On Friday, February 26, as part of the 2020-2021 Sewanee Performing Arts Series, Wu Fei, a Nashville-based composer and guzheng artist, performed for the Lunar New Year. All students, faculty, and staff were invited to attend via Zoom. The event was jointly hosted by the Asian Studies department, Campus Activities, the Asian House, and the Office of Global Citizenship.
Beginning with an introduction and explanation of the concert, Scott Wilson, Director of the Office of Global Citizenship, welcomed guests from both the Sewanee community and some of Wu Fei’s international community.
Participants were directed to a pre-recorded video produced for West Vaughn University on Vimeo. After the presentation, participants were invited back to the Zoom meeting to discuss the concert, ask questions, and learn more about the unique traditions of the festival.
“I am extremely excited to get to share my work and this festival with you,” Fei said. The event featured her personal experience with the festival. It also helped connect those who have not had the opportunity to participate in it in person to the sights, sounds, and feelings that are derived from the celebration.
While a part of a series, this celebration is based on the traditional Chinese folklore metaphor of the moon.
“When the bright moon rises above the sea, we are connected. We are all looking at the same thing.” Fei said, “I wanted to send out this message to the world.”
Some of her favorite memories of previous Lantern Festivals have been the treasured times as a child gathering with her family.
“We used to have real fires inside the paper lanterns. It was a time we all got to get together as a family and to eat and be in community. It was our own party for fifteen days straight.”
Like so many others, she took the opportunity quarantine created to come up with new ways to share her stories and art. Fei began filming her performances and sharing with those dearest to her, which allowed her to realize the newfound incredible ability to access more people across many cultures with a greater ease. Eventually, she began a concert series on YouTube to share her work with as many as possible.
Additionally, as a Nashville resident, Fei notes that through her music, she was “able to be a source of connection during the recent chaos.” Not only does her art bind generations to generations, it creates the string used to tie together cultures and communities.
This also creates an interesting musical collision for her work. Fei often collaborates with musicians across many genres to produce interesting and completely unique pieces with hints of Chinese Guzheng, her traditional style, and even some Country and American pop.
“The music binds us.” Fei said, “By introducing many styles into one, I am literally bridging the cross-cultural gap.”
Fei longs for the day her own children may be able to take part in the celebration, basing their childhood memories on community.