Rhythms of China Review - A Blend of Pleasing Music

Anyone who braved the hot weather and an early start time on the first day of school to attend the free Chinese Fine Arts Society (CFAS) spectacular, star-studded, and colorful concert at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion on Monday, August 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm. is likely to remember this wonderful evening.


RHYTHMS OF CHINA explored the world of Chinese music with a program of pulsating and percussive traditional and contemporary chamber music for Western and Chinese instruments. I was fascinated by the blend of sounds that I recognize as characteristic of Chinese music, as they blended into contemporary sounds with instruments I recognized by sound but not by name along with those that I knew by name and sound.


I enjoyed the works by esteemed composers Chen Yi, Vivian Fung, Lei Liang, Lu Pei as well as CFAS’s Migratory Journeys International Composition Competition winner Daniel Lo, along with performances by Chicago favorites including violinists Rachel Barton Pine and MingHuan Xu, erhu master Betti Xiang, Third Coast Percussion, Duo Diorama, flutist Eugenia Moliner and guests Yihan Chen, pipa, and Hong-Da Chin, dizi, under the baton of Lyric Opera’s Emanuele Andrizzi.  


The evening began with the energetic sounds and rhythms of The Cheng Da Drum Team.  Their precision and beat was energizing and their large movements were fun to watch.


I had heard CFAS board president Julie Tiao Ma talking about the concert both on WFMT and on WBEZ and was especially interested because I have had several visits to different parts of China in the last few years.  I always find the  “slidy” sound of the string instrument, the harp-like sound and the flute captivating.  I have heard those sounds walking through parks in China.  However, on this night I heard these sounds in a new way, mixed with other instruments and compositions that displayed very “modern” sound combinations that blended East and West.


“We’re excited to bring this rich, rhythmic, and predominantly new Chinese music to the entire city of Chicago in this gorgeous setting,” says CFAS board president Julie Tiao Ma. “The featured artists performing artists – including Rachel Barton Fine and Third Coast Percussion – represent Chicago’s best and brightest, and we think audiences will love what they hear.”

I was very interested in what Julie Tiao Ma had to say as she introduced the series of performers. It was her mother who was instrumental in making Chinese Fine Arts Society what it is today, a very influential and active organization that impacts young musicians. I did not realize how many now famous musicians got their start in a CFAS competition including Rachel Barton Pine.  I was surprised to learn that CFAS is celebrating its 30th anniversary with associated events.  In addition to the  “Five Elements Project" coming in 2014, they are celebrating the Moon Festival (September 15th) and a festival in honor of Confucius. 



Tiger Grinding Teeth
Cheng Da Drum Team


This was captivating and exciting.

Yangko, by Chen Yi
Third Coast Percussion and MingHuan Xu


This group is amazing in its precision and unusual sound.

Three Humoresques by Yang Boa Zhi

A beautiful blend of sounds.

Night Impressions, by Vivian Fung
Hong-Da Chin, Yihan Chen, Third Coast Percussion, and Betti Xiang
Emanuele Andrizzi, conductor


In this performance, we heard a beautiful blend of Eastern and Western sound.

Man Jiang Hong: Legend of a Chinese Hero, by Lu Pei
Rachel Barton Pine and Winston Choi


I found this piece beautiful and moving.

Lakescape II, by Lei Liang

Third Coast Percussion


Duet, by Conrad Tao

Rachel Baron Pine (Violin)

Betti Xiang (Erhu)


This piece was beautiful and haunting.


Sojourner’s Song, by Daniel Lo
Chen Yihan, Winston Choi, and Third Coast Percussion


What wonderful and unusual blends of music and rhythm.!


Postlude:  Monkey by Brent Roman

Cheng Do Drum Team


A wonderful conclusion.

Since 1984, the Chinese Fine Arts Society, a small, fully-independent arts organization has brought together people from diverse backgrounds over a common goal: to celebrate the beauty and majesty of traditional and contemporary Chinese music and art. CFAS is dedicated to promoting the appreciation of Chinese culture, enhancing cultural exchange and pursuing excellence in Chinese music, dance and visual arts. For further information about the Chinese Fine Arts Society contact 312-369-3197 or [email protected] and visit.


Photos: Courtesy of CFAS unless otherwise noted.

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