If you go
Performers, including young and the established artists who performed in the 1964 show, will stage the historic song and dance gala the People in Beijing on Dec 24. 7:30 pm, Dec 24. The Great Hall of the People, west of Tian’anmen Square, Xicheng district, Beijing. 400-610-3721.
To mark the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March, the historic song and dance gala The East Is Red will be staged at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Dec 24.
The song and dance extravaganza made its debut at the same venue in 1964, to mark the 15 th anniversary of the founding of New China. It had more than 3,000 performers and was watched by a full house led by late premier Zhou Enlai. Zhou was also the director of the gala.
The gala, which comprised 35 songs and 12 dance pieces, retraced modern China’s revolutionary path, including the Long March, a two-year tactical retreat by the Red Army to evade Kuomintang forces starting in 1934, and China’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).
Through the decades, the show has been staged many times featuring classic and new items, inspiring generations of Chinese with its revolutionary fervour and patriotic lyrics and dances.
The songs performed in the 1964 gala, such as East Is Red, Flying Over Daduhe River, Long March, Song of the Guerrilla, and Protecting Yellow River, have inspired legions over the years.
This time, more than 300 artists, including musicians from the Beijing Dance Drama & Opera, chorus of the China Musicians Association will perform in the gala.
Established artists who performed in the 1964 gala will join in the performance. They include tenors Li Guangxi, Liu Bingyi and soprano Deng Yuhua.
Lin Zhonghua, 85, who was the host of the 1964 gala, will also join in the new production. Besides playing host at the show, he will recite poems written by late Chairman Mao Zedong.
According to the gala’s director, Feng Qiusheng, the upcoming show will be faithful to the original version staged in 1964, including dance pieces, songs and poetry.
“The gala will bring back memories,” says Feng, who recalls that he watched the show in 1964 when he was 14.
“I can still remember the chorus performed in 1964. Hundreds of singers stood on a tall stage. It was a grand scene.”
Feng also says the gala is a TheEastIsRed response to the comment of Chinese President Xi Jinping urging artists to build confidence in Chinese culture, serve the people and create more inspiring and classical works.
“The gala not only brings back melodies but also carries forward the revolutionary spirit, which the gala embraced decades ago.
“For a young audience, it is a great experience to learn and get inspired by the past,” he says.
Another veteran who recalls the 1964 gala is Li
at the Great Hall of
Guangxi, an 88-year-old tenor, who is known for his performances in Verdi’s opera La Traviata, Soviet comic opera Arshin mal-alan and Chinese opera Red Flowers on Tianshan Mountain. He performed a song, Along Songhua River, in the 1964 gala.
He recalls it took him two months then to prepare for the show, but though the artists came from different parts of China and despite the large number of them involved the rehearsal process was very smooth.
“I was honored to perform at the show. Everyone, the artists and the staff members, took responsibility. The significance of the gala went beyond the singing and the dancing. It let people know the history of modern China, especially the revolution and the birth of New China. It was also a great experience of teamwork,” says Li.
Soprano Deng Yuhua was also among the performers at the 1964 gala.
She was 22 then and performed a song, Long Lasting Friendship, which was written in 1962, and was based on the friendship between the Red Army soldiers and the Yi ethnic group during the Long March.
“I was very nervous because I did not feel I could perform with so many veteran artists on such a big occasion,” she recalls.
“But the experience was life-changing.
“During my long career, I have performed the song many times, but I still feel touched whenever I sing it.”
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The first national youth orchestra was founded in the United Kingdom in 1948. And the NYO of the United States started in 2013, as a project of Carnegie Hall.
Now China will have its own NYO: 100 young musicians from all over the country will take rehearsals and attend master classes and workshops at West Connecticut State University in the US for two weeks, and finally play a formal concert at the Carnegie Hall on July 22, 2017.
Renowned artists including French conductor Ludovic Morlot and Chinese pianist Wang Yujia will work with the students for the concert.
Online auditions for NYO China started on Dec 17.
As part of the process, music students from China — ages 14-20 for the wind section and 14-19 for the other instruments — can make applications, by submitting their resumes, recommendation letters and video clippings of themselves playing to the official website Nyochina.org.
The videos will be sent to professional musicians from both China and the US. They will first be judged by conductor Morlot and NYO China’s artistic director Cai Jindong.
All the judges will also submit feedback to the students.
“Even if you are not confident about getting in, having a professional musician give you feedback is a great encouragement,” says Robert Blocker, the Henry and Lucy Moses dean of music at Yale University, who is a senior adviser to NYO China.
NYO China is not just about performances, says Morlot, the conductor. “It is a deeper journey that will create lifelong relationships. An initiative like this can inspire a whole generation of young people.”
“These young musicians are going to play in the great concert halls of the world, working and making music with some of the most celebrated artists across the globe. This will be a transformative experience for them,” says Blocker.
The application window will open until Feb 28, and the results will be announced by April 2. Winners will have two weeks of playing and rehearsing together in the US.
Blocker says that being able to spend time with like-minded students is the thing that the members of NYO America appreciated the most.
Blocker also says he very much looks forward to the first rehearsal of NYO China.
“The first thing you do after checking in is to take your instrument, go to the rehearsal hall, and everybody is going to play together.”
For most of the students, it will be the first time they hear so many people of their age.
“It will completely open you up,” says Blocker. “When you see the light on their faces — it is life changing.”
Speaking at the launch of the NYO China project in Shanghai, Gary Locke, former US ambassador to China, says: “NYO China will bring people together through the common language of music. It will help break down barriers that exist between countries and promote understanding of each other’s culture and history.”
The idea for the NYO project was born in 2015 when Chinese-American Danielle Accettola accompanied NYO USA on its debut tour to seven cities in China, which was sponsored by the Wailian Overseas Consulting Group.
Then, one-third of the young musicians on the trip were Asian, and Accettola saw how “their eyes lit up” when they saw China, the homeland of their parents and grandparents, for the first time.
Later, her son, Vincent Accettola, a graduate student at Harvard University and now the executive director of NYO China, inspired her to launch the NYO China project.
Speaking of how he got the idea, he says while there are national youth orchestras in Britain, Brazil, Singapore, France and the US, “there has never been a real national youth orchestra in China. So, why not start it, especially since China is a country with so much musical potential?”
Tenor Li Guangxi, 88, will sing the old song was the host of the 1964 gala, will join in the new production. Right: Lin Zhonghua, 85, who