Posted December 13, 2023

From China to Appalachia to grace Piedmont Arts galleries with workshops and a concert

Piedmont Arts’ first event of the new year will be a unique concert with a live painting demonstration. From China to Appalachia, a traditional Appalachian and Chinese folk music trio, will perform in the galleries on Saturday, Jan. 13. There will be a reception before the concert at 6:30 p.m. and the concert will start at 7. Tickets are on sale for $20 for general admission and $10 for students at the museum and on The first act will be comprised of the band’s original and beautiful folk arrangements and the second act will feature an improvised piece of music to accompany a live painting demonstration by Z.L. Feng, a Chinese-born and Virginia-based watercolor painter whose works are currently on display in the Piedmont Arts galleries.

GRAMMY Award-winning American roots artists Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer join with Chinese classical hammered dulcimer player Chao Tian in a show that combines music from China to Appalachia and beyond. Instrumentation includes yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer), gourd banjo, five-string banjo, ukulele, guitars, dumbek, cello-banjo and mandolin.

The group’s repertoire includes traditional Chinese and Appalachian music as well as contemporary and traditional music from around the world. Unusual combinations explore new arrangements to old music, such as “Dark Eyes.” Ukulele, yangqin and guitar create a new pallet for this Russian folk song turned jazz manouche tune. Cathy and Marcy join Chao in singing a Chinese lullaby, “Nani Wan” and Chao easily adds her love of American old-time music to fiddle tunes and songs. From China to Appalachia was borne of a friendship and mutual love of musical exploration experienced in jam sessions that inspired a show speaking to the power of music to connect cultures.

In addition to their performance at Piedmont Arts, From China to Appalachia will be in residency at Piedmont Arts on Friday, Jan. 12, teaching workshops for local high school students. Part workshop, part masterclass, the school programs will give a brief introduction to the instruments the band uses and their backgrounds. The band will demonstrate their musical traditions separately and then come back together to show how they fuse their eclectic instruments and ideas for both arranged and improvised music.

Z.L. Feng, the artist who will be featured in the musical program, currently has an exhibit up at Piedmont Arts. Feng grew up in Shanghai, China, where he began painting at age seven. Before coming to the U.S. in 1986, he received his BFA from Shanghai Teacher’s University. He completed an MFA at Radford University in 1989 and went on to teach there for more than 30 years. Feng's watercolors and illustrations have been exhibited in juried shows around the world. An artist-signature member of the American Watercolor Society, the National Watercolor Society and the Pastel Society of America, Feng has won more than 200 national and international awards and has been recognized at numerous watercolor exhibitions. The exhibit will close following the performance on Jan. 13, so the concert will be the last chance to see his ethereal watercolor landscapes in the Piedmont Arts galleries.

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