarity and beautiful tone of a bird singing.  She sung the melody with a nice flow and reached high notes at ease.  The cadenza near the end was delivered with precise intonation and Ms. Guo overcame the intricate and technically demanding figures.  Last before intermission, Dan Tong sang the famous Ma Yi La variations with a distinct Chinese style.  The performance opened with a spirited introduction followed by a slow contrasting development section.  The vocal range became much lower but Ms. Tong still maintained her level of emotion.  Her voice became more dreamlike.  An exuberant ascending scale led to the recapitulation, repeating the theme from the beginning. 

After intermission, tenor Bob Feng performed two pieces with the orchestra.  “It Is Me” is a Nostalgia about a son, far away from home, misses his mother and hometown.  Mr. Feng set up a wistful atmosphere with this sentimental song.  He clearly enunciated all the lyrics, effectively delivering the meaning behind the words.  The second song, “O Sole Mio”, was made familiar to the Chinese audience by the famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti.  It began with a grand introduction showcasing the violins and the French horn.  Mr. Feng’s interpretation of this work was memorable.  He sang improvisatory passages with confidence even though the notes were quite high.  In both songs, Mr. Feng was greeted with a loud and warm round of applause for his astounding technique and heartfelt emotions.  Next, Meiying Liang sang “I Love You, China”, a song written for the Chinese film, Overseas Compatriots.  Ms. Liang entered with an elegant flowing figure accompanied by rolls on the piano.  She sang with a controlled vibrato that had a definite range and changed throughout the piece, creating variation.  Her voice was warm and captivating to the listeners.  As the last vocal performance, Helen Ho sang “A Blue Sea of Love”.  While “I Love You China” expresses one’s patriotic feelings towards his country, “A Blue Sea of Love” celebrates the romantic love between man and woman.  The orchestra led by the violins brought out a poignant melody leading into Ms. Ho’s tranquil verse.  In the chorus, the dynamics and tension level became much greater and Ms. Ho’s vocal range extended to the higher register.  She maintained a great handle over her phrasing and sang without taking a breath for long periods of time to keep the phrases flowing.  All of the singing performances this evening succeeded in bringing out each vocalist’s individual style.

Lastly, the first movement of Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No.2 in D minor was performed by Irene Huang with the orchestra.  Premiered in 1862, Wieniawski dedicated this work to Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo Sarasate.  The concerto is known for its technical challenges, containing octaves, double stops, arpeggios, chromatic scales, and artificial harmonics.  Not only is it technically difficult, but the melodies are also extremely appealing and passionate.  Overall, this work is known to be one of the greatest violin concertos of the Romantic era.  Irene presented this masterpiece effortlessly with accuracy and confidence. The orchestra played their exacting roles with dexterity and clean fingerwork.  The conductor and the soloist coordinated together and showcased well-rehearsed tempo changes and rhythmic control.  In general, this performance demonstrated the spirit and energy of young musicians with great potential and willingness to learn.

A group of young musicians, some very new to the orchestra, took on an adventurous journey of music making tonight.  They performed to the best of their abilities and will continue to thrive in a variety of performance environment provided by the Chinese Artists Society of Toronto.


Around the World with the Masters (March 2019)

On March 2, 2019, the Chinese Artists Society of Toronto (CAST) hosted a special concert, Around the World with the Masters, for the opportunity to showcase the performance of a number of highly acclaimed artists.  The concert hall was filled to capacity with people from all walks of life who had one thing in common: their love for music.

The concert was opened by the Spring Overture, a joyful piece composed by the orchestra’s conductor Erhei Liang.  After the full orchestra launched the work with an exciting passage, strings, flutes, and French horns brought out a sweet melodic line.  The middle section was more lyrical and flowing.  A delicate flute duet took place in this section.  As the strings receded to a livelier rhythm to accompany the other instruments, the melody became more animated and active.  The harp also played ascending passages that led to intense moments.  The piece finished with the same exhilarating spirit portrayed in the beginning.  A riveting cadence played at fortissimo by the whole orchestra prepared the audience for the much-anticipated program to come.

Next, Rosy Ge performed Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1.  Liszt composed this work in 1830 when he was only 19 years old.  The entire piece contains four movements and is about 20 minutes in length.  At its premier in 1855, Liszt played the piano and the orchestra was conducted by another celebrated composer, Hector Berlioz.  It begins with a definite motive played by the entire orchestra that serves as a basis for the rest of the work and is later repeated in various fashions.  Throughout this concerto, Liszt experiments with his own original ideas that have provided inspiration for his contemporaries.  Ms. Ge played with a strong spirit and brought out the powerful sound of the piano.  The first movement, Allegro maestoso, is robust and contains many tricky octave passages for the solo pianist.  Ms. Ge played the short cadenza passages confidently and with skill.  The second movement, Quasi adagio, contrasts from the first.  It sounds like a nocturne, warm and peaceful.  This movement is played at cantabile, in a singing style and Ms. Ge’s expressive musicality was showcased.  Her duet with the clarinet was featured.  The third movement, Allegretto vivace - Allegro animato has much use of the triangle.  It also has a rhapsodic form combining themes in the first and second movements.  The fourth and last movement, Allegro marziale animato is technically challenging.  Liszt uses cyclical form and after a lively duet with the woodwinds, the music changes to Presto with octave figures from the first movement once again.  In all four movements, Ms. Ge paid extreme attention to the orchestra and synchronized well throughout.  The ending is played fortissimo by the orchestra and not the pianist, which is different from other concertos of the time.

