Lương Chí Cường moved to America a few years ago after a successful singing career in his home country of Vietnam, even winning Vietnamese Idol. The song we chose for his collaboration with the Holland Symphony Orchestra was a rousing song of national pride, Dòng máu Lạc Hồng (The Children of Lac Hong).
This song has the feel of a score from a Hollywood blockbuster, with strings soaring into their upper register and brass punching through with regal fanfares. Still, the full orchestra is no match for Cuong’s powerhouse voice, spectacular wardrobe, and performance style. When he left the stage and sauntered into the crowd (3:26) I thought the crowd would lose its collective mind!
Besides the overall pedal-to-the-metal orchestration throughout, here are a few moments I particularly like:
2:31 I discovered a while back that using a clothespin as a violin mute imitated the nasal tone of the Chinese Erhu or Vietnamese Dàn Gáo. The first time the orchestra rehearsed this section, everyone looked around to see what exotic new instrument this might be.
4:01 The percussion-heavy arrangement culminates in an extended percussion section in which two sets of tom-toms spar over a foundational beat from the drum set.
4:46 At the final return of the chorus, I wanted to ramp up the energy even more, so I used an unprepared modulation to increase the intensity, switched the flutes to piccolos, and gave all the woodwinds Philip Glass-style arpeggios that really cut through the wall of sound coming from the rest of the orchestra.