San Francisco the USA
Written by Michael David Martin
Photos by Drew Altizer
Let’s start with some history of the Year of the Rabbit, which symbolises longevity, peace, and prosperity. Being the fourth of all zodiac animals in the legendary story, the rabbit was proud and, at times, even arrogant of its quickness. Neighbours with the ox, the rabbit, always made fun of this animal’s slowness. One day, the Jade emperor said the zodiac order would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived at his party. The Rabbit set off at daybreak to get an early start but when he got there, no other animals were in sight. Thinking that he would obviously be first, he went off to the side and napped. However, when he woke up, three other animals had already arrived. One of them was the ox he had always looked down upon, which caught him by surprise. The rabbit also represents the moon for multiple reasons. 2023 is predicted to be the year of hope.
I was thrilled to celebrate Lunar New Year at the glorious Davis Symphony Hall on Sunday, February 5th late afternoon with my fellow San Franciscans. It was earlier than the standard call time, starting at 5 pm. We were greeted by three festive dragons, two purple and one turquoise. The Dragons were joined by several young musicians playing drums and cymbals, which are traditional of Chinese dragon dance performances. This dance is often seen during festive celebrations, and the Chinese New Year is one of the biggest. Lunar New Year, which celebrates across several countries and other territories in Asia, including South Korea and Singapore, is a melting pot of Asian cultures. It also marks the beginning of a lunar or lunisolar calendar year, whose months are moon cycles.
The evening began with pre-concert lobby festivities and entertainment, including a VIP pre-concert ruby reception. We were treated to two stellar artists: Korean-Canadian conductor Earl Lee and South Korean opera star Sumi Jo and the San Francisco Symphony. There were a few introductions to certain crowd members who funded some of the festivities. We all gave them a round of applause in approval and honour. There were beautiful dresses adorned with crystals, custom tailor-made suits, and fabulous fashion throughout the hall. Celebrations were in order, and when conductor Earl Lee took the stage, he delivered on every high note. Mr Lee spoke to us a bit before kicking off the evening’s music. In a friendly fashion, he talked to us in a few languages and wished us a Happy Lunar New Year. Visuals behind the musicians accompanied each fantastic song. From Asian-inspired art to vintage film of Chinese railroad workers, which was highly thought-provoking. It was wonderful to have eight selections of music played for us. Conductor Earl Lee even surprised us with an extra song that wasn’t on the program, which is always a special bonus.
It was time for the main course, Soprano Sumi Jo! Once announced, she entered the stage in the most gorgeous, exquisite gown. The conductor passed her a note. She folded it and then put it in her dress as we giggled. Once Sumi Jo opened up her voice, it was as if it was the sound you’d hear when the gates of heaven opened. Each song she sang in her Grammy award-winning voice heightened the levels of performance. She made the most demanding operatic vocals seem so effortless and beautiful. Every piece resonated with an Asian melody and traditional tones. The whole weekend San Francisco celebrated with an incredible parade on Market Street. It was the perfect ending to the celebrations at Davies Hall. Another wonderful experience to cherish, reflect on, and learn about other cultures, which will enrich your soul. So, here’s to our friend, the Rabbit. May you all prosper!
San Francisco Symphony
Saibei Dance from Saibei Suite No. 2
Three Wishes of a Rose
As the Spring Approaches Across the River
Selections from Folk Songs for Orchestra
The Angel from Formosa
In the Flower Clouds
Selections from Transcend
For more info on the SF Symphony and shows go to: www.sfsymphony.org