After the piano concerto, baritone singer Yun Wu performed Ode to Yellow River, a famous Chinese song.  Mr. Wu is a baritone and associate professor of music.  He won multiple awards at different competitions and frequently performed with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  Ode to Yellow River is from the second piece from the Yellow River Cantata, written by composer Xian Xinghai in 1939.  The song is about the strength China beholds and how as a country, the people of China will overcome any ordeals that get in the way. At the performance, Mr. Wu successfully portrayed the meaning of the music and clearly expressed the lyrics of the song.  This performance left an impression on many of the Chinese audience members who felt patriotic towards their nation.  Next, Mr. Wu performed Grassland to Father.  Mr. Wu’s voice was very deep and resonant, filling up the entire room.  His vibrato range varied throughout the piece, adding contrast and interest.

Last before intermission, James Xia performed Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No.1 with the orchestra.  This work was composed in 1872.  Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and many other prominent composers considered this concerto to be the best one ever written for the cello.  It is composed in one continuous movement instead of the typical three-movement concerto structure.  The movement is divided into three sections: Allegro non troppo, Allegretto con moto, and Tempo primo.  The first section incorporates countermelodies and the call and response technique.  The second section is a well-written minuet that serves as a special highlight in the work.  Mr. Xia played this section with a lot of musical expression and added his own interpretation.  The third and last section serves as a recapitulation, restating melodies in the opening movement, but ends with a completely new theme in the solo part.  This work is highly demanding for the soloist.  The cellist shines in the spotlight while the orchestra recedes and provides a light background for most of the piece.  Mr. Xia skillfully mastered the technical challenges presented in this piece and effectively brought out the slow, musical sections.  In the higher range, his vibrato and solid intonation highlighted the beautiful sound of the cello.  This concerto was performed with impressive capability and musical talent.

The second half of the concert began with baritone Yun Wu returning onstage to perform two more pieces.  “Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre” is a famous Toreador song from Bizet’s opera Carmen.  In one scene, the handsome bullfighter, Escamillo, sings this song to describe the fame and victory he will soon come to face.  It is a song of celebration.  Mr. Wu was accompanied by a small choir consisting of both female and male voices.  The orchestra, soloist, and choir synchronized well.  The voices in the choir were very strong and gave the piece a march-like feel to fit the mood.  This familiar tune was sung with conviction and reflected on the happy mood the work itself set up.  Mr. Wu’s last performance was Bella Siccome un angelo, a song in Don Pasquale, an opera buffa composed by Gaetano Donizetti.  In this scene, Malatesta, the physician, describes the lovely characteristics of Don Pasquale’s bride-to-be.  Mr. Wu sang this song about love with great emotion.  The orchestra accompanied him with repeated sixteenth note figures.  In all four of his performances, Mr. Wu brought us to an atmosphere that well represented each work.

For the finale, violinist Sean Lim performed the famous Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto written by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao.  The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto is regarded as one of the greatest pieces of Chinese music ever written. Mr. Lim beautifully depicted the story between the two young people in love.  Some parts were tranquil and sweet, while others were upbeat and energetic.  The bittersweet piece holds a special place in the hearts of the Chinese people.   At the beginning of this work, the principal flute played an ornate melody that resembled the sound of birds singing together in a flower garden.  The familiar theme that most people associate with this concerto follows.  It is known as the Love Theme and portrays the lives of Liang and Zhu who long to be together.  Zhu is due to marry the son of a wealthy family whom she does not love.  When Liang finds out, he gets angry and dies of grief.  In this section, the setting became much darker.  The drums increased the tension and the entire orchestra played with stormy, powerful dynamics.  On her wedding day, Zhu throws herself into Liang’s tomb and they both turn into butterflies to be together once and for all.  The melody then returned to the original tune of paradise, played by both the soloist and the orchestra.  This concerto is influenced by the Chinese operatic style of the time and the Chinese instrument erhu, an idiosyncrasy of Chinese music.  The erhu-like sliding effects and Chinese folklore contribute to the style and self-interpretation of the piece  Mr. Lim successfully brought out the sad emotion the piece aimed to convey.  His warm tone and vibrato contributed to the general effect.  The captivating melody brought many people to tears.  One could even visualize the conversation between the violin and the cello representing the two lovers.  This was a performance people would remember for a long time.  As an encore, Mr. Lim played ‘With All My Heart/I Will Worship You’ on the violin.  The tender and peaceful melody evoked deep emotions of memories of loved ones.  When the last note faded away, Mr. Lim placed his hand over his heart and looked up.  There was not a dry eye in the crowd as he received a standing ovation for his performance.  The stage was showered with flowers.  As the longtime concertmaster of the CAST Philomusica Orchestra, Sean Lim has inspired all of his colleagues with his leadership, dedication, and commitment to excellence.  Tonight’s collaboration has a special meaning for both Mr. Lim and CAST and proves once again that music is by far the most powerful form of expression.

Tonight’s concert drew a full house of enthusiastic classical music lovers.  The program was extremely demanding for the four soloists who performed with confidence and energy.  Altogether, this concert gave the audience a chance to listen to some of the world’s greatest works performed by some of Toronto’s most esteemed musicians.


Spring Festival Concert (January 2019)


On the snowy winter evening of January 20, the temperature dropped to -35°C with the wind chill.  Dedicated musicians and music lovers braved the frigid cold to celebrate the 2019 Chinese New Year.  Despite the bitter weather outside, the atmosphere in the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts was heated in anticipation of the Eastern and Western musical banquet that was to follow.  


The MC of the night, Kevin He, opened the concert with a brief introduction in both Chinese and English.  Kevin is currently pursuing Ph.D. in composition at the University of Toronto. His works have been performed at several music festivals across Asia, Europe and the Americas.  Following the speech, Chinese-Canadian composer and conductor of the CAST Philomusica Orchestra, Dr. Erhei Liang, presented the first piece on the program, Rhymes From Memory, which was an orchestral work composed by himself.  Rhymes From Memory is based on three rhymes that were part of the childhood memories of people living in Shanghai.  The Shanghainese tunes supplemented into this piece were both melancholic and playful.  At the lift of the baton, the orchestra emerged with a light tremolo passage followed by a rapid triplet figure.  Instruments based on range built up from the bottom, creating a crescendo effect.  The orchestra played with eloquent phrasing and splendid full sound in principal sections of the piece.  The performance was especially sentimental for audience members who recognized the melodies portrayed by the orchestra.

