SASO Presents a Chinese New Year Celebration with the Tucson Sino Choir

TUCSON, AZ – The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra will present four concerts  with the Tucson Sino Choir to celebrate the 2018 Chinese Lunar New Year, the Year of the Dog. The program features ethereal selections on traditional instruments, including Jing Xia on the guzheng, a Chinese zither, and Fangyuan Liu on the erhu, a two-stringed Chinese violin. The program also features soprano Hua Xu and tenor Xuanshu Jiang, both voice professors at Wuhan Conservatory of Music in Hubei, China.

Linus Lerner conducts the orchestra and Larry Lang prepares the choir. Born in Beijing, Lang is a director of the Center for Chinese Music at the Fred Fox School of Music at the University of Arizona. He first played with SASO in 2009, performing the violin solo for “The Butterfly Lovers,” composed by He and Chen. Lang then traveled with SASO on its first tour of China performing this cultural favorite.

SASO has a longtime connection to China and its music. Lerner guest conducted several orchestras in China before receiving an invitation to tour with SASO. The musicians returned for another tour three years later. SASO also participated in a previous Tucson Chinese Cultural Center celebration.

Guzheng soloist Xia joins SASO to perform The Tale of Rainbow Clouds by Yuguo Zhou and erhu soloist Liu plays the Great Wall Capriccio by Wenjin Liu. Choir and orchestra selections include Overture to the Ode to the Red Flag by Qiming Lyu, and symphonic suite Dream of the Red Chamber by Liping Wang and Larry Lang, with the tenor and soprano soloists.

Xia is a graduate of the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing. The award-winning artist has performed throughout Asia, Europe and America and now teaches guzheng at the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona.

Liu also graduated from Central Conservatory of Music of Beijing in erhu performance and received her master of music in ethnomusicology from the UA. She now teaches erhu at the Confucius Institute.

Vocalists Xu and Jiang are sought-after soloists in China and abroad. Xu recently released her first recital CD and DVD in China and has published books and articles about the Chinese style of singing. In addition to his Chinese training, Jiang studied chamber music and opera at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory of Music in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He’s published books and articles on Russian vocal music.

Established a decade ago, the Tucson Sino Choir is an ensemble of 40 voices recruited from thousands of Chinese American residents in Tucson and surrounding communities.

The performance schedule is:

  • 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Crowder Hall, 1017 N. Olive Rd. on the UA campus. This free concert is sponsored by the Confucius Institute of UA
  • 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Dr. in SaddleBrooke. Tickets are $24 in advance or $25 at the door. They can be purchased online at or by calling (520) 825-2818.
  • 28 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson. Tickets are $23 and can be purchased at, by calling (520) 308-6226 or at the door. Students age 17 and younger can reserve complimentary tickets.
  • 11 at 2 p.m. at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. on the UA campus. Tickets are $18 and $15 and can be purchased in advance or at the door. For this performance the erhu soloist is Dan Guo, the new erhu teacher at the UA Chinese Music Center, who will perform Love from Qiao’s Grand Courtyard Suite by Jiping Zhao. The program will also include Fading Affection from the same suite.

With SASO you can expect the unexpected. Music Director Lerner challenged himself to not repeat any major work in his first decade of programming for SASO. He has conducted SASO musicians both here and abroad, including the China tours, one tour of his native Brazil and several opera festivals in Mexico – three in Oaxaca and two in San Luis Potosí. Lerner completed a doctor of music degree at the UA.

The SASO season continues with two more concerts:

  • March 10 and 11 – Don’t miss Electric Guitar Concerto No. 2 written and performed by Tucsonan Pete Fine. His first concerto premiered in 1999. This concert also features SASO’s favorite soprano Christi Amonson, performing Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Poulenc’s Gloria with the SASO Chorus, plus winners of SASO’s annual Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition.
  • April 14 and 15 – TSO concertmaster Lauren Roth joins SASO to perform Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Also on the program are Theofanides’ Rainbow Body and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances.

Philanthropist and musician Dorothy Dyer Vanek is SASO’s season sponsor for the 11th consecutive year. Vanek also underwrote both of SASO’s CDs – “Celebration!” which features the music of Tucson composers – and the well-reviewed premiere recordings of two viola concertos with soloist Brett Deubner on the Naxos label.

SASO is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music. Founded in 1979, this orchestra presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. For more information call (520) 308-6226 or visit

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SASO’s Story

Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.