Along the River During the Qingming Festival (2011) by Joan Huang
for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello,
gangquin, yanqin, pipa, sheng, dizi
Earplay/Melody of China commission

I. Wooded Countryside
II. Bustling Market
III. Rainbow Bridge
IV. Main Gate
V. Country Folks

Along the River During the Qingming Festival is based on the famous panoramic painting with the same title (see Wikipedia) by the Chinese Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145). The painting exquisitely presented the people's daily life in the region of Bianjing (today's Kaifeng). The composition is written for the collaboration between Melody of China (Chinese Traditional Ensemble) and Earplay (Western Ensemble).

For me, the original painting stimulates in me a multitude of ideas. Along both banks of the Bian River, the scenery is an abundant landscape with diversified figures, activities are easily perceived, and the dramas are spotlighted. My intention was to follow the vibrant images the original painting presented.

In order to capture those lovely images and stories, I adopted the many regional characteristic ballads as well as the melodious Henan bangzi (a regional traditional opera). In many places, the violin, viola and cello imitate a zhuihu (similar to erhu) sound.

Like the panoramic painting (the arched bridge is the center), the entire piece is in an arch shape: Slow-fast-slow-fast-slow, with the 3rd movement as the centerpiece. From the right to the left side, the music "unfolds" the story of this symphonic scroll painting:

I. Wooded Countryside: Shimmery, many sounds of nature, bucolic landscape, farmers, herders, etc. are portrayed.

II. Bustling Market: Singing and dancing, a lively scene, rhythmic yelling sounds, boats on the river, a variety of vendors humming a medley of folk tunes, people approaching the main gate of the city.

III. Rainbow Bridge: A rainbow-like bridge forms the center stage, with boatmen, fishermen, singing "working songs" etc.

IV. Main Gate: A sprawling and hectic urban scene at the main gate.

V. Country Folks: People chatting in a teahouse, busy vendors, various figures interacting with one another. Wheeled wagons, donkeys, mules, sedan chairs, and chariots are in the scene. At the end, people gradually leaving the scene.

— J. H.    

[from program for December 7, 2012 concert]