Next, Guessing Flowers and Flying Kites was performed by the Kaleidoscope Women’s Choir and the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  This arrangement by Yao-Jin He combined two popular and contrasting folk songs from the Hebei Province, one animated and bright and the other soft and expressive.  The song is in compound ternary and combines Eastern and Western harmony.  The female choir gave the work a delicate, light effect.  The choir collaborated well with the orchestra and tempo changes transpired smoothly.  After section A, a more elegant theme was introduced and the choir phrased the melodic lines beautifully.  Many voice parts were featured and the choir held an awareness of both themselves and the orchestra.  The return to section A brought the audience back to the joyous theme depicted in the beginning.  

Spring in Old Town is a celebratory overture composed by Kevin Zi-Xiao He, the MC of the evening’s concert.  Like the piece before, this work combined traditional Chinese musical expression with Western art music.  It began with a beautiful melody played by the cellos and was followed by a resounding crash cymbal at full orchestra volume.  Rapid sixteenth-note figures dominated the first section of the piece and contained many chromatic elements that showcased virtuosity and skill from the violinists.  In the middle, the composer rearranged a Chinese folk tune to form a poetic, emotional figure.  The concertmaster, Eros Tang, played a captivating solo that appeared mainly in the high register.  Rhythmic challenges were presented throughout the piece, and bass lines often occurred on offbeats.  The call and response technique was displayed as woodwinds were echoed several times by the strings and brass.  There was a frequent usage of drums to heighten the intensity and many instruments were highlighted. 

Next, the first movement of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No.6 in F minor was performed by David Lin and Ryan Shen on the violins, Eros Tang on the viola, and Chris Chan on the cello.  This quartet was composed in 1847 and was the last major piece Mendelssohn wrote.  It was composed for his sister who had died that year and entitled Requiem for Fanny.  All four performers were experienced musicians and played musically at soft parts, while building tension in dramatic sections.  The four performers made the quartet sound like an entire orchestra, and audience members were immersed in different melodies interweaving themselves expertly throughout the piece. A thrilling climax concluded the work and the performers were met with thundering applause.  

The second collaboration of the night came as Fei Yun on percussion, Ye Lan on pipa, and Jiao Ping on guzheng performed Climbing Tiger Mountain, a neo-traditional Chinese piece integrating modern musical elements with Peking opera tunes.  The three ladies performed with bravado and each had virtuosic opportunities to showcase technical and musical abilities.  This was an exciting work with drums providing a compelling bass, the pipa displaying intricate and elaborate figures that drove the work altogether, and the guzheng revealing a harp-like effect with complex finger work.  The pipa solo was met with a special cymbal effect and both performers skillfully coordinated their changes in dynamics.  It was followed by a guzheng solo played with a high level of skill, leading to a fortissimo chord.  The drum soloist played at an intense speed, her hands flying through the air, while still maintaining a steady beat.  This performance was also well received by the audience because of the excitement delivered throughout.

Last before intermission was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.  Based on Paganini’s 24th caprice in A minor, this piece is a concertante composed for solo piano and orchestra.  It contains 24 variations which restate Paganini’s original theme in multiple ways.  The eighteenth variation is well known for its enchanting atmosphere and has been used in many movies and TV shows (Somewhere in Time, Groundhog Day, etc.).  Michael Berkovsky, a faculty member at the Glenn Gould School and the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy, soloed at the piano with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  Dr. Berkovsky played with a lot of expression, captured the spirit of the movement, and clearly led the orchestra very well.  The tricky, fast passages were played at great ease, and the orchestra also did a wonderful job by helping make the music flow.  Exceptional diversity was demonstrated through contrasting volumes and intensity levels.  The eighteenth variation was played beautifully and depicted Paganini’s warm and moving theme which Rachmaninoff ingeniously flipped backwards in Db major.  The 24th and last variation was notably impressive as more and more instruments began to add themselves into the final climactic ending.

After intermission, the orchestra returned to perform Yun-Nan Folksong with a skilled bamboo flutist, Chun-Jie Wang, a Professor of Folk Music at the Royal College of Music whom the orchestra had collaborated with many times before.  Composed by Gu Guanren, the work is based on The Tune of Caravan and has a distinctly Chinese flavour to it.  Trills were incorporated into the work and decorated the rich melodic lines.  The sound of the Chinese flute was delicate, yet clear and Chun-Jie produced a warm tone that suited the lyrical sections of this piece.  Each note was struck with clarity and precision.  Lyrical sections were accompanied by strings with a repeated harmonic pattern.  During rapid sections, the accompaniment laid on the offbeats while the soloist played quick figures that took a lot of practice to master.


Next, Pear Trees Are Blossoming Again, a popular Chinese song in the 80s, was performed by Chao Yi-Feng, arranged for orchestral accompaniment by Kevin He.  Yi-Feng is currently the director of the vocal teaching and research department of the Nanyang Art School.  The song started off with Yi-Feng playing a solo passage on the acoustic guitar.  The strings’ harmonies fit in well with Yi-Feng’s voice.  The key change to F major near the end was dramatic and played at full volume.  Overall, the piece was both simple and catchy.  Dwelling on the childhood memories with portraits of mother and son surrounded by white pedals of the pear blossom, the familiar tune reminded people of where they came from.  For those who have travelled thousands of miles away from home, all the little things in life become the most they miss and never forget.

As the finale, Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane was performed by violinist Huang Ding Yi and the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  Two years ago, Ding Yi’s performance of Butterfly Lovers with CAST at the exact same hall was a huge success, and this performance was yet another triumph.  Tzigane is a rhapsodic composition that was originally arranged for solo violin and piano.  The same year, Ravel transcribed the piece for the orchestra.  The free and unrestrained music is considered one of Ravel’s greatest compositions.  It began with a four-minute solo without any orchestral accompaniment.  During his solo, Ding Yi displayed wonderful technical capabilities.  The piece has many virtuosic moments, and legend says Ravel was looking at Paganini’s compositions while writing this work.  After the solo, the harp came in followed by the flute and other orchestral instruments.  Harmonics were one of the key features in this work that made it special.  Pizzicato sections were remarkably challenging while Ding Yi played them with great comfort.  The accelerando at the end led to a final exciting cadence.  As an encore, Ding Yi played Harvest Celebration, a piece arranged by CAST’s conductor, Erhei Liang.  This work was arduous for the soloist and the orchestra, but both succeeded in synchronizing together during the entire performance.  Cymbals helped boost energy at loud chords.  The French horn was given melodic lines that flowed nicely.  After Ding Yi’s performance, the audience erupted into cheers and the concert finally came to a conclusion.

This evening’s concert brings audience members of diverse backgrounds closer through the beauty and joy of music.  As Rachmaninoff once said, “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”  


Rising Stars Gala (November 2018)

 On Sunday, November 25 at the Living Arts Centre, a group of young musicians delighted a packed house of classical music lovers.

 The concert opened with a chamber ensemble comprised of 8 young violinists performing 2 pieces with Danny Chik at the piano.  First, they played “Country Dance” by Donald Heins,  a Canadian violinist and composer.  The work was played with a lot of energy, and the many violins produced a grand, majestic effect.  It finished with an elaborate ritardando leading to a powerful final chord.  The next piece, “Song of Nostalgia” was written by the Chinese composer, Ma Si Cong during the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s.  The chamber ensemble successfully expressed the wistfulness Ma felt while writing this song, and brought back some of the special moments of lives in their home country for the audience.  After this piece, a direct change of atmosphere was presented when five of the violinists performed “Perpetuum Mobile”, a virtuosic work written by Ottokar Novacek in 1895.  Although this piece presented many technical difficulties (e.g. scales and arpeggios, a rapid tempo, and repeated streams of notes), the young violinists managed to perform with rhythmic energy and appealing harmonies.  Playing such work as a group was a big challenge to take on, yet the ensemble delivered a remarkable performance.

Next, Evan Jing performed the famous “Valse in Db Major, Op.64, No.1” by Frederic Chopin.  This work is popularly known as the “Waltz Of The Little Dog” because of the repeated eighth notes resembling a dog chasing its tail. Evan played with much enthusiasm, lightness, and humour, showcasing a great contrast of dynamics and rapid fingerwork. This was followed by Franz Schubert’s “Impromptu in Ab Major, Op.90, No.4”, played by Ethan Li.  “Impromptu in Ab Major” is one of the four Op.90 impromptus written by Schubert in 1827.  Ethan performed the arpeggios very easily, and the contrast of mood was demonstrated through his use of pedal and varying weight put upon the piano keys. The second piece by Chopin performed this evening was the “Nocturne in C Minor, Op.48, No.1”, played by Jerry Tian. The piece began with a quiet, subtle melody that was later transformed into a dramatic climax point.  Jerry expressed the sensational feeling the work requires.  In addition, octaves and large chords were played with precision and resolute quality. As the last solo piano performance of the night, Gabriel Wu performed “Rhapsody in B Minor, Op.79, No.1”. The Rhapsodies were written by Brahms during his summer vacation at Portschach in 1879, during the highlight of his career.  This work is structurally made up of technically arduous passages that call for hours of practice to overcome, for which Gabriel successfully achieved.

 Felix Mendelssohn’s “Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66” was presented by Chris Soong at the piano, Ryan Shen at the violin, and Chris Chan at the cello, all of whom attend the music department in the University of Toronto.  The first movement, marked Allegro energico e con fuoco, consists of a very rich harmonic language that was demonstrated beautifully by the three musicians.  The dynamics created various colours and brought out intense emotions from the audience.  In contrast, the fourth and last movement, Finale Allegro appassionato, was performed in a light and lyrical manner, with fast figures showcasing distinct virtuosity from all three members.  Their musicality and technical fluency was exceptional.

 The first concerto work of the evening, Nikolai Kapustin’s “Piano Concerto No.4”, was performed by the piano soloist, Jacqueline Renée Yu, along with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra under conductor Erhei Liang.  On Mr. Kapustin’s facebook, the composer himself posted Jacqueline’s rehearsal with the orchestra prior to this evening’s performance.  Kapustin’s work requires complex orchestration featuring various percussion and woodwind instruments.  Jacqueline’s energetic approach made the tricky parts seem easy.  Her musicality came out even during the complex figures where the technical level already took up much attention.  This work is in the jazz style, but since the composer studied piano with Alexander Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatory, the piece has a very clear classical structure as well.

 After intermission, the first movement of Edouard Lalo’s “Concerto for Cello in D Minor” was performed by Wendy Yuan with the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  This concerto was composed in 1876.  Throughout the piece, Spanish idioms are presented, demonstrating Lalo’s cultural background.  In the movement, a melodic phrase is repeated throughout the work and displayed in various fashions.  Wendy’s warm tone quality served as a great addition to the lyrical and melancholic mood conveyed through most of the piece.  Her broad-ranged vibrato heightened the melody lines as well.  Moreover, certain sections of the work had a very high intensity level, which was elevated by the orchestra’s powerful volume.  

