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Young Canadian Musicians Tune up in Beijing

July, 2007
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Time and again, the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra (NBYO) drew thunderous applause from the audience at the Canadian International School  of Beijing (CIS) during their concert on campus July 29.

  The Canadian orchestra, which is on a two-week visit to China, opened its program with the Chinese national DSC_5359anthem, a gesture that caught the audience by surprise.

  It was a wonderful night with some 300 guests enjoying a colorful array of compositions including performances by the Saint John String Quartet, Pianist Roger Lord, Violinist Samantha Robichaud and a wonderful clarinet and piano duet by Dr. James and Penelope Mark. The NBYO also performed two Chinese classics, Tie-Shan Liu & Yuan Mao and An-Lun Huang, providing a very multi-cultural evening.

  The event was honored with the presence of Dr. Francis Pang, chairman of CIS; the Hon. Kelly Lamrock, Minister of New Brunswick Department of Education; Hon. Hermengegilde Chiasson, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick with his wife, Madam Babineau; and Mr. Ken McLeod, President of the NBYO.

DSC_5333   The 2.5-hour concert was a gesture of appreciation to Dr. Francis Pang, whose terrific support provided the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra’s tour to China this summer with an amazing experience. CIS serves as the symphony’s base during its two-week visit to the Olympic capital from July 22 to August 5.

  Dr. Pang expressed his thanks to the orchestra during the event. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” he said. “It is very important to an international school like CIS. We need to export all kinds of opportunities as well as support and cooperation for the students who are global citizens of tomorrow’s world.”

  Hon. Hermengegilde Chiasson, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, appreciated the efforts by the NBYO and hailed the music tour as a wonderful exchange and education experience through music, and he expressed his belief that what the students are going to get is more than just music.

  “As we listen to music, it tells us more about who we are, where we come from and what we want to accomplish,” the Lieutenant Governor said. “It is amazing that we are from so far away, but by music we become so close. I think it is great for the students to have this wonderful exchange.”DSC_5375

  Besides the scheduled performance at CIS, the young musicians performed earlier at the graduation ceremony of Beijing Concord College of Sino Canada on July 28 held in the Great Hall of the People; then they are touring Beijing and Shijiazhuang, with a premier arrangement of traditional Acadian music, a genre from Eastern Canada, orchestrated by composer Jean-François Mallet, at the Forbidden City Concert Hall on August 1st. Their visit also includes a recording at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music.

  For most orchestra members, flying over the North Pole for several hours watching the glaciers in the Arctic to this completely different world is all exciting.

 DSC_5346 Jeremy Van Skyle, the principal violinist of NBYO, said he is very excited about seeing a completely different world like this.

  “I’ve heard so many different things about the culture and how it’s changing with the Olympics,” he said. “We look around at the characters, signs, we have been shocked. We are all very happy to be here.”

  Shaking off jet lag, the young New Brunswickers started their explorations into some of Beijing’s most famous attractions. They climbed the narrow, uneven steps of the Great Wall, visited the tomb of the 13th of the Ming Dynasty’s 16 emperors and stopped by one of Beijing’s most famous jade emporiums.

  It was no wonder that New Brunswick’s fine young musicians were amazed by one of the new Seven Wonders of the World on their way up the wall.

  “I don’t think ‘Great’ is the proper word for it. It is a lot better than Great! It is amazing!” said Daniel Vo-Ngoc, a cello player of the DSC_5355 NBYO. “It is more for the athletes. When we were climbing up, we needed to stop for a breath every two steps on the way up.”

  The going was tough, but the feat of reaching the top was worth it.

  “I have conquered the Great Wall; I know that I am a real man now.”

  For the girls, shopping in the markets is always more appealing, and there are many beautiful things they want to buy - from silk and jade to clothing and shoes… The price isn’t always right, but shopping in China is a lot of fun.

  “Talking and bargaining is like a game,” said Tanya Arseneauh. “They get very angry with you about the prices, and then when the deal is done you are like really best friends. You could never doubt their desire to be the best hosts that they can be.”

  Immersed in this enormous and fascinating city, Simon Bourget is surprised by the quantity of almost everything.

  IMG_6352 “The quantity of everything here is just amazing: people, cars, electicity wires, trees… It is not uncommon to see three or four cyclists pedaling side by side at any time.”

  On an exciting trip like this, it is easy to lose sight of why they are here.

  But for these young musicians, seeing the city is not the primary purpose for this trip. It’s about fulfilling the mission of the orchestra, about developing skills and talents, and they are really committed to that.

  In the midst of their hectic schedule, the orchestra received some wonderful coaching from the classical Chinese musicians from the Beijing Symphony and the National Conservatory of Music.

  Wing Ho, a professor at the National Conservatory of Music in Beijing, conducted the 72 young musicians for two hours, correcting them on the Chinese pieces and some other pieces. They also received tips from Chinese musicians, like how to slide one’s fingers to sound like the Chinese instrument Erhu.IMG_6087

  At the end of the day, both Wing Ho and the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra were smiling and appreciative of each other’s efforts.

  “I thought he was a really good conductor, and I think this whole day was a really good experience,” said Jeremy Van Slyke. “We worked on little details we didn’t even know were issues before. We got a fresh look at our music.”

  Jillian Sauerteig, a 17-year-old cello player in the orchestra, said that the training worked out better than similar masters classes in Italy before, even though there was a much bigger language difference.

  “He was very encouraging,” she said. “The language difference didn’t interfere with anything. He was an amazing teacher, very energetic and very approachable, and he definitely got across to us.”

  Dr. James Mark, the symphony conductor of the NBYO, said he was pleased with his students’ effort. “This is a very far journey and a valuable learning experience for us all.

  According to Dr. Mark, the 72-member orchestra consists of high school and university students from all over the province of New Brunswick, all promising musicians aged 13 to 21. All members need to be auditioned every spring for the next season. With new people coming for auditions every year, it is getting more and more competitive to enter the orchestra. Well, this definitely encouraged them to elevate their performance to even higher levels.

  Before playing the Forbidden Concert Hall, NBYO has had experience with international tours and performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City and at the 400th anniversary of St. Croix in Parma, Italy. Compared with the last two trips, the experience of playing in the Great Hall of People or in the Forbidden City Concert Hall is incredible to every member of group.

  “It is completely different,” said Sauerteig, who has been to New York and Italy on previous trips. “Different audience, different music and different culture. I hope the Chinese audiences enjoy our music.”

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By Xing Yangjian

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