Weaving silk threads 

A celebration of Chinese-American heritage

click to enlarge Hing Ryder, in full Chinese opera costume and makeup.
  • Hing Ryder, in full Chinese opera costume and makeup.

"Diversity is what makes America stronger," said Chiu-Fen Buczynski, event chair of the Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute (CSCCI). "Americans and Asian-Americans need to understand one another... this celebration benefits both communities."

Buczynski is a Taiwanese-born pianist who furthered her studies in Vienna, Austria. Music, she says, is a universal language that paves the two-way street toward understanding, even though historically, Eastern and Western civilizations have been isolated from each other in almost every aspect. "As a musician, I think we can use the arts to bring people together face-to-face," she said. "Music, especially, is a more intimate and expressive way to communicate."

In conjunction with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, CSCCI will be celebrating its first annual Chinese-American Heritage event. The community celebration begins May 14 with an opening ceremony to present Outstanding Contribution Awards to specific Chinese-Americans, and will continue throughout the week with cultural demonstrations, Chinese-produced films and a dinner. Highlighted is a concert on May 15 at Colorado College's Packard Hall, featuring traditional and classical contemporary Chinese music.

Cantonese opera artist Hing Ryder will open the program, performing in full Chinese opera costume -- a makeup job that alone takes two hours to apply. She will sing a solo from The Butterfly Lovers, a tale of thwarted love and transformation set in fourth-century Southern China. Unlike European opera where the composer of the music is praised, in Cantonese opera the music isn't the most important part -- the lyrics are. As a result, one song may be sung innumerable ways, depending on the performer. While using the story's basic theme, every performance is different.

Buczynski designed the concert's entire program, working with the limited amount of performers and instruments available. Unable to gather a symphony's-worth of musicians, she had to base the program on whether selections could be performed by a small ensemble. Among the traditional instruments used is the Morin Khuur, a Mongolian horse-headed violin with two strings. The featured ensemble pieces are Qi, composed by Chen Yi, and Silk Road by Tan Dun, a resonating song that some may recognize from the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon movie soundtrack. Buczynski considers both numbers to be the most challenging that the ensemble will perform, synthesizing elements of Eastern and Western music and pairing ancient instruments with modern ones. She will be performing at the concert along with other Colorado musicians, such as flutist and Colorado College instructor Paul Nagem, soprano Mee-Ae Nam, cellists Nancy Snustad and Karen Terbeek, and percussionist Robert Jurkscheit.

click to enlarge Chiu-Fen Buczynski
  • Chiu-Fen Buczynski

With this celebration, Buczynski hopes that the community will continue to recognize the contributions made by people of Asian heritage and that the recognition will last far beyond the government-appointed month. Next year she hopes to expand the celebration's activities and to inspire other Asian communities to participate, adding Japanese drama and Korean events to the mix. Although the Springs' Chinese community is rather small, Chiu-Fen feels dedicated to sharing its culture. "This is my new home," she said. "This is personal."

-- Kara Luger

capsule A Silk Thread Through America Chinese classical music concert

Saturday, May 15, 3 p.m.

Packard Hall, 5 W. Cache La Poudre on CC Campus

General admission, $15; CSCCI members $12, CC ID, free

Call 389-6607 for ticket info; call Mali Hsu at 635-0024 or go to www.cscci.org for a complete schedule and more on the festival


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