This year’s Magnolia Chorale spring concert — “Letters to Our Beloved Earth” — includes “HuXi”, written in Mandarin Chinese, and “Mae-e” written in Japanese. Both pieces are making their Seattle debuts under the experienced baton of our music director Joseph To. Joseph studied Mandarin and Cantonese choral music and ethnomusicology as part of both his undergraduate and graduate studies, and prepared both pieces to complete his master’s degree in choral conducting.
He chose these pieces, along with the rest of the repertoire, to call attention to the need to keep moving forward to preserve the resources of our planet no matter the challenge.
A reminder of the human connection
“HuXi”, composed by Ng Cheuk-yin, was commissioned by the Hong Kong Treble Choir Association in 2015 as the theme song for that year’s World Youth & Children’s Choir Festival Hong Kong. The title “HuXi” translates as “breathing”, and indeed, the first few bars of the piece consist of singers inhaling and exhaling in perfect unison.
“Breathing is vital to us as humans so I chose this piece to raise awareness of the interconnection of humans on earth, and to remind us that we are one,” Joseph explains.
Joseph first conducted “HuXi” during his graduate conducting recital at Washington State University (WSU). He used it to demonstrate how to teach Mandarin Chinese diction to non-Chinese speakers, a challenge he’s once again undertaking with Magnolia Chorale.
Reflections on moving on after tragedy
“Mae-e”, which translates as “Forward”, was composed by Kentaro Sato in 2011 dedicated to the victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Its lyrics reflect on memories of those lost and the need to embrace everyday happiness and sadness in the effort to move forward.
Ironically Joseph was preparing “Mae-e” with the WSU concert choir in 2020 before the pandemic caused rehearsals to be shutdown. The concert was ultimately cancelled when his professor moved on to become the Director of the School of Music at a university in another state, so this will be Joseph’s first time conducting “Mae-e” in a performance.
Of course “HuXi” and “Mae-e” are just two of many intriguing and unusual pieces that the Chorale will perform on Saturday evening April 22 at 7:30 pm and Sunday afternoon April 23 at 2:00 pm at Magnolia Lutheran Church 2414 31st Ave. West. Both concerts are free. Goodwill offerings to support the Chorale are always welcome and much appreciated. We hope to see you there!
A community of singers who enjoy spending time together making great music.