concert reviews

Twelve Girls Band at Lisner Auditorium, Washington, DC, Sunday 16 October 2005

The name Twelve Girls Band is somewhat of a misnomer: These musicians are more women than girls and more an orchestra than a band. And during the group's lively 90-minute instrumental performance at Lisner Auditorium on Sunday night, there were as many as 13 musicians onstage at any given time, but never exactly 12.

This Chinese ensemble played its contemporary classical music on traditional instruments. Three women played a four-stringed lute (pipa), two played a hammered dulcimer (yang qin), one played a zitherlike gu zheng, two played flutes and five played a two-stringed violin-like instrument called an erhu, which looked like a half-size fishing rod and rested on the musicians' hips.

More impressive than their individual command of strange instruments was their immaculate teamwork. At times the musicians seemed mechanical, barely looking down at their instruments, each with a uniform smile on her face. That calm delivery belied the group's skill, as the players energetically kept up with a recorded drumbeat on the escalating "Carnival" and blazed through "New Classicism," a jazzed-up medley of such recognizable classical melodies as Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. The musicians barely interacted with each other or with the crowd, but their music was so breathtaking -- almost dizzying -- that no commentary from the performers was necessary.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 18 October 2005, Page C04
.: Selected discography: Twelve Girls of Christmas (Twelve Girls Band, 2005); Romantic Energy (Twelve Girls Band, 2005); Freedom (Twelve Girls Band, 2004); Eastern Energy (Twelve Girls Band, 2004).