Beauties and Heroes: Dong Yi's Special Programme for Chinese Lovers' Day

Dong Yi is a celebrated classical Chinese zheng soloist. The instrument itself has a proud history dating back over 2500 years and has been influential in music across East Asia. Akin to a European zither, the instrument is plucked by the performer, usually in single note combinations. A graduate of Edinburgh University, Dong Yi returned for this one-off celebration for Chinese Lovers’ Day - the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. The theme of ‘beauties and heroes’ celebrated stories of love and struggle through the different pieces she played.

Each piece of music had been carefully selected to illustrate the theme and to showcase the sound of the zheng to its full potential. Dong Yi described and contextualised each piece at length, which sometimes meant that the story took longer to explain than the accompanying piece took to perform. This was a shame as it broke up the music and led to long pauses. The music was melodic and at times quite haunting. It remained, however, an instrument played mainly in a combination of single notes, which meant that there was little room for depth. Occasionally the zheng was strummed more like a harp which created a beautiful sound, but these moments were few and far between. The setting of St. Cuthbert’s Parish Church provided a cavernous setting for a single musician. It would have been easy for the sound to become lost, but the acoustics were such that Dong Yi’s performance filled the space. The juxtaposition of Chinese culture and Christian architecture created an interesting and enchanting atmosphere which the music took full advantage of.

This was a performance for those familiar with the instrument or the artist. The tiny audience was appreciative of the musician, who was clearly at the top of her profession, although not all made it to the end. Ultimately, a potentially beautiful instrument was somewhat stifled by over-long explanations and a limited range of pieces. Dong Yi is definitely worth seeing for zheng enthusiasts but probably won’t appeal to the casual music-lover.

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The Blurb

Classical zheng performer, Yi Dong, playing the zheng (zither), gives a concert of music of the many love stories of China. Glamour of Jasmine Chinese Arts Festival.

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