New York orchestra a hot ticket in China

Updated: 2015-12-02 14:28

By HEZI JIANG in New York(China Daily USA)

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New York orchestra a hot ticket in China

Gregory Singer plays piano. Photo provided for China Daily

Playing for a Chinese audience may be the ticket for a New York orchestra to play more concerts in the Big Apple.

That's the wish of Gregory Singer, founder and conductor of the 10-year-old Manhattan Symphonie, which plays two to three times a year in New York.

"Sometimes even less than that," he said. Singer owns a violin shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which is his full-time occupation.

While perhaps not famous in New York, Manhattan Symphonie is going to tour China for the fifth time since 2009, Singer announced at his violin shop-turned press room on Tuesday afternoon.

From Dec 21 to Jan 8, more than 70 musicians (of various occupations) will tour more than 10 cities in China and put on 16 performances.

They will play Viennese Waltz, which Singer was told many Chinese audiences love; popular Western and Asian pieces; and music he produced, including a country-style song influenced by his growing up in Texas and a piece he wrote just for China. Some performances will feature tap dancing.

Singer, 58, said that the musicians, some new to the tour, want to make the trip even it means they won't be able to spend Christmas and New Year's with their families.

"They really want to go to China, for the experience," he said.

Singer remembered seeing the beautiful ice sculptures in Northeastern China and the Terracotta Warriors in Shaanxi province. He said he enjoyed the free hotel stays and wonderful Chinese food.

More importantly for him, the tour is a big part of what keeps Singer's dream going.

After playing a piece called Dance the Yao for the media, he said, "I'm very honored and thrilled to be conducting this Chinese music in front a Chinese audience in China by my very own orchestra. Very few conductors can say that.

"I'm bringing my friends, my own orchestra, which I founded 10 years ago," he continued. "My orchestra exists."

"Discovered" by a Chinese woman at a concert they played in Brooklyn several years ago, the Manhattan Symphonie's 2009 debut performances in China were to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-American diplomatic relations.

Since then, they have been invited back by different organizations almost every year.

"We need an audience. We need existence," Singer said. "I hope somebody would discover us in America."

Son of the renowned violinist and conductor Jacques Singer, Gregory Singer wears his father's tailcoat to every performance. "I put on my father's tail," he said.

"We are not in it for the money," Singer said of the China tour, which he said yields a minimal payday, though hotels and food are covered.

For its New Year's Day concert at Changchun in Northeast China, ticket prices range from 180 yuan ($28) to 2,016 yuan ($315).

"Someone is making money off it," said Singer. "I'm not. I hope they make the price more accessible so more people can come."

That's what he's trying to do in New York City. On Dec 7, his orchestra and the Japan Choral Harmony TOMO will perform at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on the Upper West Side, in remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day and the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Tickets are $10.