Music Special: Orchestra brings history, music appreciation

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Macao Youth Symphony Orchestra joins China's Central Conservatory of Music chorus in a concert program at Beijing's Forbidden City Concert Hall, the night of Aug 19. 


News conference to announce the concert series for the 100th anniversary of China's Xinhai Revolution, of 1911. 


Young musicians, aged 18 to 25 from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan have been asked to take part in a concert series commemorating an important moment in Chinese history.

So, for the past two weeks, starting Aug 7, the Macao Youth Symphony Orchestra has joined the Central Conservatory of Music's chorus, for concerts in Macao, Taipei, Shanghai, Wuhan, Nanjing, and, for the finale, Beijing's Forbidden City Concert Hall the night of Aug 19 - all for the 100th anniversary of China's Xinhai Revolution of 1911.

These included an opera piece, Song of Eternal Lament, adapted by musician Zhou Ye, the Song of Fate, of Brahms, and Dvorak's Symphony No 9 (From the New World).

This was in fact the debut of the operatic Song of Eternal Lament, which was originally created in 1932, by Huang Zi, one of the most important Chinese composers of that time.

Huang was responding to the 'Sept 18 Incident' of 1931, when Japanese forces occupied northeastern China in the first stage of their invasion of China. He used the opera to express both his anger over the war and love of the motherland, through a tale of the Tangminghuang emperor, of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

Jimson Hoi Kin Wa, president of the Macao Youth Symphony Orchestra Assoc, described the reason behind the recent event, "We share a period of important history that's hardly known by youngsters these days. The music acts as a bridge to let them learn more about the history of that period.

"We're honored to be a part of this meaningful tour and were careful with our music selection, considering well-known songs and some Chinese operas to fit the celebration."

Hoi went on to comment by saying, "It was also a great experience for the young members of the orchestra and for me to travel and perform in these cities, bringing musical enjoyment to local audiences and communicating in the universal language of music."

Two young conductors, Lin Daye and Liao Guomin, led the concerts.

Lin, who was born in 1980 in Shandong province, began studying piano in childhood and, at the age of 15, studied conducting with Professor Xu Xin at the Central Conservatory of Music, in Beijing.

He went on to become the chief conductor of the Shanghai-Tianshan Symphony Orchestra until 2005, when he went to Berlin to further his studies. After returning to China in 2009, he made his debut with the China Philharmonic Orchestra at Beijing Music Festival.

Another young conductor on the rise is Lio Kuok-man, who was born in Macao. He was a top prize-winner at the 6th Mauro Paolo Monopoli International Piano Competition, in Italy, and has performed as a soloist with many international orchestras, such as the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, in Texas, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and the Bacau Philharmonic Orchestra (Romania).

While a student with the Macao Youth Symphony Orchestra, he served as an apprentice conductor for the New York Youth Symphony Orchestra, from 2003 to 2005. In recognition of Lio's many achievements, he was awarded an honorary diploma by the Macau government, in January 2004.

The Macao Youth Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1997 by a group of music teachers and former members of the Macau Chamber Orchestra, using university students, and local primary and secondary school students, including Hoi, who was a professional violinist.

Since then, the orchestra has given more than a hundred public performances and strives to keep its initial objectives: of providing orchestral training and opportunities to perform for local young people, while allowing them to compare experiences and cultivate their interests and develop their musical talent.

The musicians receive regular training from members of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra.

In 2007, the MYSO toured Australia and Singapore and, in 2009, completed its first full China tour, performing in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Donguan, Zhengzhou, and Wuhan.

"When we talk about Macao, everybody knows about its casinos. But this time, we're bringing the special culture of Macao. From this music, I hope you can really feel something about Macao," Hoi said.

So, the Youth Symphony Orchestra is a place where students can show their musical talent and their effort, as well as a means of communicating with international musicians.

"The Youth Symphony Orchestra is neither a part of the government nor a private organization - it's a place that helps people who love music learn and enjoy music even more," Hoi added.

This tour is being funded by the China Arts Foundation Beijing, as part of its long-term music education program, titled, "Bringing Music to Campus". Its purpose is to get more students involved in music appreciation programs.

Over the years, China has improved a lot in its music education and has a growing number of professionals who gain fame not just locally, but internationally as well. A lot of effort has gone into music education, but has mainly focused only on professional training rather than encouraging music appreciation.

Music classes in China generally only run up to middle school, ignoring an important phase of youth development, during the high school and college years. Because the level of music education was lower than that of developed countries, the China Arts Foundation Beijing decided to create a music education project in 2008, entitled "Bringing Music to Campus".

This project has two major sections - music appreciation and music education - and offers music classes taught by foreign and local specialists who apply the world's most advanced music education methods.

The project arranges campus concerts at various schools around Beijing, quarterly. During the Beijing Music Festival, some of its performing artists and orchestras also contribute, by participating in the project's lectures and concerts to give students a chance to see world-renowned masters in person and appreciate their playing. The foundation also hopes eventually to expand its education project to kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and campuses in other provinces and remote areas.

The "Bringing Music to Campus" project has been supported greatly, since 2010, by the Export-Import Bank of China. The bank's generous support has helped give access to this education program to many local people, especially the younger generation.

It traveled at the end of 2010, to the Macau Polytechnic Institute and Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, with a concert given by the Macau Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Central Conservatory of Music's choir.

Since 2010, "Bringing Music to Campus" project has been supported greatly by the Export-Import Bank of China. The bank's representative, in commenting on the commemoration of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, said gratefully, "The gathering of young musicians from across the country has a special meaning. Our efforts to support those young musicians and spread music culture have been honored. It's our responsibility to do that."

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