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Chinese Fiddlers Come to Reston

Shanghai Yangpu Youth Palace student troupe performs at Reston Town Center.

Erhu players with the Shanghai Yangpu Youth Palace student troupe perform at Reston Town Center Saturday, Aug. 10.

Erhu players with the Shanghai Yangpu Youth Palace student troupe perform at Reston Town Center Saturday, Aug. 10. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— Ashley Syed was walking along Market Street in Reston Town Center Saturday, Aug. 10 when she heard music that she described as “something right out of a movie.” As she got closer to the town center’s pavilion, the music grew louder.

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Members of the Shanghai Yangpu Youth Palace student troupe perform at the Reston Town Center pavilion Saturday, Aug. 10.

“I keep walking toward the music, not really sure what to expect. Once I got near the Pavilion, there was a crowd, but not a huge one, so I wasn’t sure what was going on,” she said. “When I saw what was onstage, I was shocked. It was a musical group, I knew that, but I certainly didn’t recognize any of the instruments, but they made such a beautiful sound.” The musical group Syed stumbled upon was the Shanghai Yangpu Youth Palace student troupe, during their second performance of the weekend.

The previous evening, the troupe performed at the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center. The group consists of high school and middle school students from Shanghai. They were in America as part of a yearlong folk culture exchange event.

“Watching them play these instruments that I had never heard of, but were making such interesting, complex sounds, was quite the experience,” said Scott Bigelow of Reston, who was finishing lunch outside at Clyde’s when the performance began, and ended up staying for the entire show. “I thought they did a great job throughout the show explaining what was going on, and performing a wide variety of songs.”

The troupe performed 10 different songs, ranging from orchestral folk music to string quintet to a fiddle and bamboo flute concerto. Students playing the yanqin (a Chinese dulcimer) and sheng (a mouth-blown reed-less instrument) also performed solos.

Other instruments included the erhu (a two-stringed fiddle), pipa (four-stringed, pear-shaped instrument) and yueqin (four-stringed, moon-shaped lute).

“The music sounded mostly like an American-style orchestra, but with a subtle, softer difference, probably from the wind instruments,” said John Delaney of Herndon. “It would have been nice to see an instrument by instrument breakdown, to get a sense of what each individual one sounded like, instead of just part of the whole.”

While most of the show consisted of traditional Chinese songs, they concluded with a song known by most of the audience, “Auld Lang Syne.”

“The performance was very visually striking as well, the instruments stood out, and as an ensemble, their uniforms were very pretty,” said Stephanie Pearlman, 8, who came with her parents to see the show. “I bet it would be hard to find one of those small, thin fiddles around here, but it sure would be fun to play.”