FOR RELEASE Monday, December 13, 2010

January 14 Cultural Celebration Features Korean Soprano Sumi Jo, Japanese Koto Player Masayo Ishigure and More

Program Includes West Coast Premiere of Chinese-American Composer Huang Ruo’s The Yellow Earth, Winner of the Inaugural Celebrate Asia! Composition Competition


Celebrate Asia!

Seattle, WA – Seattle Symphony will present the third annual Celebrate Asia! event on January 14 at Benaroya Hall, a program that explores the musical traditions of Asian countries including China, India Japan, Korea, Thailand and The Philippines alongside those of the West. The evening will be hosted by local entrepreneur and The Apprentice finalist James Sun and conducted by former Seattle Symphony Associate Conductor Carolyn Kuan. This exciting concert features world-renowned Korean soprano Sumi Jo singing both traditional Korean songs Ari Arirang and Bird Lament Song, as well as Giuseppe Verdi’s iconic “Sempre libera” from La traviata. Japanese koto player Masayo Ishigure will perform Tadao Sawai’s Tori no Yo Ni (“Flying Like a Bird”), and Chinese sheng player Hu Jianbing will perform the West Coast Premiere of Huang Ruo’s The Yellow Earth, the winning entry in the first Celebrate Asia! Composition Competition. Also on the program are selections from Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade; Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Ravi Shankar’s Overture from Concerto No. 3 for Sitar and Orchestra. Kuan will also lead the orchestra and audience together in the traditional Chinese melody Gong Xi, Gong Xi. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and takes place in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium. Tickets are available from $17 to $70.

The evening’s activities begin at 6:30 p.m. with pre-concert performances in the Samuel and Althea Stroum Grand Lobby. Four local ensembles representing different ethnicities within Seattle’s Asian community will perform: Thai traditional folk music and dance group Chaopraya Ensemble; Filipino folkloric music ensemble Rondalya sa Seattle; and a trio of students from the Zhenlun Cello Studio, as well as Chinese Lion Dance from Belltown Martial Arts, both representing the Chinese community.

After the concert, the celebration will continue in the Grand Lobby with a performance featuring Japanese Taiko drummers One World Taiko. Both pre- and post-concert lobby performances are included with the concert ticket.

Celebrate Asia! Composition Competition
In spring 2010, Seattle Symphony launched the inaugural Celebrate Asia! Composition Competition, inviting submissions from young composers who find inspiration and influences in Asian culture, music and traditions. After reviewing 50 submissions from 7 different countries, the reviewing committee selected Huang Ruo’s The Yellow Earth as the winner. The Yellow Earth will receive its West Coast Premiere at Celebrate Asia!

About Celebrate Asia!
In partnership with numerous local community groups, Seattle Symphony honors and celebrates Seattle’s Asian community with Celebrate Asia! The concept originated several years ago when local Asian leaders wanted to find a way to strengthen bonds with the broader community through a cultural celebration. Now, Celebrate Asia! is part of Seattle Symphony’s new 3-concert Around the World series, which will conclude on February 25, 2011, with The Assad Brothers: The World’s Guitarists from Brazil to the Middle East.

Carolyn Kuan, conductor
Having recently concluded a highly impressive and successful tenure as Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, previous associations have seen Carolyn Kuan as Artist-in-Residence at the New York City Ballet, Assistant Conductor for the Baltimore Opera Company and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, where she continues to return annually. As guest conductor, Kuan has performed with the Baltimore, Bournemouth, Detroit, Milwaukee and San Francisco symphonies. In addition, in October 2008, she led the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in a special performance in front of Swiss President Pascal Couchepin, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, more than 20 other European heads of state, and dozens of Nobel laureates.

