Shanghai Orchestra

The Shanghai Orchestra Academy is visited by EUYO Members

Over ten members of the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) paid a visit to Shanghai Orchestra Academy (SOA) from October 23 and 27, 2017. During the five-day visit, young musicians from several European countries, including the UK, France, Germany and Bulgaria, performed alongside SOA students in routine rehearsals. In addition, SOA organized a series of cultural events, including an educational exchange lecture, giving the European visitors an extraordinary opportunity to learn about Chinese customs and traditions.

Concert-Tchaikovsky's String Sextet (PRNewsfoto/Shanghai Conservatory of Music)

Championed by the Artistic Engagement Program-China, (AEP-China), an innovative cultural program jointly supported by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and Volkswagen Group China, SSO music director and SOA founder and president Yu Long and EUYO CEO Marshall Marcus agreed on the goal of the collaborative effort. This included allowing young Chinese and European music talents to deepen their understanding of and engage in communications around the topic of each other’s cultures whilst participating in musical exchanges. In addition to the rehearsals, a variety of cultural events were held in order to help meet the goal.

To welcome the arrival of the young European musicians, many of whom were visiting China for the first time and were curious about everything that Shanghaihad to offer, SOA students took the initiative by offering to serve as their guide during the visit. The self-assigned guides took the new arrivals to Chinese restaurants where they sampled local delicacies as well as to the Shanghai Museum and the newly opened Shanghai Symphony Museum, giving them a chance to experience many aspects of Chinese culture, a culture replete with traditions dating back thousands of years, as well as the eye-catching Shanghai cityscape. At a special high tea event held at the Shanghai Concert Hall, the European visitors found themselves immersed in several exquisite musical pieces performed with the guqin, an ancient Chinese musical instrument. The visitors also engaged in a language exchange with their guides, each teaching the other how to say “Good Morning” in Chinese, English, French and German.

After getting over some initial shyness and restraint about having to communicate in a language other than their own, the SOA guides soon relaxed and started sharing their insights into music with the EUYO members who had boundless energy and often gave their Chinese peers a hug. Within hours of meeting, the two groups were actively learning from each other and engaging in understanding what it is about each other’s living environments and cultures that gave rise to sometimes subtle differences in habits and attitudes. “SOA students met and communicated directly with their European peers of the same age this time rather than simply being led around by a handful of senior leading Chinese or international musicians. Besides the rehearsals and performances, the joint effort also included a series of cultural exchange events held by SOA,” SOA’s Academic Affairs Director Ted Jiang explained. “We found that the SOA students had significantly enhanced their social skills after they had spent several days chatting with the young European musicians. This was also a goal that we had in common when planning the events: expecting the students to develop their own perceptions about music through musical exchanges and to understand the differences in each other’s living environment through cultural exchanges.”

Wang Gang, a percussion student who entered Shanghai Orchestra Academy in 2017, performed Steve Reich’s Drumming with three EUYO musicians at the concert. Wang said, “These days, we had a full schedule during which we exchanged ideas about music, talked about cultural customs and learned a little bit of each other’s languages during the rehearsals and the other times that we spent together. We hope that the memories and the friendship brought about by the music can create more cultural value.” Jakub Przybycien, a violinist who visited Shanghai during the Music in the Summer Air event in 2015, said, “Working with great musicians around the world always brings inspiration, as well as new friendships. I hope as well, that we can bring to our friends in China our tradition of performing; I really hope to exchange ideas about their interpretation.”

The interaction between the members of EUYO and SOA was something quite natural and spontaneous, with the joint concert held on October 27 the culmination of the week’s effort. The future symphony stars from EUYO and SOA jointly performed selected works by Mozart, Ravel and Tchaikovsky, bringing the audiences in Shanghai who attended the concert to a standing ovation. In appreciation of the enthusiastic applause, they performed An Enchanted Night as an encore in a novel way by adding wind instruments to the traditional stringed music version, a version that is very familiar to Chinese audiences. “This was a very interesting attempt and, through the new version of An Enchanted Night, they delivered a perfect combination of Chinese and European music traditions,” SOA’s executive director Doug He said.

After years of deliberation and planning, AEP-China was officially launched in April of this year, in a move to stage high quality music concerts and other artistic events throughout the country, bring together and connect young people through the allure of music, as well as build an international platform and create more diversified development opportunities for young students of music across China. AEP-China is an innovative cultural program developed by Volkswagen Group China as part of its PACE (Participation, Connection, Education and Exchange) cultural initiative.

As one of the programs supported by AEP-China, the SOA-EUYO communications event promoted exchanges between Shanghai Orchestra Academy and teaching artists as well as music educators from other national and city symphony orchestras by leveraging cultural and artistic resources both in and out of China. During 2017, confirmed destinations for AEP-China include Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macao, Qingdao, Urumqi and Chengdu. The first stop in Urumqi came to a successful conclusion in late September. Guided by the AEP-China framework, SSO and Volkswagen aims to convene and connect young people in China and inspire and engage them in the art world through the charm of music by hosting two-year music programs and interactive experience events throughout the country.

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