Yale Concert Band to present "Ask the Sky and the Earth" to commemorate 50th anniversary of 'sent-down youth' movement of China's Cultural Revolution

Start Date: Thursday, March 08, 2018 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

On Thursday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Yale University’s Woolsey Hall (corner of College and Grove Streets, New Haven), the Yale Concert Band (Thomas C. Duffy, Music Director) and the SYGQ Chorus (Charles Lu, Music Director) will present “Ask the Sky and the Earth: An Oratorio Cantata for the Sent-down Youth” for wind band and chorus. With libretto by Wei Su, music by Dongling Huo (Tony Fok), and orchestration by Dong Yan, this magnificent piece – transcribed by Thomas C. Duffy – commemorates the 50th anniversary of the “sent-down youth” movement of China’s Cultural Revolution. The Yale Concert Band will also present Three Places in New Haven by Thomas C. Duffy, featuring Sam Um, marimba. Admission is free. [Info: 203-432-4111, www.yale.edu/yaleband.]

“Ask the Sky and the Earth: An Oratorio Cantata for the Sent-down Youth”

In 1968 during China’s Cultural Revolution, while America’s youth was preparing to launch the “Summer of Love,” 15-year-old Chinese teenager Wei Su witnessed the arrests of his father and brother and repeated beatings of his grandmother and sisters and the vandalism of his home by the military police. Three months later, wanting to “escape” from misery, he joined 17 million of China’s middle- and high-school aged urban youth who streamed into the countryside to participate in the “up to the mountains and down to the villages” movement. In distant borderlands, on remote islands, in harsh wilderness, these young men and women passed the precious years of their youths, sacrificing formal educations to be schooled in hard agricultural labor. This was a unique course of life – full of idealism and hardship, drenched by tears and sweat, by turns tragic, romantic, dazed, and ecstatic.

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In 2007, Yale Senior Lector on East Asian Languages Wei Su returned to the island of Hainan, where he had spent ten of his prime years in the farms. There he reunited with fellow “farm-mate,” composer Dongling Huo (Tony Fok), and their visit inspired them to create a piece of music to commemorate the 40th anniversary (2008) of the “sent-down youth” movement. Fok’s setting of Wei Su’s epic poem, Ask the Sky and the Earth, conveys the spirit of this epoch, the sentiments of an entire generation as they think back upon their youths and “give thanks to life, give thanks to the land.” The Yale Concert Band and the SYGQ Chorus premiered this arrangement for chorus and wind band in 2011 in Woolsey Hall, repeating it later the same year in Carnegie Hall and Strathmore Hall.


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