Chinese New Year Concert: Guest Artists cover

Chinese New Year Concert: Guest Artists


Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Pacific Symphony and usher in the Year of the Rooster with music and dance. The program includes the popular Spring Festival Overture by Li Huanzhi, the traditional "Jasmine Flower" and the delightful Butterfly Lovers Concerto with George Gao on erhu. The evening culminates in the inspirational "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, when Pacific Chorale is joined by the American Feel Young Chorus.
Program includes:
LI HUANZHI: Spring Festival Overture
BACH: Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3
VARIOUS: New Year's Medley
HUA WU: Deep Into the Night
HE ZHANHAO & CHEN GANG: Butterfly Lovers Concerto
HANS ZIMMER & JOHN POWELL: Music from Kung Fu Panda 2
TRADITIONAL: Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower)
BEETHOVEN: Finale from Symphony No. 9, "Choral"
This is the second in a series of NoteStreams on this performance. You'll be automatically linked to the next at the end.
To learn more about the Pacific Chorale, please click here.
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.

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Yaya Ahang, Producer and Choreographer

Yaya Zhang is an award-winning artist with 20 years of stage performance, choreography and dance instruction experience. She graduated from the Department of Folk Dance at the Secondary School of Beijing Dance Academy in 1999 and received a B.A. in choreography from Beijing Dance Academy in 2003. During her decade-long study at the Beijing Dance Academy, she mastered many different Chinese ethnic folk dance traditions as well as sword, fan, ribbon and sleeve techniques. At the same time, she has extensive experiences in the choreography of the above styles and techniques. In 2004 and 2005, she carried the role of “Rumpleteazer” in the musical production of Cats by Shiki Theatre Company in Japan. Before moving to America in 2007, she worked in many productions in China including musicals. Since moving to Los Angeles area, she has been teaching at several well-known dance companies. Now she is the artistic director of YAYA Dance Academy.

Ye Tan, Emcee

Tan Ye is a renowned host of Tianjin Television. She was named one of the “Ten Best” program hosts in China and instructor of broadcasting. She graduated from China Mass Communications University in 1989, and has since earned numerous awards with the television programs that she has hosted. She has also taught as a guest lecturer in several colleges in Tianjin. Tan is now the founder of “Golden Sunshine Chinese School,” a new endeavor in her life to carry forward the richness and beauty of Chinese language and culture.

David A. Williams, Emcee

David A. Williams is an American actor/ host/writer in China. Since moving to China in 2006 where he self-studied Chinese, he has published two books, Move to China I and II, appeared on more than 50 shows including "Avenue of Stars" and many more. He is currently in Shenzhen filming web movies and commercials. He has written several scripts, one of which, "China Dream" is in pre-production.

Jessica Zhu, Vocalist

Jessica Zhu is a young vocalist from Laguna Niguel. Her preferred singing style spans the terrain between popular soundtracks and new music. Jessica has performed for over 3 years, and has appeared and received awards in multiple competitions. She is currently studying at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Clemente in the 4th grade.

Gloria Xiong, Vocalist

In July 2011, Gloria Xiong participated in the centennial celebration of the Xinhai Revolution. At the age of 3, she impressed over 3,000 audience members with her stage presence. In October of that same year, she again participated in a live stage concert. Since then, she has been active in more than a dozen shows and performances, singing and acting in English and Chinese. In 2015, she was named the “Little Queen of Chinatown.” Last year, she sang in Love Feast and starred in The Exit, a musical. Not caught up by the spotlight, Gloria also performs well in school and is on the principal's honor roll.

Orson Van Gay II, Tenor

Tenor Orson Van Gay possesses a unique voice and charisma which are of particular value among his generation of acting singers. His performances showcase a talent and voice that have brought him constant recognition in a multitude of venues. Van Gay is originally from Beverly Hills, where he began acting in several nationally recognized television series. He has since been featured in major television commercials for CBN, ABC, WVEC, has starred on the Discovery Channel in a myriad of episodes; as well as Investigation Discovery's (I.D.) Wicked Attraction.

Van Gay studied with Kerry Lee Jennings at Old Dominion University. Virginia Opera’s formal musical director Joe Walsh candidly introduced Van Gay to an audience as a “hybrid” new voice that is not only able to sing classical music but effectively sing other styles as well. This versatility has proven to be a strong commodity with today’s increasing musical demands on young singers. He performed the role of Prince in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star. He was also honored as a state and regional winner in the Mid- Atlantic NATS competition for two consecutive years.

