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Young singers lift their voices in choirs of angels

By Li Anlan   (Shanghai Daily)

08:19, January 05, 2013

For many young people, singing in a chorus brings deep a satisfaction from contributing to a larger and grander sound of music. Li Anlan meets three choruses.

Echo Chamber Singers of Fudan University was founded by students in May 2009 and last December, it cooperated with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in its Chamber Concert series.

The founder is Zhu Peitao, a third-year graduate student in plant science, who also chaired the university's chorus in 2008. He promotes performances and competitions. Zhu, a bass, sometimes plays the piano to accompany the choir.

Conductor Hong Chuan, a doctoral student in sociology at Fudan, helps with training.

The chorus has more than 40 members, undergraduate to doctoral students, have diverse backgrounds and none is a music major but a number have studied musical instruments.

The name Echo is self explanatory. "We want our singing to resound in the concert hall and appeal to the audience," Zhu says.

At first Echo was one among the school's choruses. "We didn't have big, long-term plans," Zhu says. It was just a group of people who wanted to sing, but the school chorus had more limitations such as on the program. "But if we do it ourselves, we can do something we really want, with more choice to perform the music we like."

After a year it broke away from the school organization, to become a completely independent chorus. The group does everything themselves, marketing, designing posters, designing program notes.

In October, 2011, Echo performed in concert with the French jazz band "Life Is Not a Picnic" at Shanghai Oriental Art Center. It was their first public appearance outside university and the first time tickets were sold.

The ensemble has been growing steadily and winning honors, including the silver medal in the 11th China International Choral Festival in Beijing in July 2012.

Every year, Echo recruits singers, mostly with no previous experience in chorus.

Hu Danqing is a member of Echo, but he's no longer a student. After graduation, he studied in the United States and returned to Shanghai to work, and to sing with Echo.

At Echo's recent performance at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, many of its former members attended, some even flew back from overseas. The atmosphere was lively.

"The hardest times are over, when there were many challenges and many things were not settled. Now it's ideal," Zhu says.

While Echo struck out on its own, the 93-member VIVA chorus at East China Normal University also takes choral music to a new level.

In the "China's Got Talent" episode on December 15, 16 members of VIVA performed a cappella "The Flight of the Bumble Bee" by Rimsky-Korsakov, usually played on musical instruments.

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