Following two years of planning, a special music festival for young musicians will debut in Guangzhou from January 7 to January 15 in what organizers hope will become a major annual cultural event in the province.
Known as the Youth Music Culture Guangdong (YMCG), the significance of this inaugural festival is underlined by the participation of its artistic director, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Yu Long, the conductor and supervisor of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra (GSO), was instrumental in inviting Yo-Yo Ma to become YMCG’s artistic director. The festival is being organized by the GSO and the Xinghai Concert Hall and is to be presented by the Guangdong Provincial Department of Culture.
The event will feature a dazzling array of public events including two symphonic concerts, chamber concerts and five “Music + Dialogue” sessions, as well as improvisation workshops and open rehearsals. The main site of these activities—Guangzhou’s Ersha Island—will transform itself into a full-time “cultural hot spot.”
The organizing committee of YMCG held a 30-days-countdown ceremony and press conference at Xinghai Concert Hall on December 7. Yo-Yo Ma, American symphony conductor Michael Stern and Long Yu presented a VCR to promote the event.
Yo-Yo Ma: A musical icon for the Silk Road
Yo-Yo Ma is a musical genius whose name is revered around the world. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree and an Honorary Doctorate from Harvard University and currently serves as a special U.N. messenger of peace. He also has won 18 Grammies (awarded for achievement in the American musical industry).
Yo-Yo Ma rose to prominence and achieved success as a musician, but he has extended his sights far beyond musical horizons. In 1998, he launched the Silk Road Project (now known as Silkroad) and its Silk Road Ensemble. Silkroad is an organization that seeks to create meaningful change at the intersections of the arts, education and business. Its inspiration was the ancient Silk Road from China, where diverse cultures and beliefs collided and interacted. It works to generate encounters among artists and communities from around the world, breaking through geographical distances to establish a dialogue across time and space.
Audiences attending concerts by Yo-Yo Ma leave with a fresh perspective: that a classical music performance doesn’t have to be serious. Since the legendary Leonard Bernstein, few classical musicians have added such a human dimension and passion to music.
Born in France and raised in the United States, Yo-Yo Ma retains much of the humility and reserved nature typical of his Chinese ancestry. Amidst diverse cultures, he freely wields his musical creativity as an exemplary “global citizen.” From his perspective, the core value of YMCG is the exchange and melding of the cultures of the East and West. To him, the realization of his artistic ideals in Guangzhou and its Silk Road connections are all the more meaningful. Yo-Yo Ma, a man with a treasure-trove of artistic experience, will inject his diverse and innovative artistic concepts into shaping YMCG.
Eminent artists establish an open and all-embracing international platform
Artists performing in the inaugural YMCG include core members of the Silk Road Ensemble and principals of major American orchestras. Some people have posed the following question: With Yo-Yo Ma’s celebrity status and the world-class orchestras that engage him, why would he devote so much energy to the Silk Road Ensemble? To Ma, the Silk Road is a symbol of how different cultures connect. The Silk Road Project is akin to a cultural laboratory that extends and expands people’s imagination and their embrace of the world.
Yo-Yo Ma also explained his personal selection of instructors—each with a unique global vision—for the inaugural YMCG. For example, New York Philharmonic’s principal oboist, Liang Wang, was born in China in the 1980s. Wang was with a number of renowned orchestras before joining the New York Philharmonic. He is the only Chinese-born principal wind player in one of the world’s top orchestras. Another participating artist whom Yo-Yo Ma could not contain his enthusiastic praise for is Mike Block: “An artist who is far more creative than me. And he plays music from around the world. You’ll see him leading a dozen players improvising without any written score, which is fantastic.”
The team of instructors spans different instruments and different areas of expertise, but they are all leaders in their respective musical or educational fields. All of them are at the forefront of cross-cultural communication, daring to break through traditions, reveling in their ability to meld differences. More importantly, these instructors are all highly creative artists, which is why Yo-Yo Ma invited them to Guangzhou. They are based in Europe, America, West Asia and China. In Guangzhou, they will spark creative ideas with young musicians from different locations. Although instructors and participants stem from different backgrounds, they gather to make new music, to add even more depth and breadth in their communication and to generate even more possibilities in understanding the diverse cultures behind the music.
With the Chinese government pursuing a “One Belt One Road” strategy, culture is the foundation of all exchange and cooperation. Among the many cultural and artistic genres, music truly exists without borders, and the team of international instructors assembled by Yo-Yo Ma will dedicate themselves in building bridges to connect countries and regions on the cultural front. Ultimately, diversity engenders exchange, exchange nurtures fusion, and fusion leads to progress. Focus on China and the world’s younger generation who are keen to engage
The YMCG festival is focused on the younger generation, sharing musical skills as well as encouraging personal growth. Participants not only will deepen their knowledge of classical music through exposure to different styles, but they also will learn to be open and flexible in their approach. The main vehicle to put the philosophies of the festival into practice is the YMCG Orchestra—comprising musicians under the age of 35. This ensemble, specially set up for the festival, promises to be filled with vitality, befitting the energy of Guangdong province at the forefront of China’s reform and open-door policy. Here, friendships will be made through music, and a large extended family will be fostered by cultural fusion and exchange. Michael Stern will serve as music director of the inaugural YMCG Orchestra.
