Tracey Tong/metro ottawa


Zhimin Yu of the Chinese chamber music group, Red Chamber, plays the ruan at Freiman Hall yesterday as part of Chamberfest. In the background is Geling Jiang on the san xian.


“When you think of chamber music, you think of Bach and Mozart. This opens up a world of chamber music that’s different, but still interesting.”

Chamber music enthusiasts got a taste of the Orient at a workshop on Chinese music yesterday.

Traditional Chinese chamber music group Red Chamber held its workshop at Freiman Hall at the University of Ottawa as part of the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival committee’s attempt to expand the breadth of its offerings.

With some of the best musicians of the genre in the world, Red Chamber — featuring Mei Han on zheng, Guilian Liu on pipa, Zhimin Yu on ruan and Geling Jiang on san xian — performed music from the 8th century to present.

The performance proved to be a new experience for even the most seasoned chamber music fans.

“It’s chamber music, but it's different from the western chamber music we're used to,” said John Frecker, executive director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society.

In addition to using different instruments, some music featured at the show was built on a pentatonic scale instead of the more familiar chromatic scale used in western music.

The inclusion of performances representing cultures from around the world to the festival is a relatively new development for the society, said Frecker.

This year’s festival also features music from India, the Middle East, Indonesia and Israel.

“When you think of chamber music, you think of Bach and Mozart. This opens up a world of chamber music that's different, but still interesting,” he said.

The audience asked dozens of questions on every aspect of the music, from its origin to the spellings of the instruments, to the artificial nails the musicians used to pluck the strings.

Han said she was thrilled that the audience was so interested. “I’m always pleased to answer any questions,” she said.

“Canada is such a multicultural country,” said Frecker. “It’s a great opportunity to present the music from different cultures.”