Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Photos and Video: Telly Leung, Yumi Kurosawa, Lei Pasifika, Soh Daiko perform at The Met’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration

Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Lei Pasifika of Lotus Music & Dance perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Donna Williams, the Metropolitan Museum’s Chief Audience Development Officer, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Donna Williams, the Metropolitan Museum’s Chief Audience Development Officer, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

A very enthusiastic and diverse audience filled the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on May 22, 2015 for the Museum’s celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Part of MetFridays: New York’s Night Out and presented by The Multicultural Audience Development Initiative of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the spirited evening of performances began with a series of traditional ancient hula and Tahitian dances by Lei Pasifika of Lotus Music & Dance, a performance group focused on sharing the music and dances of the Pacific Islands, mainly Tahiti & Hawaii.

Click below for excerpts of performances from the night.

Yumi Kurosawa, who was born in Iwate, Japan, and began her studies of Koto at the age of three,  performed “Sakura” and two original songs, “Rapture” and “Inner Space”. Ms. Kurosawa is a 13-string & 20-string Koto player, as well as a composer, improviser, and computer sound artist. Her talents span traditional to avant-garde music styles.

Yumi Kurosawa performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Yumi Kurosawa performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Ms. Kurosawa is a recipient of multiple awards including first prize at the Japanese National Koto Competition in 1989 and 1992 and a scholarship from the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan in 1998. That same year, she performed with the Prague Cello Ensemble at Suntory Hall in Tokyo and was featured in the NHK produced GENJI MONOGATARI WAKANA as principal soloist, playing Koto amongst an all western string ensemble.

Since her arrival to New York City in 2002, Ms. Kurosawa has worked within the traditional Japanese and contemporary classical music genre but also collaborates with a range of artists including a multitude of musicians, dancers and visual designers. The innovative approach in her original compositions is without boundaries, seamlessly blending her traditional training with elements of modern Jazz and electronica.

Yumi Kurosawa performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Yumi Kurosawa performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Ms. Kurosawa made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2006 at Weill Recital Hall. In 2011 she was principal soloist in Daron Hagen’s KOTO CONCERTO GENJI which premiered in New York City, US with the Lark String Quartet and in Stratford-upon-Avon, England with the Orchestra of the Swan. The piece continues to be performed by string quartets Voxare, Arianna and Lark String Quartet. In 2013, Ms. Kurosawa was principal soloist for the premier of THE MEMORY STONE music by Marty Regan at the Houston Grand Opera. She composed music for Mozawa’s FALLEN and acted as co-composer and featured performer was premiered in Chicago, 2014. Also she was principal soloist in Koto Concerto GENJI with Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and conductor Naoto Otomo on May 17th and 18th, 2014.

Yumi Kurosawa performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Yumi Kurosawa performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

In June, Ms. Kurosawa will premiere Tsuru at the Asia Society Texas, in collaboration with the Houston Ballet. Inspired by Japan’s popular The Crane Wife folktale, Tsuru weaves traditional ballet and soundscape with new movement and music, creating a graceful and elegant retelling of the beautiful story. Featuring music works by Ms. Kurosawa (including electro) and Bach, she will also be performing live. Tsuru is a world premiere production, co-conceived by Houston dancer Nao Kusuzaki. Then she is off to Japan for a month of concerts. Click here for more information.

Yumi Kurosawa performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Yumi Kurosawa performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Ms. Kurosawa has toured extensively throughout Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Germany, Canada and the US and has received praise for her performances in the New York Times and Washington Post. She continues to perform in local New York City venues such as Joe’s Pub, the Highline Ballroom and the Blue Note. Her first album “Beginning of a Journey” was released in 2009. She holds a BA in International Relations and is a member of the Computer Music Lab at Keio University, Tokyo. www.yumikuro.com

Telly Leung performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Telly Leung performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Glee‘s Telly Leung opened his set with “New York State of Mind, ” accompanied by musical director Gary Adler on the keys. Leung referenced the Chairman Mao section of China Through the Looking Glass, the new costume exhibition currently on view at The Met, to share the history of his parents’ birthplace and how he came to be a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn.

"China: Through the Looking Glass," on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Lia Chang

“China: Through the Looking Glass,” on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Lia Chang

Telly Leung performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Telly Leung performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

“In the exhibition, there were some Mao suits, and there was some video footage from the 1960’s, and that’s where my parents grew up actually, they grew up at the height of the cultural revolution.

Photos: Inside “China: Through the Looking Glass” at The Met with Wong Kar-Wai, Vivienne Tam, Wendi Murdoch, Anna Wintour and More

My parents were 10 or 11 when the cultural revolution happened. Mao was taking the kids out of the schools and putting them to work in the farms. My parents, even at that very young age realized that there wasn’t any opportunity for them in Communist China. So they did what a lot of young people did at the time. They grew up in Canton, China, which is the south of China. Just across the water, they could see Hong Kong, which was a British Commonwealth at the time. So they did what a lot of Chinese kids did at the time, they jumped in the water and swam to Hong Kong. Now that’s a seven hour swim, from Communist China to Hong Kong. I can’t swim seven laps in the pool without getting winded.

Telly Leung performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Telly Leung performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

They didn’t swim together. They didn’t meet until they got to Hong Kong. My mom always tells me the story of how she went to the riverbank with several of her friends. She’s actually never heard from or seen her friends ever since. She kept chocolate in her pocket; that’s what gave her the sugar and the energy to keep going.

