A musical Year of the Boar celebration 

Everything about the Chinese New Year is intriguing and fun, even if you don’t happen to get a red envelope. Take something as basic and simple as asking what year is being celebrated beginning Feb. 18, when the lunar calendar indicated the arrival of another Year of the Pig. Our 2007 may be 4645 or 4705 in the Chinese calendar, but in fact it’s impossible to say that either those numbers or any other is correct. (Unlike the Jewish year of 5767, which is fairly reliable.)

Besides the lack of a linear calendar, changes in both Chinese and Western calendar protocols (pre- and post-Gregorian here, each dynasty doing it in its own way there), here’s this perplexing difference in counting years ... or birthdays. Consider that if you count the number of dragons (or anything else) you encounter, inevitably, "logically," you begin with 1 — but not when it comes to birthdays. In the West, children born at 0 age reach their first birthday on what really is their second. In the much more consistent Chinese system, you are 1 when you’re born. So, when it comes to 4645 or 4705, should those possibilities be more correctly one year less or more?

No such ambiguity is to be encountered Saturday, when the San Francisco Symphony offers its colorful, ever-so-family friendly Chinese New Year concert. In the Western calendar, it’s a Saturday, and the time, according to the Pacific Standard measurement, is 4 p.m.

Music — varied and interesting, with some top local performers — is surrounded at these annual events by a ton of fun stuff: lion dancers, kids dressed to the nines, fortunetellers, desserts and all the tea in China. Action in Davies’ three lobbies is just as busy and colorful as inside the hall.

The music director this year is Carolyn Kuan, originally from Taiwan, assistant conductor of both the Seattle and the North Carolina Symphony orchestras. Melody of China will perform, the well-known local composer Gang Situ is represented by his "Drum Overture," 14-year-old virtuoso Peng Peng (from Juilliard, making his West Coast debut last year with the California Symphony) will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto

No. 1.

Also on the program: a sing-along for the traditional "Gong Xi Gong Xi" ("Gong Xi Fa Cai" is the Mandarin version of the locally better known Cantonese greeting of "Kung Hei Fat Choi"), Mao Yuan’s "Dance of Yao People," Nie Er’s "Golden Snake Dance," Yinjun Huang’s "Beautiful Flower, Full Moon," and Bright Sheng’s orchestration of Brahms’ A Major Intermezzo for piano, Op. 118 No. 2, called somewhat mysteriously, "Black Swan."

IF YOU GO

Chinese New Year Celebration

Presented by: San Francisco Symphony

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $18 to $60

Contact: (415) 864-6000 or www.sfsymphony.org

Get the latest news, features, and event calendars for the Year of the Boar (or the pig, if you prefer) at Examiner's exclusive San Francisco Chinese New Year page.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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