Nov. 12, 13: Master Players series features 'The Butterfly Lovers'
Cathy Y. Yang, international erhu virtuoso, and Xiang Gao, acclaimed violinist and professor of music at UD, will perform in the Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 Master Players Concert Series presentations.


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9:51 a.m., Nov. 1, 2010----The 2010-2011 University of Delaware Master Players Concert Series (MPCS), titled “Music Unleashed,” continues with Erhu and Violin -- The Butterfly Lovers at 8 p.m. on both Friday, Nov. 12, and Saturday, Nov. 13, in Mitchell Hall.

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With sponsorship from the UD Institute for Global Studies (IGS) and the Hanlin Chinese Culture Association of Wilmington, Del., this multimedia and multicultural concert features Xiang Gao, MPCS artistic director, and Cathy Y. Yang, IGS Distinguished Guest Artist and international erhu virtuoso. The erhu is a two-stringed Chinese violin.

Accompanied by the internationally acclaimed collaborative pianist Rita Sloan, the Western and Eastern violinists will perform as a newly formed duet named 6ixwire to celebrate IGS's International Education Week.

Their fiery techniques and daring passion promise to impress audiences. Yang's MPCS debut in last year's iMusic 3 -- Ode to Earth was so successful that she is returning at the request of MPCS audience members.

Actors Danny Peak and Stephanie Shade, visual artist Vincent D'Amico and other guest artists join the master musicians in a performance of the Butterfly Lovers Multimedia Violin Concerto.

The Chinese story of the Butterfly Lovers, Liang and Zhu, is as powerful as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but 1,000 years older. This new production created by Xiang Gao, which includes a dramatic reading by playwright Danny Peak, draws its significance from Chinese history, culture, humor and tragic drama.

MPCS tickets cost $25 for the general public; $20 for senior citizens, UD faculty, staff and alumni; and $10 for students with ID. Tickets are available at the REP box office in the Roselle Center for the Arts, telephone (302) 831-2204.

The Butterfly Lovers Multimedia Violin Concerto created by violinist Gao, professor of music at UD, is his labor of love and includes an orchestration with solo violin, narration and graphic art.

The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was composed by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao of China in 1958. It represents a mandate from the Maoist era to explore the feasibility of setting Chinese music in a Western symphonic medium, incorporating borrowed devices from Chinese folk theatrical music, as well as vocal techniques of the Chinese Yue Opera. The end result is an extremely successful free-form programmatic concerto for violin and orchestra and it remains the most successful of all Chinese violin concertos.

Tonight's version of the concerto was re-arranged by Gao for 6ixwire, a crossover duet Gao formed with erhu soloist Yang.

About the artists

Recognized as one of the world's most successful performing artists of his generation from the People's Republic of China, Xiang Gao is cited by The New York Times as “a rare and soulful virtuoso.” He has performed for many world leaders. Most recently, Gao was a featured soloist in a performance for Chinese President Hu JinTao and the visiting King Carlos I of Spain. His musical integrity and virtuoso technique have gained accolades from audiences and reviewers around the world.

Highlights of the recent season's engagements include the North American premier of Eduard Tubin's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Detroit Symphony; the U.S. premier performance of Eino Tamberg's violin concerto with the Absolute Ensemble in Merkin Hall, New York City; solo performances with the Czech Philharmonic, the Gothenburg Symphony-National Orchestra of Sweden, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic of Russia, the Estonia National Symphony, the Mexico State Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, the Memphis Symphony, the Alabama Symphony, Aspen Music Festival orchestras and the Knoxville Symphony among others.

Among the world's major concert halls and festivals at which Gao frequently appears are Carnegie Hall, the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, the Aspen Music tent, the Smetana Hall, the Prague Spring International Music Festival, the Singapore International Music Festival, the David Oistrakh International Music Festival, the Spoleto Music Festival, the Tallinn International Festival, the Interlochen Festival and the Meadow Brook Music Festival.

Gao is the youngest professor of music at the University of Delaware. In 2007, the Stradivari Society in Chicago selected him to be a recipient of world famous Stradivarius violins for his international solo concerts. He and his wife Renee, a University of Delaware Chinese language instructor, direct a special trip annually to China in June for the alumni, friends, faculty and staff of the University of Delaware as volunteers. For more information on the trip, visit the UDconnection website. ( The Gaos share their home in Newark with their 5-year-old daughter Samantha, who is studying piano.

One of the founding members of 6ixwire, the internationally acclaimed erhu soloist Cathy Y. Yang was born into a well-known musician family in Beijing. She began her musical studies on erhu, guzheng (Chinese zither) and piano at age five, and soon began performing in public. A year later, one of China's most celebrated musical figures, Wang Guotong, heard Yang in recital and strongly encouraged her to pursue musical studies at the Chinese Central Conservatory. Wang took Yang under his musical wing, instructing her as well as providing numerous performance opportunities.

During her conservatory years, Yang received first prize in the Long Yin Instrumental Performance Competition in 1996, the gold medal in Ministry of Culture Annual Music Competition in 1999 and the Chinese National Cultural Foundation Scholarship in 1997 and 1998, an honor bestowed upon four musicians out of more than 5,000.

In 1999, Yang was awarded a bachelor's degree with top honors, having served as the solo erhu player (concertmaster) in the resident Chinese Central Conservatory Orchestra for four years. In 2000, she became the associate concertmaster of the Chinese Central Traditional Instruments Orchestra. She also performed frequently as a soloist with that ensemble, touring extensively throughout Asia, Europe and North America. During the orchestra's 2000 tour,

Yang was the feature soloist at New York's Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In 2001, she received the silver medal in the most prestigious erhu competition in China, the Tian Hua Awards. In the following year, the Japanese-Chinese Cultural Arts Center awarded her a fellowship comprised of a year-long residency in Tokyo.