My dad tried to swim, and he was caught the first time by the Communists, bullets in the water and everything, to get out of the water. He was sent to be punished in a reeducation camp in the farms, to do manual labor. But my dad being my dad, he tried again and he made it the second time. When he got to Hong Kong, he changed his name to Loy Sang which in Cantonese actually translates to ‘born again’.

My parents both actually met at a travel agency in Hong Kong. They started to get to know each other, find out all the things that they had in common.

‘Oh, you’re cute.’
‘I think you’re cute.’
‘You like wonton soup.’
‘I like wonton soup.’
‘Oh, you swam seven hours to freedom.’
‘I swam seven hours to freedom.’

Telly Leung with his parents at the opening party of Flower Drum Song at the Marriott Marquis in New York in October, 2002. Photo by Lia Chang

Telly Leung with his parents at the opening party of Flower Drum Song at the Marriott Marquis in New York in October, 2002. Photo by Lia Chang

They knew that they had one more thing in common, that when they decided to get married and have a kid, they decided that kid was going to be born in America. They wanted that kid to have all the opportunities they did not have in Communist China.

So they came here, $200 in their pocket, they crashed with friends in Chinatown and slept on couches. They had to learn English very quickly. They went to night school. But to supplement their English education, what they did was they watched a lot of American television in the 70’s, which is why I’m actually named Telly, after Telly Savalas, the television star of “Kojak”.

My dad learned English by listening to a lot of popular American music and he had an incredible LP collection from the 70’s and early 80’s. This is like KC and the Sunshine Band and Saturday Night Fever and Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles.

The next two songs are straight out of my dad’s LP collection, which I’ve now inherited. They always remind me of my parent’s unique journey to America.”

Telly Leung performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Telly Leung performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Leung sang “The Water is Wide/Bridge over Troubled Water” from his debut album, {i’ll cover you}, released on The Yellow Sound Label in 2012.

This fall, the veteran Broadway performer will be co-starring alongside Star Trek‘s George Takei and Tony-award winner Lea Salonga in the new musical Allegiance, set to begin previews on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on October 6, 2015. Leung ended his set with “Second Chances,” a now cut song from Allegiance.

telly leung, george takei,lea salonga

Telly Leung’s Broadway and national touring credits include Flower Drum Song, Pacific Overtures, Wicked (Boq, original Chicago company), RENT (final Broadway company) and Godspell. Off-Broadway, he was featured in Manhattan Theatre Club’s The World of Extreme Happiness. Regionally, some of his favorite roles include Sammy in the world-premiere of Allegiance (the Old Globe, with George Takei and Lea Salonga), Song in M. Butterfly (Philadelphia Theater Company), Angel in RENT at the Hollywood Bowl (directed by Neil Patrick Harris), Harold Bride in Titanic (The Muny), Teen Angel in Grease (Paper Mill Playhouse), Simon in Jesus Christ Superstar (Sacramento Music Circus) and Thuy in Miss Saigon (Pittsburgh CLO).

Telly Leung with his musical director Gary Adler at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 3015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Photo by Lia Chang

Telly Leung with his musical director Gary Adler at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 3015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Photo by Lia Chang

Television audiences will recognize his work on Fox’s “Glee” (Wes, the Warbler), “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” and Hulu’s “Deadbeat”. He has performed all over the world at venues like Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, the London Hippodrome, New York’s 54 Below, San Francisco’s Feinstein’s at the Nikko and the Hollywood Bowl.  Leung holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University, and has taught as an adjunct professor at NYU’s New Studio on Broadway. Leung can also be seen coaching the next generation of Broadway performers on the PBS documentary, “Broadway or Bust”. Producing credits include “GRIND” (a musical short film starring Anthony Rapp and Claire Coffee) and “Seasons of Broadway” (a concert series that celebrates the diversity of the Great White Way). Please check out his website at www.tellyleung.com and follow him on twitter @tellyleung.

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

The powerful taiko drumming of Soh Daiko shook the floorboards of the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, ending the evening’s festivities.

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Soh Daiko was formed in 1979 at the New York Buddhist Church as the first taiko group on the east coast, taking as its name the ancient, pre-Buddhist characters meaning “peaceful, harmonious drums.” The name reflects the spirit of dedication and cooperation which enabled the group to flourish from its beginnings.

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Operating as a collective, the group received early instruction from many visiting American and Japanese taiko players, and has worked with Sensei Seiichi Tanaka of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, taiko player and jazz musician Russel Baba, Reverend Ron Miyamura of the Chicago Taiko Group, Reverend Masao Kodani of Kinnara Taiko in Los Angeles, the Tachibana Dance Group of the New York Buddhist Church, and Kodo, the world-renowned taiko group from Sado Island, Japan.

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Soh Daiko performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month on May 22, 2015 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Soh Daiko’s varied repertoire includes traditional compositions from the Shinto music tradition, pieces adapted from existing taiko compositions and original compositions/arrangements by members of Soh Daiko. In addition to drums, the group uses instruments such as the bamboo flute, brass bells, conch shells, gongs, African shekere, and Tahitian toere (wooden slit drum). Much more than mere percussion, Soh Daiko’s presentation also features the visual element of movement and choreography, requiring physical strength, endurance and energy, that makes taiko such an exciting performance experience.

Multimedia: Ambassador Attalah Shabazz, Tomie Arai, Jamal Joseph, Janice Robinson, Soh Daiko, Taiyo Na and More Celebrate the Life of Yuri Kochiyama in New York 

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington and Roscoe Orman. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

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Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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