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A Chinese New Year Music Performance with a Difference

2018-02-27 12:28:05 China Minutes

This week (21st Feb) the Xiaoshuijing Farmers’ Choir arrived in the UK as part of their international tour. It is their first time outside of China and worlds away from the mountainous and secluded Xiaoshuijing Village, where they usually abide in a bliss induced by simple farming chores and singing. The village they call home is located at an altitude of 2,350 meters in Yunnan Province's Fumin County and all of its 470 plus villagers belong to the Miao ethnic group.

Xiaoshuijing Farmers’ Choir in London

In the 1930s, foreign missionaries set up a church in their village and formed a choir and the tradition of choral singing has been passed down through generations since. From the professional vocal music point of view, the singing technique relates to the traditional Belle Canto in western Baroque Music. However, none of its members have ever received any professional training and despite the members speaking no English at all, the choir sings popular English Hymns perfectly, as well as well-known musical numbers by famous composers such as Andrew Lloyd Weber. Today, the choir are famous throughout China for singing both traditional Chinese folk songs and Western choral works. The lyrics are in the Miao language and the elements of Miao folk songs are integrated, making this farmers’ choir unique and non-replicable.

Xiaoshuijing Farmers’ Choir in London

Over the past century, the Western choral art has constantly evolved, but in Xiaoshuijing Village, it has retained the traditional skills and methods of older Western church choirs. On the Choir’s tour of the UK, they will sing Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and a selection of Chinese folk songs. Chinese composer Li Zhuanzhi’s popular Festival Overture will open the programme and 13-year-old Chinese virtuoso Serena Wang is the soloist in Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, and also plays in the Choral Fantasy.

Lady Linda Wong Davies, Founder of the KT Wong Foundation

The KT Wong Foundation, an independent charity established in 2007 by Lady Linda Wong Davies is sponsoring the Xiaoshuijing Farmers’ Choir tour. Lady Linda Wong Davies stressed that “as China has become more prominent economically and is exerting much more of a presence throughout the world it is important that we show a more human side to China. Because although it has 5000 years of history the West only knows China superficially, a result of the way it has been presented. We select and support projects which convey the lesser known aspects of China and Chinese culture. I feel the Miao performance gives more diversity and depth as a performance to convey the diversity in China today.”

Annette Campbell, a member of the audience was deeply moved by the performance “I just loved it, I disappeared into another world. It is fantastic how they have grasped, nurtured and loved the music of their forefathers and not abandoned it.” She and her husband have been to China several times and have visited minority groups living in the South. They are both looking forward to their next trip to China in the Spring.

The group will tour several cities in the UK including London, Liverpool and Oxford.

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