GUNG HAY FAT CHOY
Cause: San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year Celebration
Impact: Proceeds benefit symphony community and education programs
In February, the Asian Lunar New Year ushered in the metal ox — signifying a “diligent” year, according to Pocket Chinese Almanac authors and symphony guests Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith. They forecast a holding pattern for 2021, during which one wisely and bullishly “keeps their head down, preserving energy and spirit.”
Considering last year, that sounds like sage, spot-on advice. On February 20, the San Francisco Symphony forged ahead, expertly producing safe SoundBox robotic recordings to virtually present its 21st Chinese New Year Celebration concert. Led by co-chairs Tiffany Chang (live from Taipei, Taiwan) and Bay Area attorney Nanci Nishimura — with SFS President Mark Hanson and major concert sponsors, including Iris and Michael Chan — the lively on-screen party was hosted by acclaimed SF actor-director Joan Chen.
The all-Asian-music concert, conducted by Ming Luke, featured compositions imbued with such ox traits as prosperity, unity and growth. Livestreamed on NBC Bay Area and SFSymphony+ — the cultural organization’s new on-demand streaming platform — the event welcomed symphony patrons in VIP Zoom rooms, starring guest composer Yao-Xing Chen and SFS Orchestra violinist Ray Chen, a veteran of the symphony’s inaugural 2000 Lunar Concert. Deep-pocketed patrons also savored lucky red envelope drawings and delish McCall’s boxed dim sum dinners.
The evening was also a baton leadership pass from former symphony president Sakurako Fisher to new president Priscilla Geeslin. Also tuning in? War Memorial and Performing Arts Center trustee Paul Pelosi and his speaker of the House spouse, Nancy Pelosi. Notably, her Asian birth year lands her among the mighty gold dragons, staunch believers in the rule of order and the greater good.
“We need this ox year: sturdy, strong, durable. But as Joan [Chen] said, it’s equally important to know when the acacia tree blooms,” toasted Speaker Pelosi. “Strong yet delicate, like our symphony, art unites all of us.”