The Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra
Founded in October 2000 by artistic director and conductor Chih-Sheng Chen, The Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra (“gCO”) has matured into an ensemble of technical and artistic proficiency. A musical force in Taiwan, it represents a new generation of Chinese orchestral music and exudes the energy and passion of its dedicated musicians with every performance. With a repertoire ranging from traditional Chinese classics to the latest contemporary compositions by Taiwanese and Chinese composers, the gCO breathes new life into an art form that holds ancient roots and is taking the world stage by storm. The gCO offers a full season at the prestigious National Concert Hall in Taiwan, presenting both the full orchestra of over 100 musicians and smaller chamber ensembles throughout the year, as well as large-scale interdisciplinary projects combining theatre and multimedia with orchestral music. Its international appearances include the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) at the 2007 Flying Circus Festival in Germany, the 2008 Hong Kong International Chinese Music Festival, the Edmonton Chinese Music Festival, and a concert in Vancouver during its 2010 debut Canada Tour. In addition, the gCO’s educational programs have introduced thousands of young audience members to Chinese music. The gCO has released three CDs and one DVD of live performances.
Chih-Sheng Chen, Music Director, Conductor
One of Taiwan’s most prominent young conductors, Chih-Sheng Chen founded the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra (gCO) in 2000 and serves as its artistic director and conductor. The orchestra strives to present Chinese music of the highest quality to a wide range of audiences; the group performs a full season at the National Concert Hall, presents educational programs throughout Taiwan, and tours internationally. From 2004 to 2008, Chen was the Associate Conductor of the Taipei Chinese Youth Orchestra and Teachers Orchestra. In 2006, he produced and conducted the featured Evergreen Symphony Orchestra concert in Taipei. To foster interest in Chinese music among young audiences and to train young musicians, Chen has designed educational programs and acted as the music director and instructor at numerous schools in Taiwan. Chen holds a master’s in conducting from Taiwan’s Fu Jen Catholic University, where he studied under Prof. Lian-Chang Kuo. He studied conducting with Ying Lee and theory with Chao-ying Huang and Shi-Pei Ding. Chen also holds a PhD from National Taiwan University’s Institute of Microbiology and Biochemistry, a fact that constantly surprises people. “Chinese music is my true calling in life,” he says.
Paul Busselberg is head of voice and choral ensembles at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas. He earned a Doctorate of Music from Rice University, a Master of Music and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music, and a bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Brigham Young University. In the Houston area, he has been heard in solo performances with the Houston Chamber Choir, Bach Society Houston, Mercury Baroque Ensemble, Houston Ballet Orchestra, Ars Lyrica, Musiqa, and Col Canto. Nationally he has performed with the Santa Fe Opera, Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Southwestern Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Baroque Ensemble, Rockford (IL) Bach Chamber Choir and Orchestra, and the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra. He is the founder and artistic director of Consono, a professional choral ensemble.
Norman Fischer has performed in 49 of the 50 states and on five continents. He was the founding cellist of the Concord String Quartet, a group that, during its 16-year career, played over 1,500 concerts, premiered 50 works, won the Naumburg Chamber Music Award, and received two Grammy nominations and an Emmy. They also recorded 40 works for RCA Red Seal, Vox, Nonesuch and CRI. Since 1971 he has also performed with pianist Jeanne Kierman as the Fischer Duo, known especially for its commissions and recordings. The Duo has premiered over 30 new scores by composers such as George Rochberg, Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Sirota, Pierre Jalbert, and Richard Wilson. They continue to perform actively throughout the United States and have twice served as Artistic Ambassadors for the US with tours to South America and South Africa. Fischer has taught at Dartmouth and Oberlin and is currently the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Cello and coordinator of chamber music at Rice University. He also holds the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation Master Teacher Chair at the Tanglewood Music Center, where he coordinates chamber music.
Recently appointed Associate Conductor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, Jerry Hou is quickly gaining recognition as a versatile and exciting young conductor. For the past two seasons, he has worked closely with the St. Louis Symphony and its music director David Robertson, including a tour to Carnegie Hall last November in an acclaimed concert performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes and a debut with the orchestra for the U.S. premiere of John Cage’s Thirty Pieces for Five Orchestras. Other debuts this past season included concerts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and Slee Sinfonietta at the June in Buffalo Festival. Previously, Hou served as cover conductor with the Rochester Philharmonic and assistant conductor for the Lincoln Center Festival. Born in Taiwan, Hou received his musical training in Chicago and Minneapolis. After earning a master’s degree from the Shepherd School of Music, he studied contemporary music performance in Europe with Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain and with Peter Eotvos and the Ensemble Modern. Hou began his formal conducting studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in England, and continued his studies in Germany, Sweden, and the Eastman School of Music.
