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The 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals

OPAL is honored to co-sponsor with NYF Wealth Financial & Truvera Trust, our venue, and our elegant Steinway piano for the world premiere and the first live performance of The 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals composed by Vincent Ho and played by Derek Chiu.


The Composer and Pianist

Vincent Ho is a multi-award-winning composer in orchestral, chamber, vocal, and theatre music. Vincent’s honors and recognitions are extensive, including multiple Juno Awards, ASCAP, and the notable Canada Council for the Arts Robert Fleming Prize for the most talented young composer of the year award in 2006.

Derek Chiu has made a successful international career in all areas of music. His list of accolades is long, starting with graduating from the Manhattan School of Music; he has become a leader in online music education and is a 3x recipient of the Steinway & Sons top piano teacher award, to name a few.



The Story Behind the Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals

The common saying “monkey see, monkey do” couldn’t be more accurate when describing the Ho family and their musical interests. When Vincent’s daughter was learning to play piano, it was disappointing for them to realize that in 2022, there were far too few Chinese-themed pieces in the repertoire series.

With music being at the heart of the Chinese culture, Vincent knew this was the perfect opportunity to compose a book of 12 compositions for piano enthusiasts’ levels 2-7. He knew that it had to be intriguing to all ages and positively portray Chinese culture.

For more than 2000 years, the Chinese zodiacs have had a pivotal role in culture and society, and he realized this was the exact storyline his compositions should depict.

The story is one that the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Singaporean children learn from birth, also known as Shengxiao; the Chinese Zodiac is based on the lunar calendar, following a 12-year cycle, with each year representing a different animal.

While the story can differ significantly based on region, there is a constant between each version told, and that is that a race between animals occurred. The order rankings of the race would determine an animal’s characteristics and ranking. Each animal showed their true colors throughout this race, good and bad. It is believed that the animal representing your year of birth is the characteristics you have taken on. It is still taken very seriously, with some people choosing to have children during a specific year so that their child will be born in the year of the animal they believe to be most significant.

Vincent took this storyline and approached his compositions as caricatures of each animal in the Chinese zodiac. He devoted himself to researching the animals’ legends, personality traits, and cultural significance. The sounds, techniques, and harmonies combine to create a musical persona of each animal, giving hope that when a student plays one of these songs, they are learning more about Chinese culture.

Whether or not you have Asian heritage or have faith in the Chinese Zodiacs, it is imperative to understand the cultures of ourselves or those around us. Growing up, many children do not see themselves or their ancestry represented, and Vincent has created something that will positively impact many for years to follow.