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Reflections of the ‘East Meets West – A Butterfly Lovers Concert’

By Steven Greenman
 

My name is Steven Greenman and I was a co-producer and violin soloist for the “East Meets West – A Butterfly Lovers Concert” that took place at the historic Hermit Club in downtown Cleveland March 23rd, 2013. I had the privilege of working intensely with Stephen A. Eva, director of the Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra and David Badagnani, director of the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble. Together we took an idea of performing the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, the most beloved work in the Chinese classical repertoire with full orchestra, and expanding the concert to include other instrumental Chinese classical works for orchestra plus an artistic program of traditional Chinese folk music by the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble. The concert featured the city of Cleveland’s premier performance of the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto and it was an event that was shared by Cleveland’s Chinese community as well as Cleveland’s ardent supporters and fans of classical and traditional folk music. Of course, a concert like this took months of planning and preparation. After performing excerpts of the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto with a pianist as part of several concerts with David’s ensemble, I set a goal and challenge for myself to learn the entire work. I had performed shorter East European Gypsy violin showpieces with orchestras in the past but this was a full classical concerto with unique musical phrasings and expressions combined with serious violin pyrotechnics and violin technique. It took me several months to learn the piece and once completed I approached several local music directors to gauge interest in performing it with me. Steve Eva, whom I had known for a few years, was quite intrigued with the concert idea. His feeling was that this project would make for a creative and exciting evening event at the Hermit Club where he often conducts. We both thought that it would be important to include Cleveland’s Chinese community and I suggested we work together with David Badagnani and his ensemble. The Hermit Club was thrilled with the concert idea and the three of us set out to bring the inspiration to reality. David’s northeast Ohio contacts with the Chinese community brought us into contact with Anne Y. Pu, editor of the Erie Chinese Journal where the organizing committee (me, Steve Eva and David) spent a splendid afternoon discussing ideas for the concert and how best to advertise while meeting more supporters and eating lots of delicious food provided by Anne. David worked extremely hard to secure all the scores and parts for the various pieces we were to perform and even wrote out by hand all the instrumental parts for one of the orchestral pieces! Steve Eva and I met with members of the Cleveland State University Confucius Institute including Anthony Yen, Wenzheng Liu and Dr. Haigang Zhou to describe the project and our goals and how this concert could be the impetus for future collaborations. One of the thrills during the organizing process was our interview on WCPN 90.3FM with renowned radio personality Dee Perry. We talked about the upcoming concert and I performed the main theme of the concerto. Through David’s indulgence, Steve Eva and I accompanied David’s wonderful sheng (Chinese mouth organ) playing with Chinese percussion instruments he provided. Steve Eva successfully assembled his orchestra and after our two rehearsals the excitement mounted in anticipation of the big event. Ticket sales were successful and the evening of the concert we were greeted to a full house of enthusiastic audience members. The atmosphere was electric. The Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble, led by director and performer David Badagnani, performed the first half of the concert. Always assuming the highest ideals of musical artistry and supreme musicianship, the ensemble performed beautifully and splendidly. After intermission, Steve Eva led his Chagrin Falls Studio Orchestra with wonderful performances of the tone poem "Dance of the Yao People" and the festive overture "The Flowers are Beautiful, The Moon is Round." ?As with the upcoming concerto, these pieces were also Cleveland premieres. The moment was set for the main event: The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto. Our special Master of Ceremonies, Zhang Ying, gave a brief but informative description of the work. The orchestral opening of the piece set the mood drawing the audience into the past world of the two tragic lovers – Liang Zhanbo and Zhu Yingtai. I faced the audience and played the opening theme. As the concerto progressed, the audience was mesmerized by the contrasting themes represented by the dialogue between solo violin and orchestra. It was such a thrill to have the opportunity to perform such a moving and enraptured piece with full orchestra in front of a warm and supportive crowd. My wife, my parents (from Pittsburgh) and my in-laws (from Detroit) were present as well as friends and colleagues. After the final notes drifted into the infinity of night the crowd rose to give everyone a standing ovation. It was gratifying to be sure for me but also gratifying for the completion of a hugely successful project that had started many months ago. Just as the two lovers emerged from tragedy to eternal love as butterflies so did David, Steve and I emerge from our intense work and preparation to the triumphant euphoria of a beautiful concert event.
In conclusion, myself, David Badagnani and Steven A. Eva gratefully acknowledge the generous support of Margaret Wong, Alex Machaskee, Anthony Yen, the Cleveland State University Confucius Institute, the Cleveland Contemporary Chinese Culture Association of Solon, Ohio, and Anne Y. Pu and the "Erie Chinese Journal" for their assistance in making this concert a success.
Steven Greenman
Violinist/Composer/Educator
Greenfidl@sbcglobal.net
www.stevengreenman.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

梁 祝
Butterfly Lovers
李秋暉 (Alice Li)
Translated by David Badagnani and Alice Li



伊利湖畔彩雲飛,
Colorful clouds drift by over the Lake Erie shore this night,
花好月圓惹人醉。
Beautiful flowers and full moon overwhelm the senses with delight.
梁祝化作蝴蝶舞,
If Liang and Zhu could dance together as Butterfly Lovers in this far-off land,
文姬思漢何須歸。
Why would Lady Wenji need to return to Han, with music so grand?

 
 

 

 
 
 

 

 

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