By JACKIE ORCHARD
Bright red parasols adorned with delicate birds and flowers, white sparkling dresses, and powerful opera from deep baritones and clear sopranos - all this and more was at the Mid-Autum Concert put on by the Confucius Institute last Saturday.
This celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year at the Performing Arts Center on campus awed the roughly 100 people in attendance, and was a non-stop optical feast from the first choral number with 15 children, to heart-breaking duets, to the last ensemble piece.
The performers on stage were a mixture of talent from the Albany area and China alike. The children, the Confucius Institute Children’s Choir, are from Albany. Some of the adults performing are SUNY teachers, and some are from China.
Unlike most events, where English is the predominant language, the Mid-Autumn Concert was hosted in Mandarin, with translations provided in English. During each act, a projector showed the lyrics in both Mandarin characters and English letters. Even the introductions at the end were given entirely in Mandarin, creating a truly immersive experience.
After the show, excited families chattered in the lobby while munching on complementary moon-pies.
“One of my co-workers is Chinese and she told me about the show,” says Trevor McDermott, an Albany resident.
His father, Michael McDermott, attended the concert with him.
“He brought me here as my birthday present,” Michael says. “This is fantastic.”
Michael performs and directs shows himself.
“So I like to come and see different cultural events like this,” Michael says. “And I loved the dancers. When they came out with the red umbrellas it was just fantastic.”
Many people were in attendance because their children were in the show.
Yuxin Zhang watched his five-year-old son, Ethan Zhang, perform in the concert with a smile.
“I like watching the kids and the grown-ups together,” Zhang says. “And also the trio of the three ladies.”
The “three ladies” he’s referring to are Feng Ao, Mao Jun, and Chen Menghan. Wearing all white, they sang together in harmony, weaving a haunting song through the air, lamenting the moon in the song, “Waterbag Dance.”
Zhang enjoyed how the concert sounded, but also what it represents.
“Moon festival is a time for reunion and also for celebration,” Zhang says. “It comes from the lunar year of the Chinese traditional calendar. Basically, when the moon is full, it means good time and harmony. Peaceful. Happiness.”
As he gestures with open hands, a little girl, still in her red and white costume, runs up and deposits another moon pie right into his palm and runs off. Zhang laughs.
There are mostly families present in the audience at the Mid-Autumn concert. Zhang says this is because the moon festival is about family bonding.
“In the ancient times, the families sat together in the garden and watched the giant moon,” Zhang says.
The Confucius institute frequently hosts cultural events and also offers classes in Taiji and Martial Arts, free for students.
For more information about the pieces performed or their upcoming events, you can go to albany.edu/confucius/.