A Moving Sound comes to Greensburg arts center
When Scott Prairie gets on stage next weekend at Seton Hill University's Performing Arts Center with his Taiwan-based musical ensemble, A Moving Sound, it will be a sort of homecoming.
The 1981 graduate of Hempfield Area High School will be performing along with four other members, including his vocalist/dancer wife Mia Hsieh. The group's music is influenced and inspired by music in Taiwan, where Prairie has lived for the last 12 years.
A Moving Sound encompasses traditional Taiwanese, Chinese and neighboring Asian traditions into modern times with skillful compositions that open new pathways into East-West cultural dialogue.
“We want our art to be able to be able to resonate in people's emotions ... we want to have a dialogue with people,” Hsieh said. “I don't categorize our music as classical/world/jazz. We use ethnic instruments and inspiration from philosophy from Eastern culture from Taiwan folk.”
Prairie met Hsieh in New York at a modern dance class when he was studying at New York University. Together, they moved to Taiwan to start the musical ensemble. Prairie, who knew nothing about Asia at the time, was sold immediately.
“The people are really smart, open, curious and friendly,” he said. “I'm coming into Taiwan in a time it is really opening. People are hungry for new ideas. I sensed a lot of potential and thought it was a great place to start this music group. In New York, it's hard because there's so much, it's saturated. In Taiwan, I got off the plane and hit the ground running.”
The group has been together for 10 years, with four years in its current form.
This is the first time they have toured in the United States. This one-month tour includes 12 concerts in nine cities. They just completed a performance at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The path has not always been so clearly defined for Prairie. He grew up studying the French horn, like his grandfather, and was being groomed to be a classical musician. He studied at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, but halfway through he decided to quit.
Next he went to the University of Pittsburgh and got a degree in psychology. While traveling through Europe, he was introduced to new people and new ideas. He decided to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter, and even came close to getting a record deal.
But it wasn't until he and Hsieh blended their talents that the direction became clear. Prairie believes it was the early introduction to music that had the biggest influence on his life.
“It gave me a foundation in music and shaped me as a composer,” he said. “Having such a deep connection to music, it kind of gets in your blood.”
His dad, Ted Perry of Greensburg, can attest to that. Perry, who plays the violin, has a brother who is a cellist in The Cleveland Orchestra, so you could say musical talent runs in the family.
“I'm really excited they're coming here,” said Perry, who has never seen A Moving Sound perform live. “I'm very happy for him. He's been trying to break through for a long time.”
A Moving Sound has been featured on National Public Radio's “All Things Considered” and they were featured artists in a special program on Taipei presented by the Lonely Planet television series, which was broadcast in 50 countries on the Discovery Channel.
Still, coming home makes this performance one of the most meaningful.
“I've done a lot of stuff, a spiral of different experiences. Coming back integrates it for me ... the past and the present,” Prairie said. “It's the first time my parents will see this group, (along with) high school friends. It's kind of like an affirming of a journey of life and the whole energy feels really nice.”
But there's more than performing that Prairie is looking forward to sampling while back home. On the to-do list: “Twin Lakes. Linn Run. Pizza from Rizzo's.
“In Taiwan, the leaves never change so it's so nice to be here for the changing of the seasons,” he said.
Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer