2012 Conference, Providence

Brock Commission

Chen Yi
Distance can’t keep us two apart
(Text by Wang Bo, Tang Dynasty)
for unaccompanied mixed choir (5 minutes)

Commissioned by the American Choral Directors Association Endowment in memory of Raymond W. Brock, my work Distance can’t keep us two apart is written for unaccompanied mixed choir, and will be premiered by the Montclair State University Singers, conducted by Heather Buchanan, on 2/17/2012 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, RI.

When I received the invitation from Dr. Tim Sharp, the Executive Director of ACDA, to write the piece, I was deeply touched by what the ACDA has done in the past half century, to deliver universal love, to unite people from different backgrounds, and to develop our cultural tradition in the society through choral singing. I selected two lines from a poem by a Chinese poet Wang Bo in Tang Dynasty as the text of my piece:

“If I have a friend who knows my heart,
Distance can’t keep us two apart.”

These lines have been popularly used among Chinese people, to share their friendship, love, trust and encouragement. I was deeply inspired and encouraged by the ACDA’s vision towards the 21st century, in improving our education and communication for the new world through our music making and creation. I hope that my music could serve as a bridge, to improve understanding between people from all cultures.

Here is the text, the title of the poem, and the poet’s name in Chinese:

Chinese text

Dr. Chen Yi

Chen YiA prolific composer who blends Chinese and Western traditions transcending cultural and musical boundaries, Dr. Chen Yi was born in 1953 in Guangzhou, China. She is the Distinguished Professor at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the recipient of the prestigious Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Dr. Chen’s music is published by Theodore Presser Company. It has been commissioned and performed world wide by such ensembles as the Cleveland Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Seattle, the Pacific, the Singapore symphonies and the Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden.  It has been recorded on Bis, New Albion, New World (with a Top 10 Classical Music Album Award from NPR in 2009), Teldec (with a Grammy Award sung by Chanticleer), Albany, Naxos, and many other major labels.

Chen Yi has received bachelor and master degrees in music composition (1983 and 1986) from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree (1993) from Columbia University in the City of New York. Major composition teachers have been Profs. Wu Zu-qiang, Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2005, and was appointed Cheung Kong Scholar Visiting Professor at the CCoM by the China Ministry of Education in 2006.

(Chen is her family name, and Yi is her personal name. Chen Yi can be referred to as Dr. Chen, Prof. Chen, Ms. Chen, or Chen Yi, but not Dr. Yi, Prof. Yi, or Ms. Yi.)