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Release: Immediate

National Traditional Orchestra of China plays in Hancher Feb. 28

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The National Traditional Orchestra of China, featuring Naumburg Cello Competition winner Hai-Ye Ni, will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus as part of the ensemble's first North American tour. The concert is part of the 1996-97 Holiday Inn World Beat Series.

A representative of the orchestra will present a pre-performance discussion at

7 p.m. in the Hancher greenroom. The discussion is open to all performance ticketholders on a first-come, first-served basis.

The varied program will include a new concerto for cello and traditional Chinese instruments by Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng, commissioned for a performance by Yo-Yo Ma with the National Traditional Orchestra of China at the ensemble's New York debut.

Ma personally selected Shanghai native Ni, the youngest winner ever in the Naumburg competition and also the winner of the top prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition, to play the piece on the orchestra's tour.

Sheng's work is not new to Hancher audiences. Several years ago Hancher commissioned a Sheng string quartet, which was performed in Hancher by Hungary's Takacs Quartet. That piece reflected the folk music he encountered while his family was in internal exile during the Cultural Revolution.

Sheng combines Chinese and Western elements in a style that has been hailed as an eloquent expression of Chinese and cross-cultural experience.

The National Traditional Orchestra of China, with conductor Hu Bingxu, is a Western-style orchestral ensemble composed of traditional Chinese instruments.

Instead of the violins, cellos, clarinets, trumpets and tympani familiar in Western orchestras, the National Traditional Orchestra of China features sections of the ehru, a bowed string instrument; the lute-like pipa; the yangqin, the Chinese version of the hammered dulcimer; and Chinese wind instruments including the bamboo-flute di, the sheng and the trumpet-like suona; as well as a variety of gongs, drums and bells.

The orchestra includes some of China's finest players on these ancient instruments, assembled by the China Central Ensemble of National Music, the nation's largest and most prestigious organization devoted to the performance of Chinese folk music.

The National Traditional Orchestra of China was founded in 1960 to preserve the richness and variety of China's ancient folk-music traditions and to serve as a way to bring this music to contemporary audiences.

The orchestra has been warmly received, not only in China and other Asian countries, but also in tours of France, Sweden and Russia.

Tickets for the National Traditional Orchestra of China are $28, $24 and $22. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for the special price of $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Further information about this event is available on Hancher's World Wide Web homepage, at <>.

Holiday Inn of Iowa City is the corporate sponsor of the 1996-97 World Beat series, through the University of Iowa Foundation.