LEWISTON – Within a span of four days, Bates College will present two of Asia’s great performance traditions: Indonesian gamelan music and Beijing opera.

Drummer Undang Sumarna and dancer Ben Arcangel, representing performance traditions of West Java’s Sundanese people, will join the Bates gamelan orchestra in concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 23.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, March 26, a Chinese opera troupe and a professor of Chinese from Vassar College will offer two operas of the classical Beijing school.

Sponsored by the Freeman Foundation Undergraduate Asian Studies Initiative, both performances are open to the public at no charge and will take place in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St. For more information call (207) 786-6135.

The annual spring concert of the Bates Gamelan Mawar Mekar (“blossom of inspiration”) caps a 10-day residency for Sumarna and a five-day stay for Arcangel. The artists will work with students in the course “Music in World Cultures,” taught by assistant professor Gina Fatone, who directs the percussion-based gamelan ensemble.

In sessions with Sumarna, students will learn to play gamelan instruments. During the second half of Sumarna’s residency, he and Arcangel will demonstrate the symbiotic relationships between drumming and dance in Sundanese tradition.

The March 26 Beijing opera performance features nine classically trained players along with Wenwei Du, associate professor of Chinese at Vassar and a specialist in Sino-Western comparative drama.

With Du offering explanations and aesthetic interpretation, the operas are “Picking up the Jade Bracelet,” a romantic comedy; and “Night Fight at Crossroads Inn,” centered on stylized, acrobatic combat between two characters.

A synthesis of centuries’ worth of regional traditions, the school of Beijing opera combines singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing, all set to the music of a small ensemble of wind, string and percussion instruments.

The Bates gamelan orchestra is now in its fifth year. The gamelan is the traditional orchestra of Java and Bali most familiar to the rest of the world.

Its gongs, drums and xylophones are played according to systems of pitch and timing very different from typical Western music.

Sumarna began studying gamelan as a child and has been known for his dance drumming since age 14.

In 1974, he came to the United States, and is now an artist in residence and lecturer in music at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Benjamin Arcangel is a graduate student at the University of Hawaii.

He was recently selected Outstanding Performer at the 10th National American College Dance Festival held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The award, presented by Dance Magazine, represents the highest honor among college and university dance students.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.