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A touch of China

Echo Press photos by Celeste Beam Members of the all-female Beauty and Melody ensemble from China demonstrated their instruments and played their music for community members at a workshop that took place Tuesday at Alexandria Technical College. The 16-member group will perform at a community concert this Saturday, October 10 at Discovery Middle School from 7 to 8:30 p.m.1 / 2
One member of the Beauty and Melody ensemble demonstrated her instrument to the audience. The hulusi, which is a gourd chamber flute with free reed, is a wind instrument. It is also known as a Bilangdao - bi is the general name for wind instruments; lan means playing vertically; and dao means the materials are made of gourd.2 / 2

The captivating music of "Beauty and Melody," an all-female 16-member ensemble from China's Sichuan Province, will take audience members on a journey - from ancient Chinese dynasties to the hip and contemporary culture of today.

Their instruments, costumes, songs and personalities are designed to charm audience members with a unique performance. Having toured the world - including performing at the United Nations in 2005 - Beauty and Melody now brings its music to Alexandria.

A community workshop with Beauty and Melody took place Tuesday at Alexandria Technical College and a community concert is planned for this Saturday, October 10 at Discovery Middle School from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children 12 years of age and younger.

All tickets are available through Community Education, 1410 McKay Avenue South, Suite 201, or by calling (320) 762-3310, extension 4275.

"It's rare for small and mid-size midwestern communities to host an ensemble from China," said Bernice Wimmer, adult enrichment coordinator for Community Education. "The music and culture Beauty and Melody shares will be absolutely fascinating and so different from anything we have heard before."

According to Wimmer, Alexandria typically does not have the resources to host weeklong residencies by international ensembles like Beauty and Melody.

However, Arts Midwest, a regional arts organization based in Minneapolis, offset the cost of the ensemble and handled the coordination of Arts Midwest World Fest tours in order to offer communities this rich international arts experience, she said.

Local costs are being covered by Community Education, Alexandria Hotels and Hospitality, Diversity Resource Action Alliance, Alexandria Technical College, Red Willow Arts Coalition, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, 3M, and Hampton Inn. Other donors are being identified to help with housing, technical support and other costs. Alexandria was selected as one of only nine midwestern cities to host the 2009-2011 Arts Midwest World Fest.

Beauty and Melody's visit will be followed by three more ensembles over the course of this two-year partnership with Community Education and Arts Midwest.

The other ensembles to visit Alexandria in future residencies include Mauvais Sort of Canada, March 7-14; the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble from Israel, October 24-30; and Agatsuma, a Japanese ensemble led by shimsen player, Agatsuma, in the winter of 2011