As the finale of the concert, Xinyi (Shelley) Shen performed the first movement of the “Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35”, composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.  This work was written by Tchaikovsky in 1878 while he was at a Swiss resort on the shores of Lake Geneva, undergoing depression from his recently horrible marriage.  Although it was received with criticism at its first performance, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is now highly regarded by many as one of the greatest violin concertos of all time. Shelly’s performance was unmistakably stunning and many technical challenges were played at ease with very accurate intonation.  As with Wendy, Shelley’s warm vibrato helped enhance the subtlety of the work.  Fast scale passages were played very confidently and with full use of the bow, creating depth and excitement for the audience members to relish.  Above all, Shelley’s cadenza was very intense, and the quick, descending double stops and alternating arpeggios were very impressive.  Harmonics were sculpted with precision and clarity, and the orchestra’s important role was brought out nicely.  A dramatic, slow-building crescendo at the end led to the final cadence played at fortissimo by the orchestra, bringing a grand closure to the evening.

Along with other annual concerts such as the Celebration Gala and A Concert To Meet New Musicians, the Rising Stars Gala concert is one of the many performances that truly define the CAST Philomusica Orchestra.  CAST is one of the principal foundations in Toronto that promote and give recognition to younger musicians who may become outstanding performers in the years to come.




A Concert To Meet New Musicians (August 2018)

On August 18 at the Yorkminster Citadel, the Academy of Chamber Music for Young Musicians performed with many distinguished young artists.  The opening piece of the concert featured the Kaleidoscope men’s choir in their performance of “Hulun Buir Prairie”, a song by Wuzhatuoga and arranged by Eugene He.  The work painted a picture of the Hulunbuir Grassland, a district in Inner Mongolia of China with an immense land, beautiful scenery, and abundant plants. On the stage, an elegant orchestral passage was followed by seven singers who effectively displayed the graceful melody projected throughout the piece.  The successful employment of imitation defined the phrases, and unison sections emphasized the significance of the text. The high notes were implemented effortlessly and with decisive intonation.

Next, the Kaleidoscope women’s choir performed a work entitled “Years and Months” by Sun Shi Yan and arranged by Eugene He.  This noteworthy piece was performed by acclaimed singers such as Wang Fei and Na Ying. A passionate character brimming with emotion was expressed through the choir’s refined performance.  The two solos sung at the beginning were delicate and clear, highlighting the simplicity of the melodic line. All six voices blended well together, and a rich polyphonic texture was generated through the application of numerous intervals (in particular thirds and sixths).

The Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano by Dmitri Shostakovich were performed by Danny Chik on the piano and Irene Huang and Glenn Huang on the violin.   Differing from Shostakovich’s conventional gloomy and ironic works, these pieces are bright, lively, and lyrical. The first piece, Prelude, reveals a passionate and warm quality, and the use of dynamic markings create a climatic effect.  The Gavotte has a joyful aspect to it in opposition to the first piece, and a lilting figure is achieved through light bow strokes. The vibrato of the Elegy creates a strong and resonant sound. The Waltz contains emphasis on the first beats to further depict the dance-like 3/4 meter.  The last piece, Polka, begins with a spirited figure played by the piano. Accents and sudden chords contribute to the humorous mood. The numerous rehearsals among these three instrumentalists permitted them to place their own stamp on this engaging work and served as an enjoyable experience to remember.

Performed by Chris Fan and Blair Jia on the French horn and Irene Huang on the piano, “Trois Melodies Op. 25, No.3, Agitato”, composed by Louis Francois Dauprat, is an excellent example of demanding works written for the French horn.  The piece begins with an air of mystery and the tension later builds toward a dramatic climax and a thrilling finish. The robust sound of the French horns suits the vigorous spirit of the work. Ritardandos and tempo changes coordinated smoothly as well.  Triplet passages requiring skill and quick fingerwork were performed at ease. Dotted note figures were executed with crispness, and crescendos on lengthy notes created interest and variety.

“String Quintet Op. 39” by Alexander Glazunov was performed by Shuran Wang and Frances Bai on the violin, Haiyang Huang on the viola, and Wendy Yuan and Jacob You on the cello.  The subtle harmonies created a sweet sounding correspondence. All five instruments were given the chance to demonstrate their individual capabilities, and the coordinated dynamics produced a rich sound.  Warm vibrato heightened the intensity and created a vivid tone colour. This work features eloquent counterpoint; the exquisite melody alternating among instruments soars above the harmonic accompaniment, and often, there are a few parts playing independent melodies at the same time.

“Oblivion” is one of Piazzolla’s most popular tangos, and is arranged for the ryuteki by Kevin He, the Canadian composer who also played the ryuteki at the concert.  The ryuteki (which translates as dragon flute) is a Japanese instrument that produces loud and high pitched sounds. It is made by bamboo, creating a high sound quality.  Piazzolla, an Argentine composer, often combined classical and jazz traits, and is known as the first and foremost composer of tango. Oblivion was originally composed for a 1984 Italian film, Enrico IV, and has been transcribed for many other instruments ever since.  At the concert, a feeling of sadness and melancholy was expressed through Kevin’s performance. His playing had an exotic sound, and the phrase structure coincided comfortably with the music.

Following “Oblivion”, 10 year old soprano soloist, Lucia Li performed “My Heart Will Go On”, the theme song in the 1997 film “Titanic” originally sung by the Canadian diva Celine Dion.  To reflect the meaning of the words, the emotion must be distinctly conveyed to the audience, which was demonstrated adequately in Lucia’s performance. The pure sound from the soprano resulted in a beautiful tone quality, and the modulation to A flat major heightened the suspense.  High notes were sung effortlessly and with complete control, involving an excessive degree of skill and technique. Lucia’s voice had an unexpected level of maturity for such a young age, and her confidence on stage and wide vocal range are a great asset to her musical development.

“Come Paride Vezzoso”, from Gaetano Donizetti’s opera “L’Elisir d’amore” was performed by the baritone soloist, Blair Jia.  In this scene of the opera, Belcore (a sergeant) proposes to Adina (a beautiful landowner). Blair performed the aria with warmth and clarity, and his use of dynamics enhanced the work as a whole.  His intonation was precise, and inflections of vibrato contributed to the musical style. Slight tempo shifts corresponding with the music created diversity. Melismas on important words were emphasized, and often delayed, to portray the meaning of the text.  The orchestra’s steady pulse and ability to follow the singer served as an ideal accompaniment to the voice.

