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China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ Connects the World. This time by music!

“Belt and Road” China and New Zealand

Cultural Dialogue Concert


A large audience of people interested in the idea of blending Western and Chinese music, gathered in Tauranga Boys School and were treated to an extravaganza of Chinese and Maori music from the Tauranga Intermediate School Choir and guest artist guzheng player, Chen Xiyao, along with two of his students and Nataalia Lunson, on Saturday 29th July (2017). The intention of the organisers was to demonstrate the beauty of joining both Maori and Chinese music, enhancing both cultures in the process. This melding of cultures reflects the Concert’s title:  ‘‘“Belt and Road” China and New Zealand Cultural Dialogue Concert‘.

The evening was compered by Chong Feng and Iris Huo from NZ School of Traditional Chinese Music Performing Arts charitable trust.

Simon Bridges (MP for Tauranga, NZ Minister of Transport), speaking with compere, Chong Feng (NZ School of Traditional Chinese music performing Arts charitable trust)

NZ Transport Minister and local Tauranga MP Simon Bridges, who had signed the recent “One Belt One Road” accord with China, spoke of the deep ties with the Chinese people that New Zealand has wrought and the many advantages gained over the years for both countries.  He underlined that the “One Belt One Road” initiative could be of great benefit to NZ and especially the Bay of Plenty.

The show began with two Maori songs ‘Aue Lo’ – a karakia [prayer] and ‘He Waiata Manu’ – a song for the birds… pleading “Listen to the cry of the world…who will care for the birds…the nests are disappearing… be watchful, kōkako“, both composed by Carol Storey, music teacher at Tauranga Intermediate School and organiser of the choir.   The soloists sang clearly and convincingly with the help of Chen Xiyao on the guzheng [ancient Chinese stringed instrument], a type of zither that is very versatile.

The next item was a solo by Xiyao written by his grandfather, a master of guzheng music, who was well-known in China during his lifetime. ‘Celebrating the Lantern Festival –闹元宵’ brought to life that busy festival when lanterns and illuminated sets of lights typify day-to-day life in China when folk gather and enjoy the social event together.

Two of Xiyao’s students played the next piece called ‘New Song of Dong Ting Lake –  洞庭新歌’ and proved their skill in painting a picture of that beautiful lake in central China.  

Nataalia Lunson (Maori bird call) and Chen Xiyao (gu zheng) performing “Ko wai koe. No hea koe”, composed by Nataalia Lunson and Chen Xiyao

A Maori song, ‘Ko wai koe. No hea koe’ [The composition describes a soundscape of the long history Maori have with settlers from China, blending traditional sounds depicting experiences of first meeting developing peace, friendship and love.], composed by Nataalia Lunson and Chen Xiyao, was sung by Nataalia who demonstrated great skill in playing a variety of Maori instruments and singing the sad song with beautiful clarity. She was accompanied by Xiyao on the guzheng with which he demonstrated its versatility in producing western music as easily as its Chinese birthright.

Chen Xiyao (centre) and his two puplis performing ‘Fighting the Typhoon’ on the guzheng

Everybody was most impressed by Chen Xiyao and his students’ rendition of ‘Fighting the Typhoon 战台风’, written by Wang Changyuan in 1965, about a great storm that had hit Shanghai.

Nataalia Lunson, Tauranga Intermediate School Choir, Carol Storey (guitar) and Chen Xiyao (gu zheng)

The Tauranga Intermediate School Choir sang another Maori song, ‘Te Wai’, a song about the rivers of Carol Storey’s hometown Opotiki, with spirit, the soloists easily reaching the difficult notes and creating a wonderful evocation of Maori music.

The choir closed the evening with that most-popular Chinese folk song, ‘Moli Hua [Jasmine Flower]’.

A very enjoyable evening of music and song which was enthusiastically applauded of by all, especially the mainly Chinese folk in the audience.

The Concert was supported by:

The New Zealand School of Traditional Chinese Music and Performing Arts; Bay of Plenty Chinese Business & Commerce Association; Tauranga Intermediate School; New Zealand China Friendship Society and Asia-Pacific Times.

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