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PREVIEW | The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Will Help Ring In The Year Of The Dragon With A Star-Studded Lineup Of Pan Asian Artists

By Anya Wassenberg on December 21, 2023

L-R: Timothy Chooi (Photo: Den Sweeney); Naomi Woo (Photo: Christa Holka); Eric Guo (Photo courtesy of the artist); Xiaoxia Zhao (Photo courtesy of the artist); Dashan akd Mark Rowswell (Photo courtesy of the artist)
L-R: Timothy Chooi (Photo: Den Sweeney); Naomi Woo (Photo: Christa Holka); Eric Guo (Photo courtesy of the artist); Xiaoxia Zhao (Photo courtesy of the artist); Dashan akd Mark Rowswell (Photo courtesy of the artist)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) will ring in the Year of the Dragon with a Lunar New Year concert at Roy Thomson Hall. Year of the Dragon: A Lunar New Year Celebration will take place on February 13, 2024.

Comedian Dashan (aka Mark Rowswell) will be the host for a cultural celebration that includes treasured Western and Chinese classical music, including The Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto and Ballad of the Pipa.

Naomi Woo, recently named the first woman to conduct Canada’s National Youth Orchestra, will lead the TSO.

The Soloists

Along with the musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the soloists include multiple award winners, and in addition to the music, the program will also feature dance performances by The Soaring Eagles and the Chinese Cultural Arts Collective.

Timothy Chooi

Violinist Timothy Chooi is a busy musician whose performances have garnered acclaim at Carnegie Hall, Musikverein Wien, Berlin Philharmonie, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and the Royal Albert Hall in London, among others. Timothy made his stage debut at 16 with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, and competition wins include First Prize at the Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition in Hanover, Germany, and Second Prize at the Queen Elisabeth International Competition. In 2023, he recorded with Anne-Sophie Mutter and Mutter’s Virtuosi on Deutsche Grammophon, and he currently serves as a Professor of Violin at the University of Ottawa.

Eric Guo

Pianist Eric Guo recently won the 2nd International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments. Eric is currently in his fourth year of study in the BMus program at the Glenn Gould School on a full scholarship from Renette & David Berman. He has already performed widely as a soloist, including engagements with the Minnesota Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of UK, Ural Youth Symphony Orchestra of Russia, and Orchestra Toronto, among others. Among other competition placements, he is a laureate of the Fifth Canadian Chopin Piano Competition, and was the 1st Prize winner in 2018 at the 11th Moscow Chopin Competition for Young Pianists in China.

The Lion Dance at TSO's Year of the Dog celebration in 2018 (Photo: Jag Gundu)
The Lion Dance at TSO’s Year of the Dog celebration in 2018 (Photo: Jag Gundu)

Xiaoxia Zhao

Zhao Xiaoxia is a master of the guqin, a traditional Chinese instrument. As a performer, she has taken her art to the New Zealand, Sydney, and Netherlands Symphonies, the Tokyo Philharmonic, and the Tokyo, Schleswig-Holstein, and Beijing Music Festivals, among many other locations and venues.

She is a master teacher of guqin at the Central Conservatory of Music, visiting scholar at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, China, and visiting professor at Singapore Raffles Music College.

The Guqin

The guqin is an ancient instrument with a 3,000-year history in its native China. The stringed instrument, also called the Chinese zither, was originally designed to be played only by nobles in private settings — i.e. not for public consumption. Learning to play it was considered essential for Chinese scholars of antiquity.

The instrument has seven strings, with 13 pitch position markers. Arranging the strings in various ways can open up a four-octave range. It was proclaimed by UNESCO as part of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003, with fewer than 1,000 practitioners remaining, but is enjoying a kind of renaissance in China in recent years.

It is said to take up to 20 years to fully master the complex instrument.

The Soaring Eagles

The Soaring Eagles Lion Dance is a professional lion dance team based in Toronto. Performers come from across Canada and Asia to perform and compete. As the Canadian branch of the Kong Fai Lion Dance Association, The Soaring Eagles maintain partnerships with other lion dance teams around the world.

The Concert

The festivities begin with a pre-concert celebration in the Roy Thomson Hall lobby that features folkloric dance by the Chinese Cultural Arts Collective, and The Soaring Eagles’ thrilling lion dance and dragon dance.

There will also be a market of Chinese-Canadian vendors.

More information and tickets available [HERE].

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