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Chamber Choir tour China

19 July 2019

Cardiff University Chamber Choir visiting Tiananmen Square
Visiting Tiananmen Square

Students from our Chamber Choir have recently returned from a three-week tour in China, where they visited and performed concerts at universities in four cities.

During their time in China the 28 students, accompanied by the choir’s conductor, Dr Peter Leech, visited the Northwest University of Politics and Law in Xi’an, Guangzhou , the Art College of Xiamen University and Beijing Normal University. As well as performing concerts of their own repertoire, the choir also performed in collaboration with the host universities’ own choirs.

The students also spent time exploring the four cities, learning about Chinese history and traditions. This included taking a night cruise on Guangzhou’s Pearl River, visiting the Terracotta Army, Tiananmen Square, Beijing’s Forbidden City, and climbing the Great Wall.

The choir performed pieces including recently uncovered compositions by Welsh composer Morfydd Owen, Chinese folk song Mo Li Hua, and pieces by Sebastian Bolis, Dmitry Bortniansky and Charles Hubert Parry.

Speaking before their final concert in Beijing, Dr Peter Leech said: “One of the great experiences of this tour has been the chance to perform with Chinese choirs. We’ve learned a lot about the language, about how they perform the music, and we’ve also been bringing some of our repertoire to them.

“It has been a great highlight for me particularly to bring some music which was composed by a French Jesuit composer in the seventeenth century which was then brought to China by the Jesuits in the eighteenth century and performed in Beijing as a way of introducing European polyphony to Chinese singers.

“Over the course of the tour it’s been a hugely bonding and wonderfully richly-musical team bonding experience for the choir. We’ve been able to blend our choral sound into a beautifully unified element. We have also managed to learn several pieces from memory which has allowed the choir to really engage with the audiences. These performances really have been stunning.”

Final year student Matt Nicholls said of the tour “Spending so much time singing together, sometimes four or five hours a day, compared to our usual rehearsals of two to three hours a week, has allowed us to really come together as a choir, and improve our timing.

“For me this has been a really valuable experience and a fantastic way to end my time as an undergraduate at Cardiff. It’s the first time I’ve left Europe so it’s been quite an experience.”

The choir were also joined in China by Head of School, Professor Kenneth Hamilton, who gave a piano masterclass for students at the Art College of Xiamen University.

During the trip, Dr Cameron Gardner and Dr Clair Rowden also visited China, meeting with representatives from Chinese universities including Beijing Normal University to discuss future collaborations, current agreements, and the teaching, performance, and research at the School of Music.

Watch a video of the choir's time in China.

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