Chinese New Year has become an annual tradition in San Francisco, celebrating and honoring China’s biggest holiday with street parades, festivities and lots of cultural music and traditions. The SF Symphony has also weighed in each year on this great Chinese tradition with an annual concert and Chinese New Year celebration and Imperial dinner. This year’s event kicked off at 2pm sharp with a pre-concert festival reception where ticket holders could come early and mingle in the decked out Asian themed lobby areas of Davie’s symphony hall and enjoy family-friendly cultural entertainment and activities throughout each corridor that featured lion dancing, Chinese instrument playing and performers, arts and crafts and lots of games. There was also sweet and savory finger foods on hand as well as a jasmine green tea bar and of course the tradition of giving “lucky” red envelopes. Many patrons came dressed for the occasion in cultural Asian outfits and headdresses that made for a lot of great people watching and photo opportunities.

The concert started at 3pm and began with a beautiful dragon dancing ceremony that got the crowd cheering and ready for the epic music ahead. Prior to the first number, the symphony, organizers and all participants paid tribute to the honorable Edwin Mah Lee, the 43rd mayor of the city and county of San Francisco. His wife and kids, who were in attendance, were honored with flowers and applause as hosts stated that this year’s celebration was dedicated to his memory and life’s work, not only for San Francisco and the Asian community but also as a big supporter of the event. Then the music started with the exciting and energetic conductor Xian Zhang, making her San Francisco Symphony debut and celebrated Internationally for her musical gifts and praises in conducting many famous operas and symphonies worldwide. Zhang lead the beautifully talented pianist Zhang Zuo, SFS violinist Yun Chu, SFS Cellist Amos Yang and the San Francisco Symphony through magnificent performances and traditional renditions that included works by Haunzhi Li, Rachmaninoff, Tan Dun and Huang Ruo, as well as traditional numbers.

It was a day to behold and to celebrate and even included crowd participation towards the closing number as Xian Zhang jokingly instructed patrons to sing along in cue and in perfect rhythm and to not mess up. The concert ended with ovations and everyone cheering in the year of the dog and chanting. “Xīnnián kuàilè”, which is happy New Year in Chinese.

For those that missed out on this grand event, well there is always next year, as this is one celebration that should be on everyone’s calendar and is in great hands with the SF Symphony.

* It should be noted that proceeds from this event support San Francisco Symphony’s education and community programs, which reach over 75,000 Bay Area elementary middle and high school students each year.

For more information on SF Symphony go to: www.sfsymphony.org

written by Sason Bishope Parry