Nanjing to hit high notes

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City will host festival of traditional music for first time as it tunes into monthlong event.

Traditional musicians will be on song and in tune for the 2022 Nanjing Music Festival, which commences on Thursday.

It will be the first time that Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, holds a music festival highlighting traditional music.

An opening concert will be held at the Jiangsu Center for the Performing Arts. Under the baton of conductor Peng Jiapeng, the Nanjing Chinese Orchestra will perform various pieces, including Festival Overture, the original sonata composed by renowned musician Shi Wanchun in 1959, the second, fourth and fifth movements of The Silk Road Fantasia Suite by composer Zhao Jiping, and Flying Song, a flute concerto, by composer Tang Jianping.

Famous Chinese musicians, including pipa player Wu Yuxia, flutist Tang Junqiao and erhu player Song Fei will join in the concert as soloists.

One of the highlights of the opening concert is Kunqu Opera performer Shan Wen, who will play in You Yuan (A Stroll in the Garden), one of the scenes from the classic Kunqu Opera piece, The Peony Pavilion, by Tang Xianzu, a playwright from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

"We've prepared for the Nanjing Music Festival since 2019, which aims to showcase the beauty of traditional Chinese music," says composer Li Shaosheng, who is also the executive director of the Nanjing Music Festival. The festival is organized by the Nanjing Chinese Orchestra.

"Traditional Chinese music has gained a large fan base among young Chinese audiences thanks to social media platforms. We want to display the achievement of traditional Chinese music, as well as its current development and innovation, by presenting both classic and new music pieces and introducing veteran and young musicians," Li says.

To better fit audience schedules, the festival will be held over four weeks with seven concerts. Besides live performances, two forums, workshops and master classes will also be held during the festival.

On June 10 and 11, Li will team up with Fang Jinlong, a master of the pipa, for works composed and arranged under the theme of "martial arts".

"There will be songs that audiences are familiar with, as well as new works. For many fans of martial arts, the sounds of traditional Chinese musical instruments like the pipa instantly conjure up images of martial arts masters. It's an interesting way to get audiences involved in the fantasy world of traditional Chinese music," says Li.

Pipa player Fang is a musician who has been devoted to preserving and promoting traditional music among young people for years. He has attracted lots of young fans on his social media platforms by adapting pop songs with traditional Chinese folk tunes and playing dozens of musical instruments, including the pipa and erhu.

A crossover concert will be held on June 20, featuring traditional Chinese instruments and music from other genres, such as Ye Shen Chen, a famous Peking Opera piece, Astor Piazzolla's Libertango and composer Tan Dun's music work arranged for cello and chamber orchestra, based on Ang Lee's Oscar-winning film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Pioneering Chinese musicians, such as Feng Mantian, who is known for his creativity in playing the ruan, a traditional Chinese plucked, stringed instrument, suona player Liu Wenwen and percussionist Yin Fei, will perform as soloists as well as jamming together at the end of the concert.

Renowned composer Guan Xia, the former president of the China National Symphony Orchestra, is the artistic director of the Nanjing Music Festival.

"It is the first time that I serve as the artistic director for a music festival centering on traditional Chinese music, which allows me to learn and appreciate our long music tradition," says Guan. "I've composed for traditional Chinese musical instruments and to me, those ancient sounds never fail to impress me, musicians and audiences."

He also adds that the organizer of the event, the Nanjing Chinese Orchestra, has lots of young musicians, who make the orchestra vibrant and active in China's music scene. As one of the first orchestras in Jiangsu centering on traditional Chinese music, the Nanjing Chinese Orchestra has toured over 40 countries so far.

Besides performing at concert halls, the orchestra is also keen on performing outdoors, such as on campuses, communities and iconic places in Nanjing, bringing music closer to the general public, according to Xu Kai, executive director of the Nanjing Chinese Orchestra.

To allow more people to enjoy the festival, it will also be livestreamed on music platform QQ Music.

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