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First Night Akron with the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble

On December 31st, we spent New Year's Eve at the 20th annual First Night Akron Celebration which had all sorts of activities and entertainment at 10 different venues in close proximity to each other in downtown Akron.

We watched a very talented ice sculptor practice his craft, took a ride on a holiday train, had a delicious cheese sandwich for dinner, were entertained by a fine Beatles tribute band appropriately named "A Hard Day's Night" and stood with over a thousand other people on Main Street as we did the close-to-midnight countdown to 2016. We had a good time.

But the main reason that we attended this event was to watch the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensembleperform just as we did last year. Mr. David Badagnani, the leader of the ensemble, told us that this was the ensemble's fourth year performing at First Night Akron and this year was special because they were previously only allotted a 45 minute time frame but this year they were given a full hour and a half which expanded their opportunity to entertain their attendees while sharing information with them about Chinese arts and culture.

Margaret W. Wong and Associates has been supportive of the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble over the years and Mr. Badagnani told us to be sure and thank Ms. Wong. He was also very grateful that we journeyed to Akron to show our support.

The hour and a half went by very quickly as musical selections from all Chinese genres were performed and Mr. Badagnani talked about the cultural and historical significance of what we were hearing as well as the instruments that were being used.

We particularly liked the performance of guest soloist Ms. Yang Jin from Pittsburgh who is quite renowned for her mastery of the pipa and zhongruan lutes. In addition, she also enthralled us her rendering of Chinese rock song.

Another excellent guest artist was Ms. Sandra Emmeline who sings with an Akron band named Sancat. Ms. Emmeline is of Taiwanese heritage (her parents immigrated to the United States) so she sang a much beloved pop song from 1930's Taiwan which was previously only available on 78 RPM's (remember them?). We understand that it took several years to do the necessary background work to revive this song by choosing just the right arrangements to retain its magic.

No less impressive was Ms. Courtney Lambert, a regular with the group, who played an Outer Mongolian medley on 10 bowls filled with varying amounts of water to achieve the necessary sounds/tones. To accomplish this, Mr. Badagnani said that they had to visit several thrift stores to find just the right bowls to use.

As we were leaving we shook hands with Dr. Jung Jing of the "Ohio Chinese American News" who knows Ms. Margaret W. Wong quite well; in fact, he had with him a copy of his publication that had her photo in it.

We especially liked meeting local artist Ms. Jean Henriott Trawick, a delightful person, who showed us postcards of her lovely collages about Akron and its people. She has sold several of these and mentioned that some of her work was on display just down the street at the Akron-Summit County Library. Moreover, Ms. Henriott Trawick was honored be able to introduce this performance of the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble. She told us that she had been listening to them practice and found them to be "amazing." She was indeed "blown away" by their "wonderful sound."

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