Kuan is a keen advocate of new music, having served as the Assistant Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music under Music Director Marin Alsop since 2003. Kuan has conducted world premieres in Merkin Hall New York City for Music from Japan and has premiered new operatic works for the New York City Opera's VOX series.The recipient of numerous awards, she holds the distinction of being the first female to be awarded the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship by the Herbert von Karajan Centrum and the American Austrian Foundation in 2003, which resulted in her residency at the 2004 Salzburg Festival. Winner of the first Taki Concordia Fellowship, she has received additional awards from the Women's Philharmonic, Conductors Guild, Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship and Susan W. Rose Fund for Music. Kuan studied with Marin Alsop, Kurt Masur, Gustav Meier and Leonard Slatkin.

Sumi Jo, soprano
In 2008, Korean Soprano Sumi Jo made her role debut as Violetta in La traviata in Toulon, and performed in a gala concert with Jonas Kaufmann, Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky as part of the Olympic Games in Beijing. At New York’s Metropolitan Opera, she has been heard in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor, Gilda in Rigoletto, Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera. Audiences at La Scala have heard her in bel canto favorites, including Le Comte Ory, Fra Diavol. Jo is in constant demand as a concert artist, especially for special events. Recent engagements include the World Cup; an Asian tour of gala concerts with Andrea Bocelli; and a program of Viennese favorites with the celebrated Cincinnati Pops.

Jo currently has more than 50 recordings to her credit, which include 10 solo albums for Universal Music and Warner Music. Among them are a Grammy-winning Die Frau ohne Schatten with Sir Georg Solti for London/Decca, and Un Ballo in Maschera for Deutsche Grammophon under Herbert von Karajan. She also has recorded The Magic Flute and an album of arias under the baton of Maestro Solti. In 2007, she signed an exclusive contract with Universal Music. Her first album with Universal, Missing You, was released in 2009 and marked her fifth Platinum Album in classics worldwide. Born in Korea, Jo studied in her native country before enrolling in the Conservatory of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. Her recital debut in Seoul was followed by concerts with the Korean Broadcasting Company Orchestra. She graduated with honors from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in October 1986.

James Sun, host
Seattle native James Sun is an entrepreneur, published author, speaker and international television personality. Sun was honored as a Top 100 Alumni from the University of Washington, which included prominent individuals, such as Bill Gates, Sr., Governor Christine Gregoire and musician Kenny G. He is the host of Sun Tzu: War on Business, a co-production between BBC and CMMN, which aired on television in more than 20 countries. Sun was the first Asian male to land a spot on Donald Trump's hit reality show The Apprentice, where he was selected out of 800,000 applicants and made it as a finalist on NBC. He then co-endorsed several international campaigns for Hyundai in Asia with South Korean actress Ko So Young. He also is a community activist, and currently sits on the boards of the King County United Way and Seattle Scoutreach Program, which supports Boy Scout opportunities for underprivileged, inner-city youth.

Masayo Ishigure, koto
Masayo Ishigure began playing the koto and jiuta shamisen at age 5 in Gifu, Japan. After initial studies with Tadao and Kazue Sawai, she became a special research student in 1986 at the Sawai Koto Academy of Music. The aim of the academy was to expand the koto repertoire by incorporating everything from Bach to jazz, and to bring koto music to international prominence. Since moving to New York City in 1992, Ishigure has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall), Merkin Hall, Symphony Space and other venues in the New York City metropolitan area. She recorded John Williams’ music for the soundtrack of the movie Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005 alongside Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and others.

Hu Jianbing, sheng
The Boston Globe wrote of Hu Jianbing’s recent performances in Boston, "he has an impressive command of the sheng and of a broad range of its classical, folk and modern musical literatures." Jianbing has earned wide recognition for his artistry as a sheng soloist and composer. He graduated from the Chinese Central Conservatory of Music, and joined in the National Traditional Orchestra of China. He currently performs with the Silk Road Ensemble. In 2007, Jianbing was invited by the Central Conservatory of Music to be featured as a special guest performer in the Beijing International Contemporary Music Festival, at which his composition The Refined Orchid was premiered. In 2010, he was invited by the Cambridge Salon of Harvard University to deliver a speech on composition and interpretation of Chinese music.