George Gao, Erhu and Jinghu

Gemini Award-nominated erhu master George Gao is hailed as one of the most exciting, innovative and respected erhu masters today. Just a few years after he began studying the erhu at age 6, he won First Prize at the Shanghai Junior Instrumental Soloist Competition and a Silver Medal at the China National Junior Instrumental Soloist Contest in 1982. In 1985, he swept the three highest prizes of the Beijing China National Invitational Erhu Competition, launching his international performing career. In 1999, he won a Recognition Award for his appearance at the 13th World Festival for Young Students in Pyongyang, North Korea. Gao studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

As a composer, Gao has composed music for many films and documentaries including Becoming American, the Chinese Experience, The Blood of Yingzhou District and The Warriors of Qiugang, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He has also written many works for erhu including Capriccio for Erhu, which was designated as compulsory work for the final round of the 2002 International Dragon Cup Erhu Competition, and Erhu Capriccio No. 2—Mongolian Fantasy, which was designated as compulsory work for the final round of the 2008 Shanghai Spring Festival International Erhu Competition and 2011 Taipei Chinese Instrumental Competition for Erhu.

Gao is currently a professor-in-residence of Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, and he is a guest professor at several schools including China Conservatory of Music, National Taiwan University of Arts, Zao Zhuang University, Jiang Xi University of Science and Technology in China and Ogaki Women's College in Japan. Gao is also the guest concertmaster of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.

Michael Tomlin III, Choreographer

A contemporary and commercial artist from California who began training at Debbie Allen Dance Academy as a scholarship student, Michael Tomlin III has worked with Odyssey Dance Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah and danced with the Lula Washington Dance Theater.

Tomlin was the first African American to receive a full dance scholarship at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where he graduated with a B.F.A. in dance and minor in math. During his time at CalArts, he performed Memoria with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Music Center and has worked with Merce Cunningham's musician John King, Barak Marshall, Body Traffic in LA and Danielle Agami. Post graduation he moved to Japan and worked for Tokyo Disney Sea in a stage production of Mystic Rhythm. While in Japan he choreographed his first international piece, “IBUKI.”

After living in Japan for 3 years, he continued to dance with Lula Washington Dance Theater. Last year he debuted in the ballet The Nutcracker with Lake Arrowhead Classical Ballet as the Nutcracker and Anaheim Ballet as Arabian Dancer.

Two Worlds - Jill and Amnon Damti, Dancers

Jill and Amnon Damti, two amazing Israeli dancers, have been performing a dance called “Two Worlds” for many years in Israel and all over the world—from the White House to Moscow, Paris and London. "Two Worlds" tells the story of the convergence of the deaf and hearing worlds. Amnon Damti, deaf from birth, is considered one of the leading deaf dancers in the world today as well as a gifted choreographer. Jill Damti, Amnon’s wife, incorporates not just dance into their performance, but interacts with the audience through narrative creating an experience that allows the viewer to understand points of inflection between the deaf and hearing worlds. "Two Worlds" engages the audience, allowing them to experience how a deaf person can actually be a world class dancer. Their transformative performance enables audiences to experience new paradigms, a sense of discovery and often a new perspective on life.

Ariana Strahl, Soprano

Irish-American Soprano Ariana Strahl has been called “the discovery of the night” and has been celebrated as a singer with “fearless, accurate vocalism." Recent engagements include her debut as Micaela in the Komische Oper’s Revival of Carmen. During her studies, Strahl debuted such roles as First Lady in Die Zauberflöte, La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, Peep-Bo in The Mikado, Suor Genovieffa in Suor Angelica, Monica in The Medium, Mrs. McLean in Susannah and the title role in Handel's Semele. Her broad abilities also brought her to the concert stage in the role of the Mother in Stephen Paulus' The Three Hermits and as the soprano soloist for John Rutter's Mass of the Children.

Christina Pezzarossi, Mezzo-Soprano

Christina Pezzarossi, from Miles City, Mont., received her master's degree from the The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Pezzarossi's operatic roles include Alice in Falstaff, Beth in Mark Adamo's Little Women, the title role in Handel's Agrippina, Minerva in Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria and Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville.

This past year, she performed as Hermia in Purcell's Fairy Queen with Opera NEO in San Diego and Alisa in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera San Jose. She has also performed with Oberlin in Italy, Emerald City Opera and Taos Opera Institute and received an Encouragement Award from the San Francisco District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. This spring, Pezzarossi will tour with Des Moines Metro Opera's Opera IOWA program as Rosina in The Barber of Seville and join their summer season.

