Birm­ing­ham or­ches­tra tour cel­e­brates a cen­tury of friend­ship

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By CHEN­NAN chen­nan@chi­

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.

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