PULLMAN, Wash. — Students from Washington State University’s School of Music and Theatre Arts will get a taste of the big time when the WSU Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers perform March 18-21 in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall Grand Lobby.

“Our School of Music and Theatre Arts is receiving a tremendous endorsement and honor through this invitation,” said Barbara Couture, dean, College of Liberal Arts.

Performances are set for 7 p.m. March 18, 12:30 p.m. March 19, 7:30 p.m. March 20 and 1:30 p.m. March 21.

The event coincides with the premiere of classical music composer Chen Yi’s Symphony No. 3, “My Musical Journey to America,” on March 18. Chen is this spring’s MUSIC ALIVE composer in residence with the Seattle Symphony and was the 2003 visiting composer at WSU’s Festival of Contemporary Art Music. Here, students performed several selections of Chen’s traditional Chinese folk songs.

“The songs are performed in Chinese,” said Lori Wiest, director of choral activities at WSU, “which adds another layer of difficulty to these beautifully simple yet intricate songs. We’ve been very diligent to learn not only the selections but also the dialect and phrasing of the language and the meaning of the songs.”

Christopher Wang, a junior studying music and a member of both Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers, has been the language coach for the ensembles.  “It is fun to serve as the bridge between the language and the music as we prepare for the performances,” he said.  “I have had the unique experience of bringing my understanding of Chinese to each of these ensembles, helping them to pronounce the language, and to be in direct communication with the composer, Chen Yi.” 

Wang has stayed in contact with Chen and her composer husband since the 2003 Festival of Contemporary Art Music, Weist said. When there are questions about various sounds to recreate the music, Wang contacted Chen directly for a verbal explanation of what she had in mind when she composed the pieces. “That type of connection between the performers and the composer is a very special and unique,” Weist said. 

Chen is anxious to work with the WSU ensembles again, Wang said. “Having the opportunity to work with her in Seattle and share her vocal music with our Seattle audience will be very exciting.”

The Madrigal Singers will be performing eight of Chen’s Chinese folksongs, including “Fengyang Song,” “Mayila,” “Jasmine Flower,” and “Riding On a Mule.”  The Concert Choir will perform “Know You How Many Petals Falling?” dedicated to the New York firefighters who sacrificed themselves to protect thousands of citizens during the Sept. 11 tragedy, and “Xuan,” based on the text taken from the book “Dao De Jing,” written by Lao Zi in the Zhou Dynasty of the 6th century B.C.