Choir sings its way into Chinese hearts
Updated: 2013-07-27 01:09
By Chen Nan (China Daily)
To the accompaniment of traditional Chinese folk instruments guzheng and erhu, the Children's Chorus of Washington sang the popular Chinese folk song, Mo Li Hua, or The Jasmine Flower, in Mandarin.
The performance was well received by the audience in the packed Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. The next Chinese song, Da Hai Gu Xiang, or The Ocean Is My Hometown, a pop song from the 1980s, got the audience singing along.
The Children's Chorus of Washington sings popular Chinese folk songs during the group's performances in China. Provided to China Daily
This is the award-winning choir's first tour of China. The 11-day trip from July 18 to 28, saw them perform in Shanghai, Xi'an and Tianjin. They did not expect their shows to be so well received by Chinese audiences.
"Once we decided to come to China, we wanted to have some material to connect with the audience here,"says Joan Greogyrk, CCW's founder and artistic director, who is also the show's conductor. "I knew this is the summer vacation season and parents would bring their children to watch some shows. But still, we are very excited to see our shows in China are sold out."
According to Greogyrk, the choir only had two months to prepare for the tour of China and it was not easy for the singers to memorize lyrics in Chinese.
"In the US, we have few opportunities to hear Chinese music and what we have are some Chinese folk songs in textbooks. So we chose some of the best-known songs, like Mo Li Hua, for the Chinese audiences."
"There was no way to know the meaning of the lyrics in the beginning,"says 15-year-old Theresa Colston, one of the singers in CCW. Having studied Chinese in school for four years, Colston was able to help the other choir members learn the Chinese songs. "It's still hard to pronounce and remember the four tones of Chinese characters,"she says.
"It's new to us and we didn't know Chinese songs before,"says 17-year-old Cormac O'Donovan. "But now it's much better and we love the songs."
Besides the well-known Chinese songs, the choir also performed a new song by Emmy Award-winning film composer Nathan Wang. Titled Ta Qing, or Wonderful Day Out with Nature, the song, written in Mandarin, was inspired by a Chinese poem.
Born in the US, the composer visited China for the first time in 2008, when he went to Beijing and Shanghai.
"I thought about China, about what the members of CCW would be seeing and experiencing in China on their tour and I wanted to tap into that, what they could relate to, being in China while singing this song,"Wang said earlier.
One day in Shanghai, he woke up at 5:30 am and went to a park, expecting to be alone. But he found the park was already full of people, young and old.
"I could see how everyone enjoyed their time in the park. This is what I wanted to convey in the song. Every day people are surrounded by nature, the beautiful trees, flowers and each other,"says the composer, who has written music for Jackie Chan movies, Steven Spielberg documentaries and animated movies for Disney.
"Normally, my work in China related to films, depending on what the directors want. But for the piece for CCW, I had total liberty to write what I wanted and express it in any way I see fit,"he says.
Greogyrk says Wang's piece not only is an expression of cross-cultural exchange but also a great addition to CCW's repertoire.
She also adds that CCW has often programmed repertoire from other countries because "we value what students learn beyond what is written on sheet music: people, culture, language,"she says.