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Music from the Great Wall

Udon Thani Chinese orchestra triumphs at the China Traditional Instrumental Music Art Festival.

Publication Date : 09-10-2012


The 120 members of the Pu-Ya Chinese Orchestra from Thailand's Udon Thani City are feeling justifiable proud of themselves, having just picked up several prizes at the China International Traditional Instrumental Music Art Festival. The youngsters beat more than 10 other competitors from China in the event, which was held to celebrate Chinese National Day.

"These precious prizes are surely a gift from God. But our proudest moment was performing at the Great Wall of China," says Preecha Chairatna, 63, president of Pu-Ya Foundation, who has long provided financial assistance to the orchestra.

The orchestra, whose musicians vary in age from nine to 30, won first prize in the group category for their rendition of Chinese song, "Nan Qiang Bei Diao". They also brought home a second award for the solo by dizi (Chinese flute) player Kitti Sae Lor, 15, on "Mu Ti" and by guzheng (Chinese zither) player Watanya "Frame" Pimrat, 20, on "Africa". Conductor Chudi Wu didn't leave empty-handed either, receiving the prize for Outstanding Instructor.

"I've been working with Chinese music in Thailand for more than 10 years and can say that Thai students are really ready to fight. However, the other Chinese competitors were excellent and skilled because they study at school, while Thai kids have less time to devote to rehearsals," says the 41-year-old conductor and instructor, who is now a Thai citizen.

The competition, which was held at the Jiuhua Resort and Convention Centre in Beijing, drew orchestras from Hangzhou, Shendao, Shandong, Hunan, Hebei, Harbin, Huzhou, Shenzhou, Guangxi, Tianjin, Xin Chan, Henan and Hubei. Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Indonesia had all registered but withdrew when the Japanese group pulled out over the dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku islands, known as Diaoyu in China.

Chudi says he was greatly impressed by the guzheng performance staged by the Qin Zheng Art Centre from Xin Chan, which saw two musicians playing one guzheng on "He Tang Yue Se" ("Moonlight over Lotus Pond"). A young orchestra from Xinghua Primary School in Harbin also put on an outstanding show, with a guqin performance accompanying two boys singing "Song Bie" ("Farewell") in traditional style.

"I selected 'He Tang Yue Se' because it's the Chinese Moon Festival. The guzheng has more than 2,500 years of history and I thought it would be different to see it being played by two people, which is actually quite hard, as it requires strong teamwork and harmony," says Lu Zhi Ya, an instructor at the centre.

"The guqin, a seven-stringed instrument, is China's oldest, with a history that can be traced back 5,000 years. It encapsulates our cultural values. Today, we are campaigning for cultural propagation. Most students don't live in a good environment so we use the guqin to heal them and build up their concentration," says the primary school's Zhao Yu Lian.

The day before the competition, the friendship between Thailand and China was celebrated with Pu-ha performing four songs - "Ge Chang Zu Guo" ("Ode to Motherland"), "Cai Yun Zhui Yue" ("Colourful Clouds Chasing the Moon"), His Majesty the King's composition "Sai Fon" ("Falling Rain") and the Thai royal anthem "Sansern Prabaramee" at the Great Wall of China.

What did the Thai students take home from the experience?

"They learned a lot from the 10 national artists and professionals who acted as judges of the festival and led the accompanying seminar. I really feel that our students returned home determined to pay even more attention to Chinese music," says Chudi, who is a member of Zhongguo Yinyuejia Xiehui (Chinese Musicians Association), China's largest and most important musical organisation.


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