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Heartland Flowers of Romance

It”s a haunting, serene masterpiece which effectively showcases the deep talent pool that Orchid Ensemble boasts.” – Jan-Christian Sorensen, North Shore News, August 11, 2000

Mastering an eclectic style

ORCHID Ensemble is in full bloom. The trio of musicians recently released its first CD collection of the Chinese music it has renowned for in the past two years.

Heartland was released in July with the assistance of a Canada Council for the Arts grant. It”s a placid, often-contemplative album that sweeps from higher-energy and faster-paced selections such as “The Gallop” and “Harvest Season” to more meditative offerings that conjure up images of morning mist slowly dispersing over a rice paddy. It”s a haunting, serene masterpiece which effectively showcases the deep talent pool that Orchid Ensemble boasts.

The trio exhibits a flawless precision in its arrangements and variations on traditional Chinese, Mongolian and Cantonese folk melodies and more modern songs.

Orchid Ensemble”s leader is North Vancouver”s Lan Tung, who breathes life into the CD”s selections with her mastery of the erhu. The erhu, a two-string stick fiddle that is played while held on the lap, was introduced to China by the Mongolians in the Tang Dynasty (AD 598-906).

Tung studied professionally in Taiwan before immigrating to Canada and joining the B.C. Chinese Orchestra as a featured soloist.

The other members of the ensemble are Mei Han on zheng and Jonathan Bernard, who plays marimba and percussion.

Han is one of the world”s leading authorities on the zheng, a half-tube zither with movable bridges that can be traced back to the Warring State Period of China”s history. (475-221 BC)

Bernard is the principal percussionist with the Vancouver Island Symphony and has also performed with the Vancouver and Ottawa Orchestras, the National Ballet Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Canada.

Both Han and Bernard reside in East Vancouver.

The ensemble”s premier effort was guided by multifaceted world music performer and producer Randy Raine-Reusch. Raine-Reusch is also married to Han.

Tung has also spearheaded the first Chinese music program for young people in Vancouver. Tung has been teaching the subtleties of Chinese music to groups of kids in Grade 3 through 7 at Vancouver”s Jamieson elementary school for four years now. The sessions are held every Friday afternoon during the school year. Tung instructs the youngsters on the basics of how to handle the erhu and how to play in an ensemble. The neophyte musicians regularly display their prowess with public performances. Tung”s young charges performed at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver during the North Shore Folk Festival earlier in June. Tung said it”s inspiring to see the kids dedicate themselves to the instruments and work at mastering the eclectic – and often challenging – style of music, which requires much practice.

Orchid Ensemble just finished a tour of Ontario and Quebec and pitstopped for more performances in Alberta and Northern B.C. on their return trip. Tung said the crowds have been very receptive to the music; the proof has been in the brisk sales of Heartland whenever the trio hosts a road performance. Tung said that many people may not jump at the opportunity to take in a performance of Chinese music because of unfamiliarity with the style. Her solution is simple: bring the music to people.

“If people hear about a Chinese music (concert), they may not go because they don”t know what it”s about,” said Tung, who has played the erhu for 17 years. “But once they are there, they might like it. I think we have to bring the music to where people are so they hear it and realize they like it.” “It”s very pretty music and it”s very easy to listen to. And if you listen very carefully to it, some of the pieces are very delicate with a lot of detail and some of the pieces have lots of percussion instruments and are more lively.”