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Mekong: Soul, a Blood Moon Orchestra performance!

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Asian Premier Magazine (APM) team came to support the Blood Moon Orchestra at the Saigon Center, in Westminster, Ca.

At the event, Vietnamese Emmy Award-winning composer, traditional multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and educator Van-Anh Vo, with the Blood Moon Orchestra and the Cambodian Royal Ballet Master Charya Burt, performed “Mekong: LIFE,” a musical composition developed in collaboration with scientists, including Princeton Professor Simon A. Levin.  Like the Mississippi and the Thames, the Mekong is also a muse. The river is the wellspring of “Mekong: SOUL,” a new collaboration between Van-Anh and Houston’s Apollo Chamber Players. Divided into three sections, the piece also employs dance and spoken words to flesh out its portrait of this culturally rich region.

“We really hope that ‘Mekong: SOUL’ helps connect us, the Southeast Asian artists and culture, with Apollo, the American string quartet, in terms of sound, in terms of soul, in terms of feeling, of stories. We will move together and hopefully use this project to connect to a wider audience in multiple different directions,” said Van Anh.

Right from the beginning, we were captivated by Van-Anh’s stunning and passionate performance. Her music, steadily captivating, mesmerizing in nature, and the stringed instrument notes, pliable, can express a range of emotions in a single flickering note.  We were so impressed with Van Anh ability to intertwine tales through her song which to us rekindle a walk in the clouds, or a mystic fable. We saw Van Anh stretch notes on the Dan Bau mimicking the slide guitar when she was blending her music with the American Jazz. Van Anh derives an intense connection between her traditional Vietnamese music style and Jazz.

We were full of admiration for Van Anh dramatic interest, rare instruments and playing techniques coupled with stellar musicianship, eager visual interest and a predominant stage presence, all blend in to produce a transcendent work of art. Van Anh’s exquisite costume made her appearance vibrate and riveting. Her theatrical stage presence, all accentuated her spectacular contribution to Vietnamese musical culture. Van Anh’s energy and zeal for musical ingenuity seems to surpass any instrument and instead feed off an underlying auditory inquisitiveness, as well as a desire to reflect on her cultural heritage. Her desire to quench your inquisitive musical thirst is palpable and contagious, you just can’t help but adore her fervor.

An Award-Winning Bio

Van-Anh Vo is an award-winning composer and expert instrumentalist, whose music blends the unique sounds of Vietnamese traditional instruments with other musical genres. She has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and the Oakland Symphony and has presented her music at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Lincoln Center. She co-composed music for the Academy Award–nominated “Daughter from Danang” and the Emmy Award-winning soundtrack for “Bolinao 52”. Her latest CD, “Three-Mountain Pass,” was selected as one of NPR’s Best 10 World Music CDs of 2013. She has received the Artist Laureate Award from Silicon Valley Creates for her dedication to serving communities through the arts.

A fearless musical explorer, Van-Anh is an award-winning performer of the đàn tranh and an Emmy Award-winning composer who has collaborated with Kronos Quartet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and Yo-Yo Ma. In addition to her mastery of the đàn tranh, she also uses the đàn bầu, đàn trung, traditional drums and many other instruments to create music that blends the wonderfully unique sounds of Vietnamese instruments with other genres, and fuses deeply rooted Vietnamese musical traditions with fresh new structures and compositions.

Coming from a family of musicians and beginning to study đàn tranh from the age of four, Van-Anh graduated with distinction from the Vietnamese Academy of Music, where she later taught. In 1995, Van-Anh won the championship title in the Vietnam National Đàn Tranh Competition, along with the first prize for best solo performance of modern folk music. In Hanoi, Van-Anh was an ensemble member of Vietnam National Music Theatre as well as a member of the traditional music group Đồng Nội Ensemble, which she founded and directed. She has since performed in more than fourteen countries and recorded many broadcast programs in and outside of Vietnam.

Since settling in San Francisco’s Bay Area in 2001, Van-Anh has collaborated with musicians across different music genres to create new works, bringing Vietnamese traditional music to a wider audience. She has presented her music at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center (2012, 2014, 2016), Lincoln Center, NPR, Houston Grand Opera, Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center, UK WOMAD Festival, and London Olympic Games 2012 Music Festival.  Van-Anh has been a composer, collaborator and guest soloist with Kronos Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Southwest Chamber Music, Oakland Symphony, Monterey Symphony, Golden State Symphony, Apollo Chamber Players, Flyaway Productions for aerial dance works, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, jazz and rap artists, and other World Music artists.

Additionally, she co-composed and arranged the Oscar® nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner for Best Documentary, Daughter from Danang (2002), the Emmy® Award winning film and soundtrack for Bolinao 52 (2008), and “Best Documentary” and “Audience Favorite” winner, A Village Called Versailles (2009).

Under President Obama’s administration, Van-Anh was the first Vietnamese artist to perform at the White House and received the Artist Laureate Award for her community contributions through the arts.

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