Mu­sic makes its mark abroad

The up­com­ing an­nual Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert, which turns 20 next year, has toured more than 20 coun­tries, and 13 Chi­nese folk mu­sic or­ches­tras have per­formed. Chen Nan re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

Chi­nese con­duc­tor Hong Xia had her most mem­o­rable birth­day as she led the Chi­nese Tra­di­tional Orches­tra of the China Na­tional Opera & Dance Drama Theater at the KKL (the Cul­ture and Con­ven­tion Cen­tre) in Lucerne, Switzer­land.

As the show ended on Jan 29, 2016, Wu Ji­a­tong, CEO of Wu Pro­mo­tion — one of China’s first pri­vate tour­ing com­pa­nies and pro­mot­ers — which was or­ga­niz­ing the orches­tra’s Euro­pean tour, came onto the stage.

“When Wu walked to me, I thought he was go­ing to give a short speech,” says Hong, who was sur­prised with cake and flow­ers.

The KKL is spe­cial for Hong be­cause this was the same venue where the late con­duc­tor Clau­dio Ab­bado (1933-2014) gave his fi­nal con­cert.

“Ab­bado is one of my fa­vorite con­duc­tors and I felt hon­ored to be at the venue,” says Hong, a grad­u­ate of the Shenyang Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic.

The con­cert was a great suc­cess with a full house of over 2,000 giv­ing the orches­tra a pro­longed ova­tion.

On Jan 27, 2017, Hong will again lead the Chi­nese Tra­di­tional Orches­tra at the KKL as part of its up­com­ing Euro­pean tour, which will kick off on Jan 16 from Bu­dapest, Hun­gary, and con­clude in Erl, Aus­tria, on Jan 29.

Speak­ing about last year’s KKL con­cert, Hong says: “I thought the bulk of the au­di­ence for a tra­di­tional Chi­nese folk mu­sic con­cert would be over­seas Chi­nese. I did not ex­pect that the ma­jor­ity of the au­di­ence would be Western­ers,” she says.

“Their warm feed­back was en­cour­ag­ing, and we are look­ing for­ward to our up­com­ing show.”

The up­com­ing pro­gram will fea­ture well-known mu­sic pieces, in­clud­ing The Great Wall Capric­cio ( erhu con­certo) by Chi­nese com­poser Liu Wen­jin (1937-2013) and Lin­ger­ing Snow on the Bro­ken Bridge com­posed by Liu Xi­jin.

The Chi­nese Tra­di­tional Orches­tra is one of the four Chi­nese folk mu­sic or­ches­tras that will go abroad dur­ing the 2017 Chi­nese Spring Fes­ti­val with the sup­port of Wu Pro­mo­tion.

Called the Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert tour, it com­prises more than 300 Chi­nese mu­si­cians from the China Na­tional Opera & Dance Drama Theater, the Guang­dong Na­tional Orches­tra of China, the Zhe­jiang Tra­di­tional Orches­tra and the Shaanxi Broad­cast­ing Chi­nese Orches­tra. The tour will cover 27 cities in 14 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Kaza­khstan, Rus­sia, Poland, Hun­gary, Aus­tria, Ger­many, Switzer­land, Fin­land and the United King­dom.

Ac­cord­ing to Wu, each per­for­mance will open with an in­tro­duc­tion of the pro­gram and ex­plain the unique­ness of tra­di­tional Chi­nese in­stru­ments, to en­able West­ern au­di­ences to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the mu­sic.

“The Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert tour will cel­e­brate its 20th an­niver­sary next year,” says Wu, who founded Wu Pro­mo­tion with his fa­ther in 1991.

The com­pany now pro­duces over 500 con­certs and events ev­ery year in China and abroad, and it has just wrapped up the China Phil­har­mon- ic Orches­tra’s de­but tour of Cuba.

Be­sides the Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert tour, one of their well­known projects, is their an­nual Pek­ing Opera Fes­ti­val, which marked its eighth edi­tion in 2016. It was staged at the Dar­win En­ter­tain­ment Cen­tre, Aus­tralia, from Nov 29 to Dec 1.

De­spite all the events that Wu Pro­mo­tion does, the Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert has a spe­cial place.

Re­call­ing the first con­cert at the Vi­enna Musikverein in 1998 with the China Na­tional Tra­di­tional Orches­tra un­der the ba­ton of con­duc­tor Chen Xieyang, Wu, who was born in Bei­jing and pur­sued his stud­ies in Aus­tria, says: “Tick­ets were sold out and even the steps at the venue were taken up.

“It was an un­ex­pected suc­cess and since then we use the Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert tour as an an­nual event to dis­play our tra­di­tional folk mu­sic to for­eign au­di­ences.”

So far, the Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert shows have been seen by more than 300,000 peo­ple in more than 20 coun­tries. And 13 Chi­nese folk mu­sic or­ches­tras have per­formed as part of the project, pre­sent­ing the sounds of the horse­headed fid­dle from the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­tonomous re­gion and the Can­tonese melodies from the gaohu (a Chi­nese bowed in­stru­ment) among other items.

Switzer­land has hosted the largest num­ber of Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert shows, start­ing in 2006, when Wu Pro­mo­tion took the China Tra­di­tional Orches­tra Zhe­jiang to per­form at the KKL un­der the ba­ton of con­duc­tor Zhang Guoy­ong.

On that visit to Switzer­land, Wu says Swiss Tele­vi­sion gave six hours of cov­er­age to the event, in­clud­ing broad­cast­ing the con­cert and documentaries on tra­di­tional Chi­nese mu­si­cians and their in­stru­ments.

Since then, Wu Pro­mo­tion has taken many Chi­nese mu­sic or­ches­tras and art troupes to Switzer­land.

Sep­a­rately, it has also brought Swiss art troupes to China, in­clud­ing The Grand Theatre de Gen­eve Bal­let Com­pany, which toured China in April 2016.

Mean­while, at the 7 th Pek­ing Opera Fes­ti­val in Geneva in 2015, the pres­i­dent of The Grand Theater de Geneva, To­bias Richter, spoke to Wu about “mov­ing” the Opera des Na­tions to China af­ter mid-2018, when the ren­o­va­tions of The Grand Theater de Geneva, built in 1876, are com­pleted.

The Opera de Na­tions is a wooden theater that served as a tem­po­rary venue for La Come­die-Fran­caise dur­ing its ren­o­va­tion. It was re­fur­bished and moved to Geneva to serve as a tem­po­rary re­place­ment for The Grand Theater — the big­gest opera house in the French-speak­ing part of Switzer­land — dur­ing the ren­o­va­tions.

Geneva has agreed to give the Opera des Na­tions as a friend­ship gift to China.

“This will be a his­toric event for both China and Switzer­land and will serve as a cul­tural bond be­tween the two coun­tries,” says Wu.

Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­


Top: Above left:

The Guang­dong Na­tional Orches­tra of China will be one of the four folk mu­sic or­ches­tras to join the up­com­ing Grand Chi­nese New Year Con­cert tour in Europe. Drum­mer Chen Zuo­hui per­forms at a 2008 Chi­nese New Year con­cert. Above right: Au­di­ences at­tend a Chi­nese New Year con­cert in Bre­men, Ger­many.

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