“Love Letter”, by Yi-Feng Chao, was performed by the composer himself.  It began with a delicate piano accompaniment, followed by the singer on his guitar.  A serene and tranquil mood was portrayed. As the piece developed, orchestral accompaniment came in.  The emotional tension was increased in the chorus, followed by a short orchestral passage incorporating chromatic inflections.  On the repeat of the verse, orchestral accompaniment was used throughout. The tension reached its highest degree near the end, and the piece finished with a quiet piano passage.  Yi-Feng sang with much expression, escalating the spiritual power of the work. One of the climaxes of the concert came when singers, Yi-Feng Chao and Kevin He performed “You Are My Beloved Girl” by Wang Feng.  This celebrated piece began with a short guitar passage, followed by the verse sung by Kevin. The two singers maintained excellent control over vibrato and dynamics, and the orchestra expanded on the contrast of dynamics with short tremolo figures.  The emotion was once again elevated to a new level, and the orchestra complemented the singers nicely. The harmonies created via the two singers enriched the work. Many audience members were exceedingly impressed with the maturity this performance exhibited, and the number was very well received.

After intermission, the orchestra returned to play “Jasmine Flowers to Mother”, a piece arranged by the orchestra’s conductor Erhei Liang and performed by the soprano Beckie Tan.  Full orchestral sound at the beginning helped set the stage for the compelling work that followed. Beckie’s voice was delivered powerfully across the hall, and she enunciated every word clearly to present the message of the text.  Her phrasing was skillfully controlled and well defined by a wide range of intervals. Beckie struck the high notes effectively, communicating a sense of delicacy, and finished with a virtuosic solo as a grand close to the performance.

“Love Song from Kangding” is a Chinese folk song, with the orchestral arrangement produced by Kevin He.  It was performed by singers Jerry Yang and Wang Lan. This work is a traditional folk song of Kangding, Sichuan Province.  Beginning with a remarkable violin solo played by Eros Tang, concertmaster of the orchestra, the intricate theme served as an introduction to the melodic statement presented by the singers.  The contrast between upper and lower registers provided variety, and pizzicato accompaniment from the strings served as a light background to the voices. Both singers demonstrated their expertise through solos and proved to be well aware of not only their parts, but the other singer’s as well.  Synchronization between the two singers struck as an impressive feature of their performance.

As the finale, Darius Yang, a guitar soloist, performed the second movement of “Concerto de Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo, with the Academy of Chamber Music for Young Musicians conducted by the musical director Erhei Liang.  This piece is by far Rodrigo’s best known work, and his inspiration came from the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez (Royal Palace of Aranjuez). The work strives to bring audience members to another time and place by depicting the sounds of nature.  Preceded and accompanied by guitar chords and long notes on the cellos, the oboist Ciara Wheeler played a haunting melodic line that recurred throughout the movement. Darius highlighted the incredible sound of the classical guitar. An ornate moment occurred after the highly polished cadenza, where the entire orchestra played the nostalgic melody performed by the oboist earlier in the movement, but in the dominant key. In both high and low registers, Darius successfully showcased stunning technique and musical virtuosity.  As an encore, Darius performed “Cherry Blossom Time” by Kotaro Oshio. The lyrical and peaceful melody brought the audience to springtime in Japan, with glorious pink flowers all around.

 A Concert To Meet New Musicians provides an excellent opportunity for evolving artists to emerge in various performance settings.  The contrasting numbers presented in the evening’s program were skillfully interpreted and well rehearsed. For young musicians who still have time to advance and develop, many possibilities lie ahead.



Celebration Gala Concert (June 2018)

    Celebration Gala is undoubtedly one of CAST’s most significant annual concerts.  This year’s performance gave CAST the pleasure of collaborating with many prominent artists. 

   In the evening of June 16, Scarborough Citadel was packed with families, friends, and music lovers alike who, from past experience, expected a magnificent performance ahead of them.  This evening’s concert proved to be of even higher caliber than the awaiting audience had anticipated.

   First on the program was “An Impression of Beautiful Southern China”, a piece composed by CAST’s conductor, Erhei Liang.  Before the full performance of this work, Dr. Liang addressed the audience about how the Sichuan dialect inspired him to compose the piece and how the dialect was depicted using short demonstrations from the orchestra.  This not only gave the audience some background information on the piece, but also provided them with an understanding that would help them appreciate the work at a higher level.  The performance of “An Impression of Beautiful Southern China” evoked a nostalgic response from the audience, especially for those who used to visit or live in Southern China.  The many contrasting themes and lively dynamics were portrayed beautifully by the orchestra.  The piece has many solo sections for different instruments to display their musical capabilities, and the powerful brass section with the drums enhances the work as a whole.  This work not only showcases strings virtuosity, but often, the wind and brass instruments play a big role in the orchestra. (For example, the oboe solo repeats various times throughout the piece.)  This piece requires a distinct connection between the conductor and the orchestra, owing to the complex and constant changes in meter.  The orchestral members all watched the conductor closely, leading to an incredibly united performance as a result.  From beginning to end, this enjoyable piece successfully captured the audience’s full attention.


    The orchestra subsequently accompanied Ms. Pei Zhen Huang in her singing performance of “Butterflies in Love with Flowers”, a Chinese traditional song in Suzhou Pingtan style composed by Zhao Kaisheng and arranged for orchestral accompaniment by Erhei Liang.  The performance began with a loud and resounding orchestral passage, followed by an extraordinary solo by Ms. Huang.  This work is highly virtuosic, and requires an excessive level of skill from the vocalist.  The audience was extremely impressed with the combination of Eastern singing alongside Western instruments.  It was also a great experience for CAST to work with Ms. Huang and perform a different genre of music than they typically perform.  

