- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 20, 2001

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, an arts program 25 years in the making, comes to the District today along with a trio of new compositions.

What was to have been the project's American debut takes place at 5 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and is sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society.

The first of more than a dozen Silk Road festivals began Aug. 19 at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany. The schedule for American performances changed after the terrorist attacks in the United States, and mounting complications over international travel and security postponed performances in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan scheduled Oct. 6 through 10. As a result of those cancellations, two concerts were added in the United States in Dallas on Oct. 11 and in Atlanta on Oct. 14.

The project features Eastern music seen through the lens of Western classical music and combines ancient musical practices with contemporary composers and instruments.

Silk Road, which refers to historic trade routes between East Asia and the Mediterranean, blossomed out of Mr. Ma's 25 years as a traveling performer. It explores how international styles of art, technology and music cross conventional borders.

Today's program offers three original pieces enlivened by world instruments. "Legend of Herlen" showcases the Mongolian morin khurr, a two-stringed fiddle. "Moon Over Guan Mountains" includes the cello and the sheng, or mouth organ. "Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur" blends traditional string instruments with Iranian melodies and a bamboo flute called a ney.

As part of the project, conductor-composer Bright Sheng will serve as the WPAS' first composer-in-residence for the 2001-02 season. The WPAS is one of 14 organizations worldwide participating in Mr. Ma's artistic vision.

The project is but part of a worldwide series of arts programs under the Silk Road Project umbrella, including performances with New York City's Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which will close out Silk Road's 2001-02 festival season.

Tickets for today's performance, the first of 11 WPAS pieces associated with the Silk Road Project, cost $30 to $85 and may be purchased by calling 202/467-4600. For more information, visit www.wpas.org

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