By Gideon Isidro
WHENEVER we hear the word “orchestra,” we immediately think of a busload of violins, violas, and cellos. Grace Christian College Chinese Orchestra, or “GC3O” has those, but also incorporates traditional Chinese instruments like the erhu (a two stringed Chinese violin), the pipa (a lute), the guzheng (a zither), and the ever iconic Chinese gong. To further bolster the Eastern appeal, they also have the Japanese koto (a Japanese zither) and the Indonesian anklung among many other instruments. Led by their teacher and conductor Danny Chin, the GC3O combines the power and potential of a Western orchestra with the audial flavors of the Orient.
Aside from working with instruments from different countries, Danny Chin has also experimented with combining Western and Eastern techniques. Some of his musical adventures involve combining Eastern melodies with Western harmony techniques, winning the surprise and delight of his musical peers — in their words, “Aba! Kakaiba ah!” (Wow! That’s different!).
When asked why he works with this intriguing musical brew, Mr. Chin replied, “Chinese classical music should not always be living in the past, which is why I revolutionized it by combining Chinese traditional instruments with Western instruments, to bring it out of the box.”
Mr. Chin’s mission? “[To] promote and share the beauty of Chinese culture to all, especially Asians. Many Chinese and Chinoys (Chinese Filipinos) of this generation lack appreciation and acceptance of their roots. This is sad, but hopefully through this orchestra we can share the music and culture of the Chinese to all.”
PRODIGIES AND PROTÉGÉ’S
Now while it’s true that the orchestra’s members are still students, it doesn’t mean that they cannot put on a good show.
Violinist Nigel Santillan talked about their past performances: “It’s a very interesting combo and everyone seems it like it. We’ve never been jeered or booed in our performances.” Cellist Louis Ng said, “[We] maybe not as great as the professionals, but if our conductor is Sir Danny, with his pieces, and his arrangement, and conducting, we can put up a good show.”
“We also have a lot of good soloists,” said Wenjun Yan. Ms. Yan is an award winning guzheng player, winning first place in her home city’s competition. For context, her home city of Jiaozuo in Henan Province is known for its guzheng players, and in her words, “holds the top one percent of guzheng players in the world.”
“We will be bringing back pieces that have not been heard in decades,” said Mr. Ng. “It will be a refreshing take on old pieces. It will be a rare treat to listen to this.”
The Grace Christian College Chinese Orchestra will be playing in the Chan Lim exhibit at SM Megamall on Jan. 27, 3 p.m., and at SM City Clark Pampanga on Feb. 3, 3 p.m.
For more information on Grace Christian Chinese Orchestra’s upcoming concerts, visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/GraceChristianCollegeChineseOrchestra.
By Gideon Isidro