Paul Kantor, currently the Sally Shepherd Perkins Professor of Violin at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, previously served as the Eleanor H. Biggs Distinguished Professor of Violin at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He received his BM and MM from Juilliard studying with Dorothy DeLay and Robert Mann. Kantor served as Chair of the String Department at the University of Michigan; taught at the Juilliard School, the New England Conservatory and Yale University; and presented master classes at the Starling-Delay Symposium, Indiana University, the Eastman School, the University of Southern California and the New World Symphony, among others. He continues as Artist in Residence at the Glenn Gould School of Music/ Royal Conservatory of Music since his appointment in 2008. Along with his son, violinist Timothy Kantor, he founded and directs the Gabriel Del Orbe Violin Program in the Dominican Republic. Kantor was a member of The New York and Lenox string quartets, the Berkshire Chamber Players and the National Musical Arts Chamber Ensemble in Washington, DC. His recordings can be found on Equilibrium, CRI, Delos and Mark Records. In 2014 he was honored with the Artist Teacher Award from the American String Teachers Association.
Born in Taiwan-Taichung in 1985, Chia-Ning Liang is a virtuoso on pipa, the Chinese lute. She began learning the instrument at age 10 and studied with Professor Shirong Wang. Later, she graduated with a major in pipa performance from Chinese Music Department at the National Taiwan University of Arts. From an early age, Liang showed immense talent for playing the pipa and won many competitions while studying in school. She presented numerous solo concerts and has been invited by renowned orchestras to perform pipa concertos. In 2014, she received critical acclaim for her performance in the musical drama Firmiana Rain, presented in Japan and written by contemporary composer Meiqi Chen. On stage, Liang blends her spirit with the instrument and displays her own unique style in every performance format and musical genre. Her technical prowess, paired with the vitality and charm of her stage presence, marks her among today’s most charismatic and full-range pipa performers.
Jiuan-Reng Yeh, Zhengist
Jiuan-Reng Yeh, soloist on the Chinese zither or zheng, is one of the leading musicians in the traditional music of Taiwan. She consecutively won first prize at the Taiwanese national zheng solo competition from 1996 to 1998. Her interpretations of traditional music captivate through their variability and liveliness, and she is among few interpreters in the area of new music who can also realize complex mutation and structures on her instrument. Yeh has been invited to perform at the Vienna Konzerhaus, Chamber Music Hall in the Berlin Philharmonie, the Darmstadt Institute of Music, Toronto Koerner Hall, Beijing Concert Hall, Taipei National Concert Hall, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, ACL Conference and Festival 2011 in Taiwan and 2012 in Israel, Shanghai Conservatory of Music’s New Music Week, and Beijing Modern Music Festival, among others. Having performed in France, America, Malaysia, Lithuania, Croatia, Poland, Hungarian, Czech, Korea, Japan and India, she was also a featured soloist with Vienna_Online, Nieuw Ensemble Amsterdam, National Symphony Orchestra (Taiwan Phiharmonic), Israel Beer Sheva Sinfonietta, Ensemble ISCM-Taiwan, Ansan Korean Music Orchestra, Philharmonia Moments Musicaux, Nanyin Symphony Orchestra, Chai-Found Traditional Orchestra, and The Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra.
Michael Webster is Professor of Music at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music and Artistic Director of the award-winning Houston Youth Symphony. Formerly principal clarinetist with the Rochester Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony, he has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the 92nd Street Y, the Tokyo, Cleveland, Muir, Ying, Enso, and Dover String Quartets, and many of North America’s finest festivals. Webster has performed and taught all over the United States and in Canada, Central and South America, Europe, Japan, China, New Zealand, and Australia. With his wife, flutist Leone Buyse, and pianist Robert Moeling Webster plays in the Webster Trio, represented on Crystal Records by Tour de France, and World Wide Webster. With pianist Chizuko Sawa, the Webster Trio Japan has released records on the Nami and Camerata labels. All of these discs feature Webster's trio arrangements, which, along with his original compositions, are published by International Music Company, Schott, and G. Schirmer. Webster also appears on the Albany, Arabesque, Bridge, Centaur, CRI, and New World labels. He is a member and regular contributor of The Clarinet magazine editorial staff. .