Birmingham orchestra tour celebrates a century of friendship
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has just concluded its first tour in China, from late December in Guangzhou, Changsha, Shanghai to Beijing on Jan 5. The orchestra, which is composed of around 85 musicians, performed Elgar’s Enigma Variations as well as music of Tchaikovsky, Pablo de Sarasate and Dvorak under the baton of conductor Vassily Sinaisky.
“I have performed in China with London Philharmonic Orchestra and Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra many years ago. I am surprised to see that there are many young people come to our concerts during the tour,” says the conductor, who has been with CBSO for nearly 20 years. “We see lots of children come to our concerts. Their parents want their children to get classical music knowledge, not just for education but also for moral sense, which is very good for the future.”
Based at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, CBSO, which was founded by Birmingham’s civic leaders as away of restoring the city’s confidence immediately after the World War I, gave its first symphonic concert in 1920 and performs more than 100 concerts each year in Birmingham, around the UK and overseas.
“CBSO also manages three symphonic choruses, a community choir, a youth orchestra, and a music teaching program every year. We would love to bring our music teaching program to China in the future. It’s vital to train the next generation musicians,” says StephenMaddock, chief executive of CBSO, who has been with the orchestra for 18 years.
As the sponsor of CBSO’s tour ofChina, theUniversity of Birmingham, according to its vice-chancellor, Sir David Eastwood, also has a strong musical connection with China. The first original Chinese violin composition, titled Difficult Road (Xing Lu Nan), was composed in 1919 by the university’s famous geology alumnus Li Siguang (18891971).
The university’s relationship with China dates back to the foundation of the university. The first Chinese student joined the university in 1907 and there are now more than 14,000 Chinese alumni.
“The university has longstanding links with China and is one of the most popular British universities for Chinese students choosing to study overseas. We have over 2,000 Chinese students, the largest group of international students in the university,” says Eastwood.
He also notes that the university launched its China Institute in 2012 to gather together its wide-ranging research activities with Chinese partners and encourage interdisciplinary research across the university that focuses on China. In addition to the Birmingham-based institute, the university established a presence in Shanghai in 2009 and opened the Guangzhou Centre in 2011, to host its activities in China.
China Institute also marks the ChineseNewYear with the help of world-class musicians performing a specialNewYear concert annually.
Besides music, the university has been deeply engaged in China in diversified areas, such as energy and health service, particularly during the past six years, according to Eastwood.
Before CBSO’s concert at National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, Eastwood delivered a speech during the joint workshop between the University of Birmingham and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing on Jan 5, to underline the urgent need for Chinese megacities to identify sources that contribute to the lingering air pollution.
He also visited the ShenzhenSouthern University of Science and Technology of China on Friday to further discuss how the two institutions can work together, following an agreement between the two universities in 2016, which laid the foundation for a partnership to explore opportunities for research collaboration and a collaborative program of doctoral studies.
In December, experts from the University of Birmingham have joinedNanjingUniversity to launch a groundbreaking collaboration, the Shakespeare Centre, China, which sees the university’s world-renowned Shakespeare Institute, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, reach out to millions of Chinese people to increase access to and understanding of Shakespeare.
Left: The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performed at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Jan 5 under the baton of conductor Vassily Sinaisky. Right: The University of Birmingham’s China Institute has marked the Chinese New Year annually with a New Year Concert.