Yang toured Japan extensively during that year, giving concerts and master classes and recording CDs. Upon returning to Beijing, she became a professor at the China Contemporary Cultural Academy and later was invited by Chinese Central Television to be a cultural representative performing in Beijing and Los Angeles in celebrating the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In 2009, she presented a concert “Eastern Violin Meets Western Violin” with Gao in Washington, D.C.

Russian-born pianist Rita Sloan began piano studies shortly after her Polish family immigrated to the United States. As the winner of various scholarships and prizes, she attended The Juilliard School studying with Martin Canin and Rosina Lhevinne. At Juilliard, she won the Concerto Competition and was awarded the Pro-Mozart Prize to study at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. She has also studied with Leon Fleisher, Aube Tzerko and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

As a soloist, Sloan has performed in recital and with orchestra throughout the United States and Europe. As a chamber musician and collaborative artist, she performs internationally with many of today's outstanding instrumentalists.

Sloan is the founder and coordinator of the collaborative artist and piano chamber music programs at the Aspen Festival. This year marks the second time she has been awarded Aspen's New Horizons Fellowship, the festival's most prestigious teaching award. She is also a founding member of the Aspen Ensemble, a unique chamber music group comprising piano, flute, violin, viola and cello that performs internationally and has been featured on NPR.

Sloan has been a frequent visitor to Japan, Taiwan and Korea, where she has performed and given master classes. A performing member of the piano faculty of the University of Maryland School of Music since 1999, she also directs the collaborative artist program.

In 2003, playwright and actor Danny Peak collaborated with Gao to write the narration for The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto and has since appeared as the male narrator in performances at venues including the Detroit Symphony, Southern Illinois University and the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Del.

Besides his work as a playwright and actor, Peak has directed off-Broadway and at many regional theatres around the country. He also toured three summers to Russia to direct original productions with a multinational cast. From 1985 to 1994, he served as assistant artistic director at the Delaware Theatre Company.

Currently, Peak is artistic director of Distant Voices Touring Theatre, for whom he has written and directed Distant Voices, a performance piece chronicling the story of the Japanese-American internment of World War II, and September Echoes, another performance piece that examines the events following the Sept. 11 attacks. Peak and his wife, UD pianist Julie Nishimura, are most proud of their current project, nine-year old Miranda.

Originally from West Virginia, Stephanie Shade has worked as an actor, singer and teacher in the region since 1996. In 2007, she received her MFA in theatre from Towson University, where she performed a one-woman clown show. She is a founding member of 9 Imaginary Cows Theater Collective in Baltimore.

In addition to The Butterfly Lovers Concerto, Shade has performed with other music-dramatic reading projects, including Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier's Tale) with the Delaware Symphony and Distant Voices and September Echoes with Distant Voices Touring Theatre.

As a classical singer, she performed with Opera Memphis, Opera Festival of New Jersey and OperaDelaware. From 2000-2004, Shade worked as a theater teaching artist for MBNA Academy, Latin American Community Center, Grand Opera House Arts Education, Delaware Wolf Trap and the Delaware Institute for Arts in Education.

Future Master Players concerts

Handel's Messiah will be held at 8 p.m. on both Friday, Dec. 3, and Saturday, Dec. 4, in Mitchell Hall. The MPCS holiday orchestra and international award-winning UD Chorale under the direction of Paul D. Head, UD's director of choral studies, will perform Handel's glorious oratorio Messiah. In the spirit of the season, Mitchell Hall will be decorated in holiday finery.

David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Marian Lee, faculty pianist, is part of the new Concertmasters Series. They will perform at 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 13, in Mitchell Hall. The new recital series features beloved concertmasters from around the world. The series kicks off with Kim, concertmaster from the Philadelphia Orchestra, who gives a dynamic recital of an all Brahms program with his fellow Juilliard classmate, UD faculty pianist Marian Lee. This marks Kim's second MPCS appearance. The event is co-presented by the Korean American Association of Delaware.

Delaware Idols A Winners' Concert will be held at 8 p.m., Friday, March 18, in Gore Recital Hall of the Roselle Center for the Arts with Julie Nishimura, Delaware Idols official accompanist and faculty pianist. The 2009 Delaware Idols impressively concluded last year's MPCS season with a fiery performance with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. This year, the winners of the 2011 Delaware National String Competition compete on the MPCS stage for cash prizes and a professional concert engagement.

iMusic 4: China Magpie will be held at 8 p.m. on both Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, in Mitchell Hall. The iMusic productions created by internationally known violinist and MPCS founding artistic director Xiang Gao are creative and engaging pops concerts that humanize music in ways audiences have never imagined. Last year, iMusic 3 celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with many of today's leading artists and the cross-generational MPCS audience. This year, the internationally acclaimed ensemble China Magpie, of which Mr. Gao is a founding member, returns for its third appearance with MPCS. Established by Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Project, China Magpie performs crossover music with its own arrangements and compositions. The Boston Globe cited China Magpie with “vibrant playing, urgent communication and energetic rhythm borrowed from rock music!” These concerts also celebrate the U.S. release of China Magpie's first album. These fun family events are appropriate for children age four and up and sell out quickly, so reserve your tickets today.

Ticket information

The state-of-the-art Gore Recital Hall in the Roselle Center for the Arts only seats 200 and those interested in attending are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance.

MPCS tickets cost $25 for the general public; $20 for senior citizens, UD faculty, staff and alumni; and $10 for students with ID. Tickets are available at the REP box office in the Roselle Center for the Arts, telephone (302) 831-2204.

For more information about MPCS, visit the website.