Sinae Cheh, janggu
Sinae Joy Cheh is the Artistic Director of Morning Star Korean Cultural Center in Lynnwood Wash., where she teaches Korean dance, music and heritage to those interested in sharing Korean culture. Since its founding, Morning Star has continued to expand and diversify its repertoire, programs and service to the community. Morning Star has been featured at more than 1,500 events domestically and all over the world. In addition, Morning Star is responsible for the production of Narae, a highly acclaimed cultural showcase held annually in November. Morning Star is committed to continually providing opportunities to those who want to experience Korean culture.

Huang Ruo, Celebrate Asia! Composition Competition Winner
Huang Ruo has been cited by the New Yorker as “one of the most intriguing of the new crop of Asian-American composers.” His vibrant and inventive musical voice draws equal inspiration from Chinese folk, Western avant-garde, rock and jazz to create a seamless, organic integration using a compositional technique he calls "dimensionalism." His music has been premiered and performed by the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Asko Ensemble, Nieuw Ensemble, Quatuor Diotima and Dutch Vocal Laboratory. Aside from being an avant-garde composer, he is also a conductor and Chinese folk-rock singer, releasing commercial recordings on Naxos and Albany Records, and making debuts at Lincoln Center as well as Carnegie Hall.

Ruo was born in Hainan Island, China, in 1976, the year the Chinese Cultural Revolution ended. His father, who is a well-known composer in China, began teaching him composition and piano when he was 6 years old. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, when China was steadily opening its gates to the Western world, he received both traditional and Western education at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. After winning the Henry Mancini Award at the 1995 International Film and Music Festival in Switzerland, he moved to the United States to further his education, earning a Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in composition from The Juilliard School. Ruo is currently a member of the composition faculty at SUNY Purchase. He is the artistic director and conductor of Future In REverse (FIRE), and was selected as a Young Leader Fellow by the National Committee on United States–China Relations in 2006.

Program Information
Igor Stravinsky
(1882–1971), Russian-born but truly a citizen of the world, drew heavily from Russian fairytales in his early and always popular ballet, The Firebird, the Finale of which will be performed at Celebrate Asia! With its rich and imaginative orchestration, The Firebird follows in the footsteps of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and other fragrantly Eastern-inspired scores that inflamed Western interest in the tales and music of Asia.

Tadao Sawai (1937–97) composed Tori no Yo Ni (“Flying like a Bird”) in 1985 for the traditional Japanese plucked instrument, the koto. This koto work, with its free and improvisatory sound, reflects the recurrent dream of mankind to fly.

In the 1960s, Ravi Shankar, master of the classical Indian sitar, became a “star” in the Western world. His Concerto No. 3 for Sitar and Orchestra, dating from 2008, opens with a brief and energetic overture that introduces elements from Indian music: serpentine melodies, constantly shifting rhythms and drone notes suggestive of the sarod, a stringed instrument used in traditional Indian ragas. The Overture, which does not include solo Sitar, will be performed on the program.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908), in common with many Russian composers, drew inspiration from the vast store of fairy tales that spanned its enormous Asian and European constituent parts. In his remarkably popular and colorful orchestral score Scheherazade, he drew from the Tales of the Arabian Nights in which the beautiful heroine forestalls execution by regaling her master with 1,001 entrancing tales.

Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, originally fashioned for a ballet by Martha Graham, is a hymn to rural America and has been made famous through its use of the Shaker melody “Simple Gifts” in the movement Variations on a Shaker Melody.

Huang Ruo’s The Yellow Earth employs the 1,000-year-old Chinese sheng, a hand-held reed instrument with many small vertical pipes, the Eastern precursor to the Western rgan. In this work, an excerpt from Ruo’s concerto The Yellow Color, the solo sheng acts like a traveler, who journeys on the land of the Yellow Earth, a symbolic term that has referred to China since ancient times.

