Forest Parkers will be able to welcome the Chinese Zodiac’s Year of the Snake with the sounds of classical and contemporary Chinese music at the Forest Park Public Library, 7555 Jackson Blvd. on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.
Multi-instrumentalist Kerry Leung will perform on six different traditional instruments: the pipa grand lute, the moon guitar, the erhu two-string fiddle, the liuqin Chinese mandolin, the bamboo flute and the xiao vertical flute.
“I’ll explain the instrument and the music involved in the Chinese culture,” Leung said. Some of the instruments, such as the vertical flute, have been used in Chinese music for more than 7,000 years, he said.
Leung will play pieces written for the New Year and for the traditional spring festival. “Some of the melodies are 2,000 years old from the Han Dynasty,” he said.
Selections honor the moon, including Moonlight over the Spring River Moon and Moon over the Calm West Lake.
Some zodiac years have more importance than others, Leung said. “There are songs for the Year of the Tiger and the Year of the Dragon, but I don’t know any for the Year of the Snake,” he joked.
Although he reads music, Lueng said the pieces are “all in my head, more than 1,000 pieces of music.”
A musician since the age of 12 when he lived in Guangzhou, Leung has performed at Ravinia with the Bamboo and Silk Ensemble as well as at the Field Museum and with pianist Yin Cheng Zhong at the Peoria Symphony.
He also performs at the Garfield Park Conservatory and Bloomingdales this month.
“Basically I do live performances at weddings and for Chinese background music.”
A Chicagoan since the early 1980s, Leung lives in Bridgeport where he has a luthier’s woodshop in his garage.
“I will give an April string workshop at the new Chicago Chinese American Museum in Chinatown [Chicago] and I’ll bring a dozen pipas. People can even buy them from me.”
He experiments with his instruments. “Last year,” he said, “I made an electric moon guitar, which I pluck with a two-channel amplifier.”
He won’t be bringing that to the library, though.
“The festival is the sign of spring’s arrival after the hardship of winter. These are cheerful pieces to show that spring is finally come and celebrate the spring festival,” Lueng said.