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WSO Captivates Audience With Chee-Yun

by Maggie McLeod

Photo of Chee-Yun via the WSO's website.

The Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra (WSO) held a concert led by Artistic Director and Conductor Daniel Meyer on March 26. Through dashing and flavorful melodies, the WSO captivated the audience in three beautiful movements, the last of which was accompanied by world-renowned violinist Chee-Yun Kim. 

After the familiar buzz of the various musicians preparing for the show, tuning their instruments sporadically with clashing harmonies and short teases of what’s to come, Meyer walked in to begin a tribute to “our brothers and sisters in Ukraine” by playing Ukraine’s National Anthem. 

Pitt-Greensburg Music Director and Instructor of Music, Christopher Bartly, attended the show and enjoyed the melodies of the first movement, which began with “Symphony in D Major” by Arriaga.

“One of the fun ways to make this music happen is to share in melodies and to share in rhythmic ideas. As you hear things going back and forth you change what we refer to as the texture in music; how the layers in music go together,” Professor Bartly said. 

The piece began with a playful flute that transitioned into beautiful singing melodies with the strings, the woodwinds, the brass, and the percussion echoing one another.

What solidified the night of classical music was violinist Chee-Yun, who is known for her striking tone and captivating artistry. She has performed all over the world, including in the White House for former President Bill Clinton. 

“Music is my best friend. Whatever I am going through in life. If I am sad, I play music … and I feel better immediately. When I am happy I play. It just accentuates everything,” Chee-Yun said.

Chee-Yun took the stage accompanied by a violin made by Francesco Ruggiere in 1669, which is rumored to have been buried with a previous owner for 200 years. 

Chee-Yun soloed in “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” written by the Argentine Tango composer Piazzolla, highlighting summer, autumn, winter, and spring and got a standing ovation from the audience. 

What stood out most was Chee-Yun’s dynamic use of the violin, treating it as not only a string instrument but also a percussion instrument by tapping the body of the violin. This choice added rhythm to a movement which would otherwise not be accompanied by any other percussion at all. 

Chee-Yun expressed what drew her to the violin and ultimately changed the course of her life. 

“I love the violin because it’s very close to the human voice. And I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I could totally hear this beautiful singing, and I can imitate that with the violin. There’s so much color you can create. So many continuous lines you can create,” Chee-Yun said. “It has beautiful singing lines, but you can also be kind of punchy with it.”

As for young musicians pursuing their instrument professionally, Chee-Yun gave her words of encouragement and inspiration. 

“If you have a lot of love for it and you’re willing to work really hard … it’s not an easy road at all, but anything that you want to do really well you have to sacrifice and spend a lot of time on,” Chee-Yun said. “But it’s totally worth it. It gives me so much joy and so much release from life.”

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