Following the suggestion of Yo-Yo Ma, the inaugural festival is open to young musicians of Chinese descent from around the globe. It is Ma’s wish that this new festival begin with a gathering of Chinese musicians. Future YMCGs will shift their emphasis on Asia-Pacific countries such as Japan, Korea and Australia.
Since the official announcement of the YMCG Orchestra in October, more than 600 applicants have been attracted to the event from nearly 100 conservatories, arts organizations and professional institutions. These applicants are based in America (New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Cincinnati), Canada (Vancouver, Fredericton), Germany (Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Münster), England (London, Birmingham), Russia (Moscow), Austria (Vienna), Singapore, and such Chinese cities as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Urumqi, Lhasa, Hohhot, Hangzhou, Xian, Kunming and Qingdao, as well as Hong Kong, Macao, Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. Also on the list are applicants from the host city—young musicians from the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. An artistic committee led by Yo-Yo Ma has been selecting 80 musicians to participate in the inaugural festival, with the hope of including musicians from as many cities and countries as possible. The team of instructors led by Yo-Yo Ma will work with the YMCG Orchestra during the festival, establishing creative exchanges and conducting inspiring rehearsals. They will participate in “Music + Dialogue” sessions and concerts together. It is Yo-Yo Ma’s wish that participants will not only have a wonderful musical experience but also be inspired by new technical skills and fired by new ideas.
Working closely with Yo-Yo Ma is conductor Jing Huan, who, as a representative of China, was elected to serve on the executive committee of Jeunesses Musicales International last July. She doesn’t see YMCG as just being about individual and ensemble coaching, improvisation or “Music + Dialogue” sessions. “Today, classical music is no longer limited to modes of the past,” she explains. “Improvisation is probably unknown to many young Chinese musicians. How do young musicians in the future ‘play music'?”
Yo-Yo Ma hopes that these young musicians can ponder three core issues—content (how to understand music), communication, and reception (whose needs does music meet). He envisions the answers to these philosophical questions providing benefits for a lifetime. Helping Guangdong Province further its position in culture and the arts
Standing at the forefront of China’s economic reforms for three decades, Guangdong Province has made significant contributions to the growth of the overall Chinese economy. But while urban centers enjoy rapid economic growth, progress in cultural life is a challenge that the whole world must face.
When devising the program for YMCG, Yo-Yo Ma emphasized “the power of culture.” From his perspective, music, science and the arts all form the core of culture, which is society’s tool to discover truths, establish trust and share meanings. When people perform, sing, write or ruminate, not only are they creating something beautiful with their knowledge, but they are also searching for solutions to use in confronting the future.
The main activities and performances of the inaugural YMCG will take place in the state-of-the-art facilities of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra (1 Haishan Street, Ersha Island) and Xinghai Concert Hall, which is known as having the best acoustics of any hall built by Chinese. A multi-function “music tent” will be set up on the lawn outside the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra’s headquarters. Many Guangzhou natives have fond memories of this site that has long infused their lives with music. Outdoor concerts, concerts on the lawn, and choruses of a thousand have all been held there. The music tent will be used in January as a student and media center during the day but will transform into an unconventional performance space in the evenings. The “Music + Dialogue” sessions devised by Yo-Yo Ma will be held in the tent. Not only will he and the instructors gather to discuss music, culture and art, but they will engage the audience to connect these issues and to search for answers, using their imagination as a “key” to open the doors not only to art, but to the entire world.
YMCG gathers resources from around the world. It is a symbol of how Guangdong Province is fostering cultural development. Plans are underway for YMCG to take place on an annual basis.Youth Music Culture Guangdong (YMCG) 2017—Jing Huan, GSO and GSYO
: January 7, 8:00 p.m. Venue
: Symphony Hall, Xinghai Concert Hall Performers
: Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, Guangzhou Symphony Youth Orchestra Price
: 100 RMB (public welfare ticket) Conductor
: Jing Huan Cello
: Mike Block Sheng
: Wu Tong Programs
Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds by Tan Dun
Duo (for cello, sheng and orchestra) (GSO co-commission, 2011) by Zhao Lin
Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi Youth Music Culture Guangdong (YMCG) 2017—Michael Stern and Yo-Yo Ma
: January 15, 8:00 p.m. Venue
: Symphony Hall, Xinghai Concert Hall Performers
: YMCG Orchestra Price
: VIP 1280/1080/880/680/480/200(preferential price) Conductor
: Michael Stern Cello
: Yo-Yo Ma Programs
Valses nobles et sentimentales by Maurice Ravel
Symphony No. 8 in F Major by Ludwig van Beethoven
Cello Concerto in B minor (2nd and 3rd movements) by Antonin Dvořák
Firebird Suite (1919) by Igor Stravinsky