Chinese composer Chen Qian wrote Come, Drink One More Cup in 2007 on a commission from Thomas Verrier and the Vanderbilt Wind Symphony. It is essentially a fantasy for wind band based on a Chinese folk song. I first ran across it at the Hartt School of Music Conducting Workshop this summer, where I worked with Michael Haithcock, who had conducted the piece with the University of Michigan Symphony Band on their China tour. The score comes with the following program note (I’ve added some links here and there):
Inspired by the famous poem by the well-known Tang poet and musician, Wang-Wei, this song has many different versions. The main theme is from “Parting at the Yang-guan Gate” by Zhang-He of the Qin Dynasty (1867). Wang-Wei wrote the poem when he said goodbye to his friend to serve in the army at Weicheng, a small town in Yangguan neighboring the border. The poem expresses sadness, loneliness, and deep sorrow because the may never see each other again.
The morning rain at Weicheng dampens the light dust,
All the houses and willows look fresh after the rain.
Come, drink one more cup of wine before you leave
After you go west to Yangguan, there will be no more friends.
The poem is traditionally sung with music accompaniment played on the guqin (pronounced ku-shin). The guqin is a plucked seven-string instrument that has been played since ancient times. Understanding and appreciating the sound of the guqin and the style of guqin music is vital to the correct performance of this piece.
The Vanderbilt Wind Symphony plays Come Drink One More Cup, with all of the composer’s performance notes in mind:
In the interest of both appreciating the guqin and hearing the folk song in its original setting, here’s a video you’ll enjoy:
This site contains extensive analysis of this tune and others, and is especially interesting for its different translation of the Wang-Wei poem.
Chen Qian is mentioned all over the Internet: he has a relationship with the music department at Vanderbilt University, whose wind symphony commissioned this piece; there is a CD of his band music from 2004 (before Come, Drink… was written); but has no website of his own. In fact a Google search for “Chen Qian Composer” lists this page as the first result! The composer’s biography reads thusly (from the Kjos website):
Born in Guiyang, China, began violin lessons with his father at the age of three and started playing piano at the age of four. At seventeen, he worked as a pianist for the City Song and Dance Ensemble of Guiyang. In 1981, he was recruited by the composition department of Sichuan Conservatory of Music and became a student of Professor Huwei Huang. Currently, he is resident composer for the Military Band of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. His range of works cover symphonic music, chamber music, music for television and film. He is recognized for the advancement of wind instrument composition, developing new techniques to make wind instruments more expressive. Among his works are Symphonies No. 1, No. 2, No.3, and No. 4 for the wind band; “Fissure” Double Concerto for trumpet and symphony band; “Crazy man” Concerto for Flute and Wood band; “Exploits,” a symphonic overture for the wind band; and a large number of other pieces for the jazz Big Band. His works have been performed in the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. In 1997, he was honored with a concert of all wind music at the Beijing Concert Hall, which was the first of its kind in China, He believes that New Concepts and new techniques will lead to the creating of a style that will bring together modern music and the ancient civilization.