Enrico Lagasca, Bass-Baritone

A native of the Philippines, bass-baritone Enrico Lagasca is critically acclaimed for his “beautiful sound” (The New York Times) and “impressive, deep, dark instrument” (Superconductor). Lagasca sings as soloist and chorister in the choir of St. Ignatius Loyola with music director Scott Warren and the Bach Choir of the Bach Vespers at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church with Donald Meineke. Lagasca also frequently sings with Musica Sacra New York, The Cathedral Choir of St. John the Divine, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, New York Choral Artists, The Bard Festival Chorus, Collegiate Chorale, the New York Virtuoso Singers, the Oratorio Society of New York and with Ensemble VIII in Austin, Texas and have performed as chorister and soloist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke's, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and have toured with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, to name a few.

American Feel Young Chorus

American Feel Young Chorus (AFYC) is a nonprofit organization formed by a group of friends who love music in Southern California in January 2015. Conducted by Sam Wei-Chih Sun, the group is dedicated to expanding the Chinese and Western choral music experience through performances and community.

Their mission is to become the leader in amateur chorus in the U.S. by building a passionate team with artistic excellence and reputable image. AFYC has performed on various occasions including Orange County Chinese New Year celebrations, the Yellow River Cantata in Walt Disney Hall as part of the Memorial of World War II Victory Concert, in addition to local concerts led by renowned conductors from China, including Jiao Miao and Li Xi Lin.

AFYC has been growing rapidly and evolving into a well-known chorus in the Chinese American community in Southern California. With the generous support from Mr. Charles Zhang (founder of Pick Up Stix and Zion Enterprise, Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, and Winner of the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor), the chairman of the Board of Directors, AFYC is committed to becoming the best amateur chorus in the U.S. by nurturing excellence in its members, while offering the finest repertoire and choral artistry.

Sam Wei-Chih Sun, Director of American Feel Young Chorus

Sam Wei-Chih Sun is a pianist, accompanist and music educator. His interest in music was encouraged by his mother at age 6 when he started playing the piano. He attended the Taipei Municipal Teachers College and majored in piano performance and minored in cello and vocal performance.

After graduation, Sun became an elementary school music teacher in Taipei and held many musical activities to inspire students’ interests in music. In 2005, Sun received a master’s degree in conducting from Azusa Pacific University. In 2006, he received the Chinese Overseas Outstanding Youth Award. In 2013, he received The Excellent Educator Award by The Taiwanese Teachers College Association.

Sun is an adjunct professor of piano at Azusa Pacific University, Citrus Community College and Calvin Chao Theological Seminary. He is the music director at Good Shepherd Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Monterey Park. He also conducts the Southern California Taiwanese Hakka Chorus, the Arcadia Chinese Chorus and the Irvine Chinese Chorus. Throughout the year, Sun conducts professional concerts and collaborates with professional soloists.

John Alexander, Artistic Director of Pacific Chorale

Artistic Director of Pacific Chorale since 1972, John Alexander is one of America’s most respected choral conductors. His inspired leadership both on the podium and as an advocate for the advancement of the choral art has garnered national and international admiration and acclaim.

Alexander’s long and distinguished career has encompassed conducting hundreds of choral and orchestral performances nationally and in 27 countries around the globe. He has conducted his singers with orchestras throughout Europe, Asia and South America and, closer to home, with Pacific Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, Musica Angelica and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Equally versatile whether on the podium or behind the scenes, Alexander has prepared choruses for many of the world’s most outstanding orchestral conductors, including Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez, Seiji Ozawa, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Slatkin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel, Lukas Foss, Max Rudolf, Carl St.Clair, Gerard Schwarz, Marin Alsop, John Mauceri, John Williams and Keith Lockhart.

Robert Istad, Assoc. Conductor/Chorusmaster of Pacific Chorale

Robert Istad is the associate conductor of Pacific Chorale and director of choral studies at California State University, Fullerton, where he conducts the University Singers and Concert Choir, in addition to teaching courses in conducting, advanced interpretation and literature.

He has prepared choruses for Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony, Sir Andrew Davis and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, as well as conductors Bramwell Tovey, Eric Whitacre, Giancarlo Guerrero, Marin Alsop, George Fenton, John Alexander, William Dehning, David Lockington and Mark Mandarano.

Istad received his Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., his Master of Music degree in choral conducting from California State University, Fullerton, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral music at the University of Southern California.

To learn more about the Pacific Chorale, please click here.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.