Senior Colonel Yu Hai conducts the two bands. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]
WASHINGTON - Thunderous applause and screams of excitement from the audience filled the concert hall at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts here on Monday night.
The ovation was for members of the Military Band of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the United States Army Band "Pershing's Own", who gave their first joint concert in the history of the two militaries. Members of the audience included Chinese Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael G. Mullen.
Entitled Friendship and Cooperation through Music, the joint performance was "symbolic of what we share in common and what the better relationship between the US and China means for our people," General Martin E. Dempsey, US Army Chief of Staff, said before the concert started.
Dempsey said the exchange is 30 years in the making. In his message printed in the program, he wrote, "such exchanges build trust, improve understanding and communication, and pave the way to great cooperation in solving some of the world's more complicated security challenges." "Military music resounds in harmony as we move forward together," General Bingde wrote in his message.
The cooperation gave a "strong testimony to our desire for a stable and reliable military to military relationship between our two countries", General Li Shengquan, who headed the delegation of the PLA military band during its visit to the US, told the audience.
Chinese tenor Dai Yuqiang and American Sgt Leigh Ann Hinton - soprano - in the duet Libiamo ne' Lieti Calici from La Traviata. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]
The whole performance was punctuated with the audience's warm applause as the two bands each presented a mixed program highlighting the unique and rich music legacy of each country.
Several members of the audience ventured to the stage to shake hands with the musicians from both militaries, thanking them for their "wonderful musicianship" under the baton of Senior Colonel Yu Hai, the PLA military band's commander and conductor, Senior Colonel and conductor Zhang Zhirong and Colonel Thomas Rotondi Jr, the US Army Band's commander and conductor.
"The mixture of the older traditional Chinese and the new modern music is majestic, entertaining and enlightening," said Captain Mark O'Malley, sector commander of the US Coast Guard.
The Symphonic poem Ambush "has different tempos. It is soothing and it is aggressive. It has beautiful mix," O'Malley said. Meanwhile, Victory Beckoning is "a very modern piece with all the brass. Then the back row stood, it was very dramatic."
Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rush of the US Army Staff was the first to stand up and start the long ovation for Dai Yuqiang after the tenor from the PLA sang Nessun Dorma, from Turandot.
"Even though we are worlds apart, everybody comes together in such a unity," Rush said, while his wife, Susan, said the piece she liked best was Wang Luobin's In a Far Away Place.
The two main conductors were also overjoyed. "We were in almost perfect unison in our first official joint concert. It is a successful cooperation," Yu Hai told China Daily.
"The electricity was all over the place tonight; it is just excellent," Rotondi said.
Speaking on the last two pieces,Stars and Stripes Forever and Ode to Motherland, Rontondi said they were the "culmination of the whole evening".
"It is wonderful to share each band's patriotic feeling for our countries," David Brundage, bassoonist of the US Army Band, said.