East and West Join through Music at Crawford Memorial Concert

Photo courtesy of John J. Cali School of Music

The music of the East and the West filled the Alexander Kasser Theater on December 8 as the Montclair State University Symphony Orchestra, joined by musicians from the East China Normal University (ECNU) Symphony Orchestra, presented the annual Beatrice Crawford Memorial Concert.

Featuring works by Chinese composers, the “New World” symphony by Antonin Dvořák and a John J. Cali School of Music-commissioned, world-premiere work by noted American composer Roberto Sierra, the concert was a scintillating mix of East and West, old and new.

In addition to the world premiere of Sierra’s work, El Baille, highlights of the concert included performances of Chinese pieces by members of the ECNU Symphony Orchestra, and a solo performance on the erhu, the bowed, two-stringed Chinese fiddle by the erhu master, Wang Guowei. Director of Orchestral Studies Ken Lam led the orchestra with a guest-conducting appearance by Hou Runyu, music director of ECNU and artistic advisor to the Asian Youth Orchestra.

The concert was special not only for the unique program but for the cross-cultural collaboration afforded by the visit of the 19 students and five instructors from ECNU. “This is the first time we have ever been joined by such a large group of Chinese student musicians,” says Executive Director of International Affairs Marina Cunningham, noting that ECNU has been a partner institution of Montclair State for more than a decade. “We are pleased to be able to continue our tradition of exchanging music ensembles with partner universities and conservatories.”

The ECNU members arrived a week prior to the concert and did much more than just rehearse. They also enjoyed campus tours, educational opportunities, concerts and recitals, outlet shopping and a full day of sightseeing in and around New York City. President Susan A. Cole provided funding to cover the visitor’s expenses during their stay and the ground arrangements were made by the Global Education Center in cooperation with the Cali School.

The Beatrice Memorial Concert is an annual event presented at Montclair State University in memory of Beatrice “Billie” Crawford, a Montclair musician who was the director of two choral groups, The Madrigals and The Choraliers. The concert is supported by a generous grant from the Keating Crawford Foundation.