   Following “Butterflies in Love with Flowers”, two sisters performed the fourth movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G Minor for Cello and Piano, with Jocelyn Chu on the cello and Rebecca Chu playing the piano.  This piece needs a high degree of technique, musicality, and synchronization, all of which the sisters accomplished.  In addition, Jocelyn’s warm vibrato and Rebecca’s ease during even the most difficult of passages made their performance very powerful and sentimental.

   As part of a five-day visit from England to Canada, the University of Kent String Sinfonia performed “Serenade for Strings in E Minor” by Edward Elgar.  The group of ten string players coordinated incredibly well and were deeply involved in their performance.  The rich and beautiful chords were only possible thanks to the secure intonation of all the players.  The cello and bass provided a deep and resonant sound, serving as a baseline for the elegant melodies played by the violinists and violists.  This performance surely moved many of the audience members, creating a work that they would unlikely forget.

   Eros Tang next performed the first movement of the Violin Concerto in D Minor by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.  Even non-musicians can comprehend how demanding this piece is.  Eros mastered the technical challenges presented in this piece, and his sense of musicality was favoured by both audience members and musicians.  As assistant concertmaster of this concert, Eros is very experienced and knows how to lead the orchestra in passages with tempo changes.  This was another performance that serves as a reminder to listeners the valuable role music plays in their lives.

    After a brief intermission, the Xiao Ping Chorus performed the “Sound of Music Choral Highlights” with CAST.  The music was composed by Richard Rodgers and arranged by John Leavitt.  This performance was much appreciated, since the majority of the audience members were familiar with the famous movie.  The collaboration between the orchestra, the conductor, and the chorus was extraordinary.  The choir sang with spirit and accurate intonation.  Their heart-warming performance was of high quality in many aspects, and CAST would definitely be thrilled to work with them again.

   Among the pieces showcased in the program was an orchestral work, “Beyond the Gate of Supreme Harmony”, by Canadian composer Kevin He.  Like Dr. Liang, Mr. He explained to the audience what had inspired him to write this piece.  The combination of all the instruments created rich harmonies, which worked very well together.  The percussion added grand effects to this piece, and the wind instruments helped maintain a quiet and subtle mood.  As the title implies, this piece goes beyond the typical harmony we use, and includes some perfect intervals that we normally don’t write in basic harmony.  Mr. He extended to further experiment with different intervals and methods of composing, which resulted in an amazing effect and took the audience back in time.

    The highlight of the concert came when the internationally renowned singer Hu Xiao Ping performed the fourth movement of Gustav Mahler’s famous Symphony No. 4.   With a voice that possesses exceptional clarity and warmth, Ms. Hu’s inflections of vibrato heightened the emotional capacity of this work.  She struck the high notes at seemingly great ease and with precise intonation.  Ms. Hu led the orchestra with clear movements and expressions.  Her musicality was top class, and she captivated the audience in her wonderful performance.  After the piece ended, the audience, in standing ovation, demanded an encore, in which Ms. Hu sang the “Song of Marino” with the orchestra.  The performance was spectacular.  Instead of the melancholy melody conveyed in Mahler’s Symphony, “Song of Marino” is a light and jolly piece, which served as a well-suited finale for the concert.  Ms. Hu completely depicted the animated atmosphere sought in this piece, and her encore delighted not only the audience, but the orchestra as well.  The end of Ms. Hu’s performance was met with thundering applause.  To say that her performance was well received would be an understatement. After bowing multiple times, Ms. Hu began to leave the stage, but to no avail.  The audience insisted on listening to the famous soprano sing once more.  After another repeat of the “Song of Marino”, the concert finally came to a conclusion.

    CAST helps assemble artists from all over Canada to enjoy a wide variety of music genres, and to appreciate music together.  Hopefully, younger generations will continue to preserve the multicultural environment and make Toronto a peaceful and vibrant city.
















4月28日晚,在Yorkminster Citadel(1 Lord Seaton Road)上演的由多伦多华人艺术家中心举办的“春天的旋律”青少年专场音乐会,取得了圆满成功。 音乐会上,艺术家中心主席、指挥梁二黑博士首先指挥青少年室内乐团演奏了The Entertainer和Palladio两首名曲。


音乐会上,两位青年音乐家也在指挥方面一展风采,分别是Eros Tang指挥演奏莫扎特的弦乐曲和张秋阳指挥演奏杜普勒的《行板与回旋曲》。

本场音乐会还特意上演了两首青年学生创作的器乐作品,分别是多大建筑设计与音乐专业的二年级学生贺子潇的单簧管与钢琴《幻想曲》和11年级中学生Marcus Chiam 的大提琴二重奏《夜曲》,折射出青年学生在作曲方面的智慧与才华,也受到现场听众的好评。



Eros Tang在指挥





多伦多华人艺术家中心于八月二十五日晚730Yorkminster Citadel举办了“新人新曲音乐会”,向多伦多观众奉献一场高水平的严肃音乐会。音乐会包括两个主题:一是向大家介绍几位近年新到多伦多的华人音乐家,包括大提琴演奏家石乐、女高音歌唱家林曦丹、男高音歌唱家温纳新以及由扬琴演奏家王莉、古筝演奏家秦子雯、二胡演奏家王玲玲、琵琶演奏家叶兰和键盘演奏家李琤组成的女子乐坊;二是华人艺术家中心所属的青年室内乐团也将在音乐会上大显身手,乐团的一些优秀青年音乐家将在音乐会中展示出他们的才华,尤其是青年音乐家贺子潇和Marcus Chiam专门为此次音乐会创作了的新作品在音乐会上首演。

