Ming Luke conducting SF Symphony at a distance | Credit: SF Symphony

For two decades now, the San Francisco Symphony has celebrated Chinese New Year with special concerts in Davies Hall. One of those events with a cavalcade of Asian and Asian American performers served as the San Francisco debut of Yuja Wang, in 2005, at age 18.

While COVID-19 canceled the rest of the SF Symphony season, plans went ahead for a live Chinese New Year concert, to be conducted by Mei-Ann Chen, on Feb. 20. As the pandemic surged, the original plan was replaced by the current schedule of a streamed and televised event, to be conducted by Ming Luke.

The Year of the Ox actually is part of the Lunar Year, celebrated far beyond China. The lion’s share of San Francisco’s Asian American population (35 percent of the city) is Chinese, so those 173,000 plus tradition assures that, each year, the Symphony marks the Chinese Chunjie, rather than the Vietnamese Tet or Korean Seollal.

Ming Luke parenting close up

“Nothing could be more auspicious than Chinese New Year’s music with San Francisco Symphony musicians celebrating the Year of the Ox, a year of strength, honesty, and positivity,” Luke told SF Classical Voice.

“With so much to look forward to this year, recording with these amazing musicians was an absolute treat, and [it’s] a gift from us to celebrate the new year. From sweet Chinese folk songs to the thrill of Galloping Warhorses with erhu soloist Tao Shi, it was a joy to make music with these musicians, and I can’t wait for you to join the celebration.

“Having the opportunity to work with live musicians together in the same space isn’t something I’ll ever take for granted. What a wonderful way to connect to musicians and remember why we do what we do.”

The program for the streamed event on Feb. 20 is at sfsymphonyplus.org/cny, an open site, no reservation needed:

Telecasts are:

Feb. 20, 4 p.m., NBC Bay Area
Feb. 20, 7 p.m., UChannelTV 15.5/16.9
Feb. 21, 3:30 p.m., KTSF 26
Feb. 21, 3:30 p.m., NBC Bay Area
Feb. 27, 3:30 p.m., KTSF 26
Feb. 27, 4 p.m., Bay Area

Wenying Wu plays yangqin in the SFS Chinese New Year virtual celebration | Credit: SF Symphony

The concert is hosted by actress Joan Chen, directed by Frank Zamacona. Soloists are erhu player Tao Shi, yangqin player Wenying Wu, and pianist Samantha Cho.

The program:

– Traditional (arr. Wenying Wu)
– Tajiks Festival
– “Flower Riddle” and “Dry Boat Dance” from Chinese Folk Song Suite
– “Little Cabbage” from Yanhuang Fengqing (Chinese Sights and Sounds)
– “Driving the Mule Team” and “When Will the Acacia Bloom?” from Chinese Folk Songs
Romance of Hsiao and Ch’in
Gallop of Warhorses

In addition to the free streamed performance, there are also VIP sponsor packages that include pre- and post-concert online events.

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