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‘UNIQUE’: UNCP music faculty perform with Chinese National Orchestra


Five UNC Pembroke music faculty joined a collaboration of U.S. orchestral musicians and members of the Chinese National Orchestra. They combined for four performances in Maryland and North Carolina in late September, culminating in 1,700-seat Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh on October 6.

Titled “Trans-Pacific Melodies: An East Meets West Concert,” the tour was sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Goldman Sachs. The purpose was to promote a cultural exchange with China.


GIFT EXCHANGE – UNCP musicians are on the front row from left: Megan Kenny, Denise Renshaw, Dr. Nick Kenny, Dr. Joanna Hersey and Dr. Tim Altman

“They created a Carolina International Orchestra just for these performances, and it was a great orchestra,” said Dr. Tim Altman, chair of UNCP’s Music Department, who regularly plays with the Fayetteville Symphony. “The pieces were all written by the Chinese, and they played with traditional instruments, not Western instruments.”

The five UNCP faculty involved were Megan Kenny, violin; Deanne Renshaw, oboe; Dr. Nick Kenney, horn; Dr. Joanna Hersey, tuba; and Dr. Altman, trumpet. They performed at the University of Maryland (College Park) on September 27, in Pinehurst on October 1, in Charlotte on October 5 and in Raleigh’s Meymandi Hall. 

The ensemble of U.S. and Chinese musicians plan an even more extensive tour of China in early 2015. “We’re very excited, and we hope we can travel to China,” Dr. Altman said. “We don’t have dates yet, and we’ll see if it fits into our schedules.”

Dr. Altman was very pleased with exchange of music. “It was a unique experience, and I was enthralled,” he said. “The concept of combining Eastern and Western musician like this is relatively new.”

All five UNCP musicians were selected because of their experience playing with professional orchestras. Dr. Altman said the Chinese musicians were exceptional musicians.

“They were truly masters of their instruments,” he said. “When they were not rehearsing with the orchestra, they were backstage practicing. I was charmed watching and hearing them.”

Dr. Altman grew up in a musical household and has wide ranging experience playing, teaching and administering, but this experience was like no other on his resume.

“This experience was so different,” he said. “Getting to see and hear traditional Chinese instruments was unique to the Western ear. I believe we will hear more and more of this in the future.”

The pieces performed had names like “Moon Reflected in Erquan Spring,” “Listening to the Wind,” “Fisherman’s Melody,” and Folk Dance of the Yao Tribe.” It was conducted by Jianguo He with artistic direction by Quiang Xi and Xi Yang.

The traditional instruments included the Guzheng, a zither with movable bridges; the Dizi, a transverse bamboo flute with buzzing membrane; the Erhu, a two-stringed fiddle and the Konghou, a Chinese harp, similar to the Western harp.

“The combination made for a beautiful and unique concert,” Dr. Altman said. “I brought my wife to the final performance in Raleigh. She understood why I was so fascinated by the instruments.”

Listen to the Carolina International Orchestra on YouTube: