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8pm Nov 23, 2017 Norman Rothstein Theatre, Vancouver;
Nov 30, 2017 Mary Irwin Theatre, Rotary Centre for the Arts, Kelowna BC. 
Download Press Release (English full)    Download Press Release (English short) 
Download Orchid Ensemble Press Photo

“Could I ask you to explain the music of heaven for me?”
“Sounding the ten thousand things differently, so each becomes itself according to itself alone—who could make such music?” — Chuang Tzu (369-286 BCE)

Music of the Heavens is a multicultural creation of live music and multimedia animated visuals that tell ancient astrological stories, exploring the stories and belief systems that make up the diverse fabric of Canadian and Indigenous society. The multimedia projection shows real-time animated images of star stories, not unlike a DJ creating their own unique set — alongside world-class cross-cultural music. The project is co-produced and performed by the Centre for Culture and Technology of UBC Okanagan and the Vancouver-based Orchid Ensemble.

The artists re-interpret the cosmological stories and oral histories from their own cultural heritages — Greek, Chinese, and the Indigenous’ Haudenosaunee culture, and explore the meeting of cultures in their collaborative process with community members, where unique stars signifying individuals’ heritage were made. Each story is connected to a season, and characters from the heavenly world travel through time and space as the night unfolds, highlighting different cultural beliefs.
For thousands of years, Chinese have told the story of Weaver Woman, who has traveled from Heaven to Earth and back to Heaven, crossing between yin and yang, human and god, to seek her eternal love. Her meeting with her lover once a year over the Milky Way reflects the movement of the Vega Star in the summer sky. The Haudenosaunee Nation tells the story of the Big Dipper, where three Brothers are forever hunting the Giant Bear that they chased into the sky. As the big dipper gets closer to us in autumn the brothers are able to reach and strike the Bear, which explains why the leaves turn red at this time of year. The Greek mythology sees human desires and emotions in the Greek Heroes, who are the reflections of the human spirit. To contrast with the narrative stories, the final section features handcrafted stars created by community members, funded by the Canada 150 community grant, and musical improvisation, representing the meeting of different cultures in Canada and Indigenous Nations.

Media Artist Aleksandra Dulic and Kenneth Newby conceptualized the visuals, with significant input by artists Jessica Dennis and Amberley John. The visual team of the Centre for Culture and Technology at UBC Okanagan created a multimedia presentation of animated images to be performed in real-time. Aleksandra Dulic, PhD, media artist, is an Associate Professor in Creative Studies and Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology. Kenneth Newby is a media artist, composer-performer, educator, interaction designer, and audio producer. Aleksandra’s and Kenneth’s collaborative creative practice explores the use of technology to enable media performances and installations that are rich in aural, visual and cultural nuances. Artist Jessica Dennis acted as lead animator and coordinator, and Indigenous artist Amberley John illustrates and tells the story of the three Brothers and Giant Bear. Her participation in the project was not funded by Canada 150, instead by UBC Work Study and Oneida Employment and Training. Many ukwehuw (First Nations) will not be celebrating Canada 150, as there are still many unfulfilled promises and a lack of recognition of Aboriginal Rights and Treaties in Canada today. The animation and illustration team also included artists Ardanna Semeschuk, illustrating the Greek heroes; Dianne Schnieders, illustrating the Weaver Woman story; Sarah Polak and Charles Landa, providing animation; with additional drawings by Taiwanese artist Li Tung.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Orchid Ensemble features a unique instrumentation: Lan Tung erhu/Chinese violin & vocals, Dailin  Hsieh zheng/Chinese zither, Jonathan Bernard marimba and percussion. The ensemble is known for its cross-cultural innovative works, performing diverse styles ranging from Taiwanese music, Chinese music, world music, new music to jazz and creative improvisation. The music composers work with both the acoustic instruments and digital processing of the sounds. Stefan Smulovitz translates the Greek cosmological designs into graphic musical scores with his custom software Kenaxis. Lan Tung sets haunting melodies to ancient Chinese poems about the Weaver Woman. To the Bear and 3 Brothers story, she contrasts vigorous rhythms with Asian sensitivity of space/breath, depicting the story from a cross-cultural approach. John Oliver’s “Celestial Storehouse”, inspired by the eternal balance of yin and yang, is divided into multiple sections to tie the stories together. The Orchid Ensemble and media artists Dulic and Newby have been collaborating since 2006, creating interdisciplinary projects of critical acclaim.(see videos from previous production). Music of the Heavens creates dynamic fusions, both musically and visually. It is an immersive audio-visual inter-arts performance that marries the traditional art forms with modern technology and contemporary expression.