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Fresh from prairies, Chinese children's chorus becomes a hit
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The popularity of the Wucai Children's Chorus, a troupe from the vast Hulun Buir Prairie in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is easy to see from its performance schedule.

Wu Hongjie, an official in charge of publicity with Hulun Buir City, said the Wucai group would participate in the international children's chorus festival in Hong Kong from July 15-17 and then move on to Taipei for two more performances on July 21-22.

Family Ballad Becomes Web Hit

Ji Xiang San Bao (Three Propitious Treasures), a lovely family ballad composed by Burenbayaer, an ethnic Mongolian singer, became an internet sensation in 2005.

The sweet and tender Mongolian lyrics seemed a perfect match for a family's search for happiness. Burenbayaer performed the song with his wife and niece during the 2006 Spring Festival evening gala, the CCTV program that draws large audiences every year.

Inspired by the success of Ji Xiang San Bao, Wang Jiyan, the executive vice president of Phoenix Satellite TV Co. Ltd and head of the Phoenix Chinese Channel, came up with the idea of launching a children's chorus that would pass on Chinese ethnic minority prairie culture. Wang spent six years of his early childhood living on the Hulun Buir Prairie.

Legends Come To Life

Under the auspices of the Hulun Buir City government, the Wucai chorus was formed in January 2007, led by Wang and with Burenbayaer and his wife Urena as artistic supervisors.

Thirty-seven children from the Hulun Buir Prairie, aged 5 to 13, were in the chorus. They represented five ethnic groups -- Ewenki, Oroqen and Dahur, as well as the Briyat and Baerhu, two minor tribes of the Mongolian nationality.

Wu, who helped set up the group, said that with funding from local governments and companies, teenaged members of the band have moved to Hailar, seat of Hulun Buir City. There, they can take classes together during the week, like other children, and practice singing on the weekend.

Guided by many mentors, the children can perform more than 30 songs in their five distinctive mother tongues. Some also learn wrestling and dancing, two other traditional activities on the north China prairie.

Their repertoire runs the gamut, ranging from thoughts of their mothers to admiration of nature. They even released an album in February.

Stage Presence

The Wucai Children's Chorus has been invited to perform in Hohhot, Beijing, Tianjin, Changsha and Shenzhen since last August.

In Beijing alone, they gave six performances last August and in May this year.

"Though I could not fully understand what the kids were singing, there was a feeling of euphoria," recalled Xi Murong, a Taiwan-based artist of Mongol parentage, who happened to attend a Beijing performance.

High Hopes For Traditional Culture

The group's success suggests that traditional ethnic Chinese culture and art has a strong viability even in modern times. A good medium, such as a chorus, is vital to carry on and develop ethnic minority culture, according to Gereleta, who is also a member on the Council of China Ethnic Minority Music Society.

Through ballads, the chorus will play a bigger role in reviving the prairie culture and spreading it beyond China, said Wu. If all went well, the group might perform in New York next year.

(Xinhua News Agency June 27, 2008)

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