SANFORD — Beautiful and evocative music of China filled the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center Sunday as the March Rain Ensemble of Nanjing Normal University’s College of Music performed.
The five-member ensemble played on traditional Chinese instruments, delighting the audience with a variety of folk and modern Chinese songs, from lyrical tone poems to fast-paced works. At the end of the concert, the audience gave the musicians a standing ovation.
“It was amazing,” said Roger Bailey, of Sanford. “I’m so glad I came.”
Central Carolina Community College and its Confucius Classroom hosted the event in partnership with North Carolina State University’s Confucius Classroom and Nanjing Normal University. The ensemble had performed at N.C. State on Saturday.
The performers, all undergraduate students at the College of Music, were Dingchen Xu, on the dizi, a flute; Ziyin Wu, on the erhu, a violin-type instrument; Siting Wang, on the yangqing, a hammered dulcimer; Qi Bao, on the lute-like pipa; and Jingyu Wu, on the zither-like guzheng.
The works ranged from pieces such as “Strolling Along the Su Causeway,” a haunting number performed by the whole ensemble, to the rousing “Horse Racing,” a musical depiction of horse racing during a festival, performed on the erhu and yangqing.
As the musicians moved through their program, information about each piece was projected onto a large screen accompanied by delicate but beautiful watercolor paintings depicting the music’s theme and adding to the understanding and enjoyment of the work.
Following the free concert, the audience was invited to the stage to speak with the musicians and learn more about the instruments. Nancy Pickard, of Sanford, took advantage of the opportunity to not only learn more about the pipa, but to try to play it with the assistance of musician Qi Bao.
“The concert was wonderful,” she said. “I would love to have more. I’m delighted that the college has the Confucius Classroom and is able to bring us a taste of something completely different.”
Central Carolina Community College’s Confucius Classroom is the first in the United States established at a community college. CCCC President Bud Marchant brought the idea of establishing a Confucius Classroom when he became president in 2008.
“Chinese is second only to English as the language of international commerce and China is increasingly important economically to North Carolina,” he said. “Our Confucius Classroom will help to prepare people with language skills and cultural understanding to take advantage of these increasing ties, increase mutual understanding, help improve relations between our countries, and benefit businesses in both.”
In 2009, NCSU’s Confucius Institute partnered with the college to establish the Confucius Classroom at the college’s Lee County Campus. The university’s Institute is a partnership with Nanjing Normal University and the Chinese Ministry of Education. Dr. Shuya Che, associate professor of Chinese linguistics and literature at Nanjing Normal University, is a visiting professor at the college for the Confucius Classroom.
Confucius, a great Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the 6th century B.C., taught that education and wisdom are fundamental principles of life. The Chinese Ministry of Education has established Confucius Institutes and Classrooms at educational institutions in many nations to teach Mandarin Chinese language and Chinese culture.
This outreach facilitates a variety of educational and cultural exchanges, such as the March Rain Ensemble and an upcoming Nov. 7 performance at the college by the Ethnic Arts Troupe from Jishou University. Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance by calling the college at (919) 718-7268.
“I’m so glad we can bring performances such as the ensemble to Central Carolina Community College and Sanford,” said Professor Xiaoying Wong, deputy director of NCSU’s Confucius Institute. “It is a good chance for people of different cultures to know, appreciate, and understand each other.”
For more information about Central Carolina Community College’s Confucius Classroom, visit the college’s Web site, www.cccc.edu/confucius/