Visiting Chinese artist Xu Hui to perform at St. Joseph’s Hall in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Visiting Chinese artist Xu Hui to perform at St. Joseph’s Hall in Grass Valley

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The Chinese erhu (pronounced AR who) is a two-stringed folk violin with a small wooden body and a python skin stretched over the sound box. In the hands of a master, it has a powerfully expressive sound.

Xu Hui is such a virtuoso, a soloist with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, and she is coming to Nevada County and the Bay Area for a special series of recitals.

Xu Hui (pronounced Shu WHEY) began lessons on the erhu at age 6. As is customary in China, she was chosen to be a dancer, but an erhu teacher also chose her and that ended up being her path.

She started winning competitions and at age 12 was sent away to the Nanjing Art School, a boarding school.

"That was the first time I left my family and my home town," she said. "I didn't even know how to tie my long hair, so I cut it all off like a boy's."

She received her Masters Degree in erhu at the highly selective Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. One of her teachers and mentors was the renowned Wang Fujian, who has taught conducting and composition to a generation of young Chinese musicians. In 2006 she joined the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.

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The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra uses Chinese traditional instruments such as bamboo flute, pipa and Chinese percussion. Xu Hui plays in the erhu section and also is frequently featured as soloist with that orchestra, which has toured around the world.

Her most vivid memory of playing with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra was a Valentine's Day concert.

"I played the Butterfly Lovers (a well-known Chinese piece) and the conductor was the composer of this song," she said. "This was my first show in Hong Kong. I can remember every detail of that concert.

"There is a story: my platform was not well settled — when I sat there and played, it shook forward and backward. There was a player behind me who took a five (Hong Kong dollar) coin from his pocket, and put it under my platform. I didn't know about it, but I felt better after he did this."

The program she will perform here features instruments in the erhu family from different regions in China, each with their own flavor.

"I am very excited about the recitals in the U.S. I hope I can make more people interested in this Chinese instrument," Hui said. "I will bring representations of different periods of erhu development. Playing the music with history will be more interesting."

She will also perform a piece by Grass Valley composer Alexis Alrich, called "Song of Eternal Regret." It was premiered by Hui and the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra in 2016. She will perform with the composer at the piano.

The first recital was held at Charlotte Xu's home in Nevada City on Aug. 18.

The next recital is on Saturday at St. Joseph's Hall in Grass Valley, and on Sunday Xu Hui will perform at the Berkeley Piano Club.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Visiting Chinese artist Xu Hui to perform

WHEN: Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: St. Joseph’s Hall, 410 S. Church St., Grass Valley

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