At the turn of the millennium, San Francisco Symphony (SFS) launched a concert and event to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year. Chaired by Ann Getty and the acclaimed Bay Area actor-director Joan Chen, the inaugural event featured author Amy Tan reading from her children’s book The Chinese Siamese Cat—accompanied by projected illustrations of Gretchen Schields’ artwork and original music by Nathan Wang. It also featured delightful music from the soundtrack of The Joy Luck Club performed by the orchestra. The following year’s event was chaired by Margaret Liu Collins and featured the world premiere of Red Seal – Strings Calligraphy II by local composer Gang Situ. Other works premiered by SFS at subsequent Chinese New Year concerts have included Gang Situ’s Chinese Opera Suite in 2004, Echoes and Festival Suite in 2005, and Drum Overture in 2006, as well as Huang Ruo’s Folk Songs for Orchestra in 2012, commissioned by the SFS.
After two decades, the signature heritage event (which bridges East and West traditions with the universal language of music) has become a beloved tradition in the Bay Area. This year’s concert and Emerald Banquet will take place on February 1 and will draw upon vibrant Asian traditions, past and present. Conductor Perry So will make his SFS debut leading the Orchestra in traditional folk music and works by Asian composers, including the U.S. premiere of Huang Ruo’s new addition to Folk Songs for Orchestra and Bright Sheng’s Red Silk Dance. The eclectic concert program features sheng player Hu Jianbing, pipa player Guilian Lu, pianist Sa Chen, and performers from the Loong Mah Sing See Wui dance company.
The exciting day will begin with a pre-concert Festival Reception in Davies Symphony Hall lobbies that will be open to all ticketholders. The reception will feature an array of entertainment and activities, such as lion dancing, Chinese calligraphy, “lucky” red envelopes, a musical performance by Melody of China, as well as complimentary desserts, wine, and tea bars. Inspired by the vibrant visual pageantry of traditional Chinese New Year celebrations, the glamorous and celebratory Emerald Banquet will follow the concert in Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall.