Skip to main content Skip to site map (in footer)

North West orchestras expand their horizons into China

  • Date: 9 November 2012
  • Artform: Music
  • Area: North
Orchestra The Halle perform in China, courtesy of The Halle

Recent performances by two North West-based orchestras illustrate how, by expanding their artistic horizons and being open to international perspectives, they are supporting Arts Council England's goal of ensuring that talent and artistic excellence are thriving and celebrated.

The Jasmine Flower Fusion project was created following requests from members of the Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra to play modern music alongside their more traditional programme. Their interest was sparked in 2008 when they worked with original Public Image Limited bassist, Jah Wobble, on a commission for Liverpool 08's Capital of Culture. The project, Chinese Dub, won the Best Cross-Cultural Collaboration category of the Songlines Music Awards 2009.

Jasmine Flower is a fusion of traditional Chinese folk music crossed with contemporary instrumentation to produce a clash of musical genres. Fourteen-year old John Wardle, who has played with the orchestra for 10 years, arranged and produced the piece in which he mixed Chinese folk, grime and dub.

The 25 orchestra members performed the piece at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on 18 August 2012 as part of DaDaFest in support of a performance by internationally renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie. They were joined on stage by the Liverpool Signing Choir and the Shanghai Number Four Deaf School who signed in both English and Chinese. The performance was recorded and featured on the Phoenix Channel in China reaching over 30 million viewers as well as on a magazine programme on Burmese television. The project was also featured on BBC Radio 4's See Hear programme.

The orchestra also performed at the Regional Youth Music Festival in Formby and the National Youth Music Festival in Birmingham. One of the Arts Council's priorities is enabling children and young people to have the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts and this project is a good example of how one of our organisations is working with us to achieve this aim.

Zi Lan Lou from Pagoda Arts commented, "The Jasmine Flower Fusion project is led by our young people and demonstrates that music is universally inclusive - everyone can take part either by playing an instrument, singing or listening. Signing and the dance movement have the potential to come together so there is no barrier between music, whether ancient or modern, Eastern or Western."

The Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra is one of the Arts Council's national portfolio organisations, and will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2013 by holding a week promoting Chinese culture and has a new performance planned for the summer.

The Hallé recently returned from its first tour of mainland China where it performed three concerts and flew Manchester's flag in the world's most exciting new market.

The orchestra performed two concerts in Beijing, the first at the Central Opera House with superstar violinist Maxim Vengerov and the South Korean coloratura soprano Sumi Jo (a major star in the East) was attended by the Chinese Deputy Culture Minister and other Government dignitaries.  The second concert, at the concert hall of the Forbidden City, featured a programme of English music. Both concerts attracted very large audiences were very well received. The third concert in Tianjin was attended by the British Ambassador to China and a large and enthusiastic audience of students and young people, mainly from the seven Higher and Further Education institutions in the city.

John Summers, Chief Executive, The Hallé said, "The Hallé's recent visit to China was both an artistic success and an important development for the Orchestra's international profile. All three concerts were enthusiastically received and thoroughly rewarding. A number of important new relationships were forged, and we are hugely grateful to our loyal Principal Sponsor Manchester Airport, new supporters Scapa and the British Council for their support."

The visit, in partnership with the UKTI trade mission, showcased the excellence of Manchester's cultural and business institutions to the Chinese market and was sponsored by the Manchester Airports Group. Manchester is already home to the third largest Chinese population in Europe and its Universities also attract the largest number of Chinese students which shows the potential for growth and further investment through closer direct links.

The Hallé is also one of the Arts Council's national portfolio organisations and, based at the Bridgewater Hall, produces a full programme of concerts, recordings and education work. More information can be found on their website.

Sally Whittle, Relationship Manager, Music, Arts Council England said "I'm delighted to see two very different national portfolio organisations showcasing internationally the high quality music offer of the North West. Pagoda's work is fantastic example of an artist-led approach to diversity which contributes strongly to Goal One of the Arts Council's Achieving great art for everyone strategy. The Hallé's tour to China further demonstrates its status as a world class orchestra, using our investment to ensure artistic excellence is thriving and celebrated."