音乐会曲目包括:大提琴演奏家石乐演奏的弗兰克的《大提琴奏鸣曲》由以色列-加拿大钢琴家Michael Berkovsky伴奏,以及舒曼的五首民歌风格小品;女高音歌唱家林曦丹演唱的德沃夏克歌剧《水仙女》中的咏叹调《月亮颂》以及中国艺术歌曲《青藏高原》、《帕米尔,我的家乡多么美》;男高音歌唱家温纳新演唱的普契尼歌剧《图兰朵》中的咏叹调《今夜无人入睡》、中国艺术歌曲《祖国,慈祥的母亲》以及女子乐坊演奏的民乐小合奏《步步高》、《茉莉花》。

青年音乐家的曲目有:多伦多大学建筑设计及音乐双专业的大二学生贺子潇的新作品——音诗《曾经》;皮尔左拉的富有爵士乐和南美风格的钢琴三重奏《夏》(Dennis Liu, Jasper LamDanny Chik演奏);舒曼的弦乐四重奏(Kevin Chen, Jolin Liu, Marcus ChiamAngel Ji演奏);普罗可菲耶夫的希伯来主题序曲(Joshua Zung, Kevin Chen, Jolin Liu, Eros Tang, Angel Ji, Danny Chik演奏);贺子潇、钞凡的男声二重唱——台湾名曲《橄榄树》以及维瓦尔蒂的经典之作《双小提琴与大提琴三重协奏曲》(Eros Tang, Kevin ChenZixiao He演奏)。除了乐队合奏节目,音乐会的全部声乐节目也由华人艺术家中心青年室内乐团伴奏,艺术家中心主席梁二黑博士指挥。




6月3日晚,多伦多华人艺术家中心2012艺术节开幕式音乐会在加拿大国家广播公司Glen Gould Studio举行。本场音乐会选曲精良、阵容强大,含金量高,加之全体演职人员的通力合作,使整场音乐会获得了极大的成功。


接下来是女高音钞艺萍的独唱,所选曲目分别是晓光作词、徐沛东作曲的 《乡音乡情》、梁寒光先生创作的电影音乐《啊!摇篮》的主题曲《马背摇篮》以及樊孝斌作词、80后作曲家胡廷江的新作《听海》。这三首乐曲分别出自老、中、青三代作曲家之手,也代表了不同时期的歌曲创作风格。钞艺萍的演唱音色甜美、纯净,节奏、强弱以及声音的控制、音乐的处理细腻,音乐性强,再加上她自幼演奏大提琴所获得的历练以及长期演奏交响音乐所积累的同交响乐队以及指挥合作的经验,使她的演唱极具震撼力,而且在演唱时不用麦克风,原汁原味,具有很强的艺术感染力,在音乐会上掀起了一个高潮。在热烈的掌声和鲜花中,钞艺萍为大家加演了一首王立平的经典之作——电影《少林寺》插曲《牧羊曲》。


音乐会下半场在长笛和竖琴柔美、深情的音乐声中开始。青年长笛演奏家张秋暘和青年竖琴演奏家陈德安演奏了著名作曲家、长笛演奏家谭密子先生的力作——长笛与竖琴《幻想曲》,由著名小提琴演奏家、多伦多华人艺术家中心音乐总监候伯治先生指挥。这首乐曲大量地采用了中国民族音乐的语汇,充分发挥了长笛和竖琴的演奏技巧,描绘了山清水秀的美丽景色和恬静雅致的幸福生活。全场听众自始至终沉醉在长笛和竖琴美妙的音色中,并在乐曲结束时给与两位青年演奏家、指挥和作曲家热烈的掌声。为答谢听众的热情,张秋暘和陈德安又为听众演奏了长笛和竖琴二重奏——爱尔兰民歌“Danny Boy”。


将近两个小时的音乐会结束了,可听众依然兴致勃勃,掌声和欢呼声交融在一起,反映了他们难以抑制的民族情感以及经典音乐带给他们的无比快乐,表达了他们的民族自豪感以及对艺术家的感谢。最后,梁二黑先生带领全体演员谢幕,给整场音乐会画上了圆满的句号。 这次音乐会所选作品,均出自重量级作曲家之手,经典而厚重,尤其是《黄河协奏曲》与《王贵与李香香》更是中国音乐史上不同时期的里程碑式作品,独唱、独奏演员也都是北美素负盛名的华人音乐家,因此音乐会受到了本地主流媒体和华人社区的极大关注。音乐会门票早早售罄,在音乐会临开演前,尽管现场已经座无虚席,可还有热情的听众在音乐厅门前淘票,真可用“一票难求”来形容。这种盛况近年来是不多见的,充分说明了本场音乐会的成功与受欢迎程度。

音乐会后,艺术家中心主席梁二黑先生在接受OMNI TV 主持人郭然的采访时说:本场音乐会所选曲目百分之九十都是中国传统的音乐作品,比如钢琴协奏曲《黄河》、《王贵与李香香》等作品,在当时就是一个里程碑,至今仍然焕发着她们耀眼的光彩。

作为本场音乐会唯一的声乐节目,女高音钞艺萍在接受采访时也说:闻听此次音乐会的消息后,歌曲《乡音乡情》的曲作者、中国音乐家协会驻会副主席、著名作曲家徐沛东先生专门整理出了《乡音乡情》女声独唱版的交响乐队总谱的电子版,发给了她,她想借媒体对作曲家徐沛东老师表示深深的谢意; 此外,电影《啊,摇篮》的主题歌《马背摇篮》 是她在学生时代就喜爱并学唱过的歌曲,如今在海外,由作曲家的儿子梁二黑先生亲自执棒,与交响乐队合作首唱这首歌曲,意义非凡。 一位听众说:在海外能够听到这样一场高质量的中国音乐作品音乐会,听到乡音乡情,感到十分亲切、温暖、震撼,也增加了民族自豪感与凝聚力,实在难能可贵!

(摄影:Paul Yang)