Chen Yi

About this work:
Chen Yi (music and text) Angel Island Passages (2010) For children’s chorus and string quartet I. 1882 II. Longing III. We Are America (15 minutes) Commissioned by San Francisco Girls Chorus (Executive Director Melanie Smith), and premiered by the SFGC and Cypress String Quartet on June 4, 2010, conducted by SFGC’s Artistic Director Susan McMane, at San Francisco Conservatory, CA, the 3-movement song cycle Angel Island Passages is written for children’s chorus and string quartet, with multimedia projection on the walls of the concert hall, produced by visual artist Felicia Lowe. The creative idea of this work is initiated by Dr. McMane, who invited me to write the music, and sent me the book “Island, poetry and history of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940”, by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung for reference in 2009. Inspired by the Angel Island stories, and cooperated with Felicia, who shared with me her film “Carved in Silence” and video productions “Chinatown” and “Road to Restoration”. I named the first movement of my work as “1882”, which reflected the dark mood under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The collective poems carved on the wooden walls in Angel Island expressed deep emotion in sorrow and anxiety. The music in the second movement “Longing” is sad and sentimental. The third movement is called “We Are America”, which is ever-moving, energetic and optimistic. The text sung in the beginning in Chinese means “I am an American”. It’s sung in Cantonese dialect, then in Mandarin. As the music develops, from homophonic to polyphonic with increasing layers, the climax is reached when the text is turned to English “We Are America”, which symbolizes the flourishing society with the great contribution from thousands of immigrants during the years. The music fades out towards the ending of the work, which pushes the scene to a remote picture, to look forward to the future peace of the world. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with such inspiring creative artists in this project, and hope the work is meaningful to our new society after the premiere performance.
Version: Children Choir and String Quartet
Year composed: 2010
Duration: 00:15:00
Ensemble type: Chorus, with or without Solo Voices

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