Lunchtime Concerts at Symphony Hall with (Silk Breeze) Cheng Yu & Dennis Kwong Thye Lee

Following on from an amazing Refugee Week Festival, we have more amazing musicians to bring you over the Summer months. Experience music from different parts of the world as part of our ongoing Lunchtime Concerts series, in partnership with B:Music at Symphony Hall.

This month’s instalment brings two best-known Chinese string instruments with a history stretching back over 2000 years. 

Thursday 18th July – 1pm

FREE Tickets Event

Silk Breeze

“Silk” represents strings and “breeze” for wind, as instruments in ancientnull China (strings were made of silk and flutes made of bamboo). The guqin zither and pipa lute are the two best-known Chinese string instruments with a history stretching back to over 2000 years. Both the guqin and pipa are closely linked with literati and elites’ self-cultivation together with Chinese chess, calligraphy and ink-brush painting. Cheng Yu – a renowned guqin and pipa virtuoso and ethnomusicologist – returns to Birmingham with the classic Chinese Duo, guqin/pipa and her long-term music partner, wind player Dennis Lee on xiao/di flutes. Today they will present a unique concert with duet and solo pieces of various styles and periods.  

Cheng Yu

Cheng Yu is an internationally renowned pipa and guqin virtuoso and Ethnomusicologist.  Formerly a pipa soloist with China’s National Orchestra and classically trained in both China’s Xian Conservatory and at SOAS, University of London for her MMus and PhD.  A recipient of grants from Arts Council England (4 times), Women in Music and more. Her Silk String Quartet won the PRS Awards for New Music Groups in 2007.  She has performed with pianist Lang Lang, cellist Matthew Barley and violinist Nigel Kennedy, and worked with composers including Tan Dun, Peter Wiegold, and Gabriel Prokofiev. She was featured on BBC Radio 4's Woman’s Hour and BBC Radio 3 for her creative works.  Cheng Yu has performed with orchestras including the London Sinfonietta, Lyon Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain, Avignon Orchestra, the Edinburgh String Quartet, the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra and recently the Third Orchestra ( Barbican 2019 and 2022).  Since 2020 she was one of the 8 artists invited by WOMAD to feature a new Immersive 360°Sound online live-streamed concert and will retune to play in WOMAD 2022 Festival in July 2022.  She featured in Chinese Arts Now Festivals’ Two Temple places (Digital AV, 2021) project that won Arts Council England’s Digital Culture Awards.  Cheng Yu is based in London and teaches the pipa and guqin at SOAS, University of London. 

Dennis Lee

Dennis was born in Malaysia and has been playing various traditional Chinese instruments since his early teens. He began his musical career as the principal xiao flute soloist at the Zhuan Yi Chinese Orchestra. Now based in London, Lee specialises in both traditional and crossover pieces on the xiao flute, and performs classical duets with the guqin in the “scholarly music” style. He is a member of the London Youlan Qin Society and performs regularly with the UK Chinese Music Ensemble.  He has performed professionally for over 30 years at venues including the British Museum, the V&A Museum and the Royal Opera House.

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Supported by Arts Council England & Foyle Foundation.