The Korean folk song “Ari Arirang” exists in many different versions, each telling the story of difficulty encountered when crossing a mountain pass. There are a number of passes sharing the name “Arirang,” and variants on the song are found among the different provinces that constitute Korea.

Another Korean song, the Bird Lament Song, recounts a sad tale of lost love. It nonetheless has a strongly accented rhythm courtesy of the janggu, a traditional slimly-shaped Korean drum.

The program concludes with one of the most popular stage works in the western operatic repertory: “Sempre libera” from Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. This recitative and aria find the opera’s heroine, Violetta, untangling her conflicted feelings over her lover Alfredo’s offer of “true love” after she has suffered many meaningless and disastrous flings. After some consideration, she decides to not worry and simply live for pleasure and freedom. Such heart-wrenching pain is a theme common to virtually all cultures worldwide, of course, far transcending its theme in an Italian opera based on a French tale.

Tickets are available from $17 to $70 and can be purchased by calling the Seattle Symphony Ticket Office at (206) 215-4747 or toll-free at (866) 833-4747, faxing the Symphony at (206) 215-4748, ordering online at, or visiting the Seattle Symphony Ticket Office in Benaroya Hall at Third Avenue & Union Street, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 1 to 6 p.m. For group sales information, call (206)215-4784. Student and senior rush discount tickets, subject to availability, go on sale in person at the Seattle Symphony Ticket Office at 6 p.m. prior to evening performances and two hours prior to afternoon performances.


Friday, January 14, 2010, at 6:30 p.m.

Benaroya Hall

Pre-concert Performances — 6:30 p.m. (Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby)
Chaopraya Ensemble (Thai community)
Rondalya sa Seattle (Filipino community)
Students from the Zhenlun Cello Studio (Chinese community)
Belltown Martial Arts, Chinese Lion Dance (Chinese community)

Concert Program — 7:30 p.m. (S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium)
Carolyn Kuan, conductor
Sumi Jo, soprano
James Sun, host
Masayo Ishigure, koto
Hu Jianbing, sheng
Sinae Cheh, janggu
Seattle Symphony

Finale from L’Oiseau de feu (“The Firebird”)

TADAO SAWAI Tori no Yo Ni (“Flying Like a Bird”)
  Masayo Ishigure, koto

RAVI SHANKAR Overture from Concerto No.3 for Sitar and Orchestra

NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Allegro molto from Scheherazade


Variations on a Shaker Melody from Appalachian Spring

HUANG RUO The Yellow Earth for Sheng and Orchestra (West Coast Premiere)
  Hu Jianbing, sheng

/Arr. by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum

JUNGJOON AHN “Ari Arirang”
  Sumi Jo, soprano

TRADITIONAL Bird Lament Song
  Sumi Jo, soprano
  Sinae Cheh, janggu

GIUSEPPE VERDI “Sempre libera” from La Traviata
  Sumi Jo, soprano

Post-concert Performance (Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby)
One World Taiko (Japanese community)

Seattle Symphony is pleased to thank the Lead Sponsors for Celebrate Asia! 2011: the Hong Kong Association of Washington and HSBC Bank USA. The Hong Kong Association of Washington made Seattle Symphony and Celebrate Asia! the beneficiary of the organization’s recent Chinese New Year Gala, a show of support that demonstrates the enthusiasm for Celebrate Asia! among Seattle’s Chinese community. HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, is now in its second year of Lead Sponsorship, reflecting the bank’s recent expansion into the Pacific Northwest. HSBC now serves depositors with branches in downtown Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond and Mercer Island; the downtown branch, open only two years, is already slated for expansion.

Celebrate Asia! is also generously supported by individual donors, other corporate contributors, and a wide range of community organizations and media outlets serving Seattle’s diverse Asian communities.

All programs and artists subject to change. Photos of guest artists and Seattle Symphony, as well as review tickets, are available to the media on request.