"GREAT WALTZ of CHINA"
(Original release, 1999)
(Adaptation for Dizi, Suona, Zhonghu, String Orchestra and Spoken Chorus, 2014)
Mark Simos, composer
Allen LeVines, composer-orchestrater
Rujing Stacy Huang, lyricist-poet
Based on an instrumental composition by Mark Simos, "Great Waltz of China" evolved into an extended artistic collaboration with lyricist Rujing S. Huang, composer-orchestrator Allen LeVines, and choreographer-dancer Molly Gawler. The piece was premiered at the 2014 Ivy League Chinese Spring Festival at John Hancock Hall in Boston, performed by the Berklee World Strings conducted by Eugene Friesen, virtuoso instrumentalist Yazhi Guo on suona and dizi, Tao He on zhonghu, Mandarin and English speaking choirs, and solo dancer Molly Gawler. Video excerpts appeared on the front page of China Daily, an on-line newspaper reaching millions of readers worldwide. In 2017, "Great Waltz of China" was featured at the "Merging Music and Movement" concert of Berklee's Words, Music, and Movement Festival, marking the first Berklee-Boco performance of the work.
*** More about “Great Waltz of China” (by Mark Simos)***
“Great Waltz of China” began life in 1985 as a pun—the winning entry in a “fiddle tune title” contest at a summer music camp at Ashokan (birthplace also of Jay Ungar’s famous “Ashokan Farewell”). Composer Mark Simos took the whimsical title as a serious tunesmith’s challenge: to use a strict pentatonic mode, characteristic of Chinese melody, for a traditional waltz in an American/Celtic folk style. Published later in a waltz collection, the piece became known in folk music and dance circles through Mark’s “fiddle orchestra” arrangement for Childsplay’s Great Waltz album.
Years later, Mark asked Rujing Huang to set Chinese lyrics to his old waltz tune, sharing with her imagery he had long imagined for the piece. At a showcase for Berklee’s FUSION arts magazine, Rujing’s Mandarin lyrics and luminous English poetic translation were spoken to music performed by Mark and Chinese instrumentalist Yazhi Guo. The impromptu performance caught the imagination of Mark’s colleague, composer Allen LeVines. At Mark’s invitation, LeVines incorporated Mark’s original melody and Rujing’s Chinese and English texts into a new orchestral adaptation exploring traditional Chinese modes and musical philosophy, for Chinese dizi, suona, and zhonghu, string orchestra, and female spoken chorus. In parallel, former Pilobolus principal Molly Gawler created solo choreography.
“Great Waltz of China” is a still-unfolding work representing many strands of collaboration: across cultures and languages, institutions, musical idioms and art forms of music, spoken word, and dance. We are honored to offer this new realization of the work in the spirit of our times, with the mission of—transforming walls into waltzes!