Belting out a tune for Beijing

Updated: 2015-01-12 14:23

By HUA SHENGDUN in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Belting out a tune for Beijing

Kerry Holahan, a soprano at Baltimore Choral Arts, performs] Hometown in Beijing, a traditional Chinese sic genre Peking Opera during the 2015 Beijing Festival New Year Gala in Washington on Jan 10. provided to CHINA DAILY

Kerry Holahan, a soprano in Baltimore, sings at New Year gala

After living in Beijing for nine years and returning to the United States four years ago, Kerry Holahan, a soprano at Baltimore Choral Arts, was eager to belt out her love for China.

The 2015 Beijing Festival New Year Gala in Washington on Jan 10 gave her that opportunity.

By performing Hometown in Beijing, a traditional Chinese music genre Peking Opera, Holahan said the song allowed her to express how much she misses the Chinese capital.

“The fi rst time I performed this show was in Beijing, when I participated in an international students’ Chinese contest,” she told China Daily.

Holahan spent one year at China Capital Normal University and Peking University as an exchange student in 2000. After getting her bachelor’s degree at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, she returned to Beijing.

With a deep interest in traditional Chinese music, Holahan pressed on, studying Chinese folk songs after her master’s degree program in early music vocal performance at the Johns Hopkins University Peabody Conservatory. She later became a chorister at the Washington National Cathedral and a soprano at St. David’s Episcopal Church and Baltimore Choral Arts.

“The hybrid song between Peking Opera style and Western classical music is also a good representation of my own background, which is a combination,” she said.

“I grew up in the States, but I have a lot of experience (in China), and my heart is partially in Beijing,” Holahan said. “It’s my second hometown.”

The US Capital’s Chinese New Year Gala, organized by the Coordinator Council of the American Chinese Association and Beijing Association in Greater Washington, packed the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre.

The art director of the gala Zhao Luqun said she wished to gather people from all over the US, especially Chinese people with nostalgia, to celebrate the upcoming traditional Chinese New Year of the Sheep.

“We have been prepared for almost one year, and it is the first time for us to have the showcase of authentic Beijing flavors and world-class artists with amazing caliber in their own genre in DC,” Zhao, a board member of the Beijing Association, told China Daily.

Traditional Chinese music instruments featured in the show as well, including Jinghu, a Peking Opera fiddle with two strings bowed.

“No matter wherever the Chinese are in the world, once they hear the sound of Jinghu, they will know that it’s the sound of their hometown,” Zhao said.

Li Yi, a world-famous tenor from the Washington National Opera, performed a solo version of One Tune Two Hearts.

Before he was picked by Plácido Domingo to the National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, Li was a music teacher at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music and the first-prize winner in the 14th National Youth Singer TV Competition in 2010.

“I want to bring the audiences a good memory of life in China by this solo, which mainly talks about a story of a frontier soldier who is far away from his family and gets homesick,” Li said.

Some Chinese-American children also were invited to perform folk arts. Included were martial arts by the US Wushu Academy and modern Peking Opera The Legend of the Red Lantern by Riva Zhang and Racheal Zhang.

“It offers a chance for our children to get involved into Chinese culture, and to let them know and learn their own cultural heritage,” said He Ruyi, a gala organizer.

He said that the gala’s intention is to keep Chinese culture flourishing among the Chinese- American community and the younger generations.

“Very exciting,” said Matt Keane, who came from New York for the show.

Yang Sheng in Washington contributed to this story.