China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

TMan­hat­tan Sym­phonie made its de­but per­for­mances in China four years ago to cel­e­brate the 30th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of Si­noUS diplo­matic re­la­tions.

As the founder and con­duc­tor of the orches­tra, Gre­gory Singer re­calls: “It was not merely a friend­ship be­tween the two coun­tries but also a love af­fair.

“This will be our fourth time com­ing to China and we have an emo­tional bond with the coun­try,” says Singer, who­has writ­ten a piece ti­tled A Waltz to China, which is spe­cially ded­i­cated to the coun­try and will also be per­formed at the con­certs. “I have a strong con­nec­tion with China, es­pe­cially the pro­found cul­ture and his­tory. We are happy to re­turn.”

The con­certs will also fea­ture per­for­mances by 20 Chi­nese chil­dren, selected from more than 20 schools and mu­sic train­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions in Bei­jing af­ter a three-week au­di­tion. The chil­dren, ages 6 to 16, will give both solo and con­certo per­for­mances.

One of the young per­form­ers, Ni Yuanchen, par­tic­i­pated in the first round of au­di­tions held at Di­tan Pri­mary School in Bei­jing on March 16. The 9-year-old started play­ing the cello at the age of 4 and has just passed theLevel 6 test (China’s mu­sic grad­ing test for am­a­teurs has 10 lev­els) held by the Cen­tral Con­ser­va­tory ofMu­sic.

“I don’t plan to be­come a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian but I will make mu­sicmy life­long pas­sion,” says Ni.

Duan Zhengkai, 6, an­other par­tic­i­pant, also im­pressed the judges with his vi­o­lin per­for­mance. “He only started learn­ing the vi­o­lin three years ago but his skill is re­ally be­yond ex­pec­ta­tion ... not only in terms of his note ac­cu­racy but also his per­sonal in­ter­pre­ta­tion,” says ZhaoXuyang, one of the judges from the Cen­tral Con­ser­va­tory ofMu­sic.

Con­duc­tor ChenHongjing, who is the di­rec­tor of the Ori­en­tal Sym­phony Orches­tra of China Ori­en­tal Per­form­ing Arts Group, says many young Chi­nese stu­dents have good tech­nique thanks to their hard work but lack a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the works.

“Col­lab­o­rat­ing with in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cians will fur­ther helpthem­con­nect with clas­si­cal mu­sic,” Chen says.

“When I was young I wanted to play the vi­o­lin but I didn’t want to prac­tice. My par­ents made me prac­tice. But, you can’t force a per­son to play beau­ti­fully when they grow up. It must come from the heart, not sim­ply im­i­ta­tion,” says orches­tra founder Singer, who stud­ied vi­o­lin since child­hood and grad­u­ated from the Juil­liard School ofMu­sic.

Ac­cord­ing to Yan Jun, the project di­rec­tor, though the col­lab­o­ra­tion is chal­leng­ing, Singer, who ini­ti­ated the idea of hav­ing Chi­nese stu­dents join in the per­for­mances, is very pleased to in­tro­duce young mu­si­cians to a wider au­di­ence. He says nearly 1,000 stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in the au­di­tion.

Driven by the in­flu­ence of his fa­ther Jac­ques Singer, a fa­mous con­duc­tor with the Philadel­phia Sym­phony Orches­tra, Gre­gory Singer founded the orches­tra in 2005, which con­sists of young artists from places like Bos­ton, New York, New Jersey and Philadel­phia, all selected by Gre­gory Singer.

The orches­tra has grown with bet­ter full-time mem­bers and con­certs in the US’ big­gest and most pres­ti­gious con­cert halls, in­clud­ing many con­certs in the Stern Au­di­to­rium in Carnegie Hall and ra­dio broad­casts.

In Au­gust 2013, he also brought a group of stu­dents from the Cen­tral Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic to per­form with the Man­hat­tan Sym­phonie at the Daw­nand Dusk mu­sic fes­ti­val in NewYork, pre­sent­ing great cham­ber mu­sic works from Beethoven, Chopin andMozart.

“I am al­ways ea­ger and happy to have Chi­nese mu­si­cians from Amer­ica and China join the orches­tra and play solo withmy orches­tra. We have had vi­o­lin­ists, cel­lists, pi­anists and singers from China per­form with us al­ready many times,” Singer says.

“There are many fa­mous Chi­nese clas­si­cal mu­sic per­form­ers all over the world. It is al­ways my dream to help tal­ented young mu­si­cians per­form on­stage and let more people share their mu­sic.” Con­tact the writer at chennan@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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