Feature: Erhu virtuoso showcases Chinese culture, music charm at UN

By Wang Jiangang (Xinhua) 10:36, November 06, 2023

NEW YORK, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) -- "Her erhu narrates universal tales, with its two strings painting scenes beyond words," a UN-based journalist said after experiencing a concert by Chinese erhu virtuoso Ma Xiaohui.

Recently, Ma, a noted Chinese erhu performer and composer with the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra, held an erhu concert with the theme of "Erhu Holding Hands with the World, New Music Trend, New Cultural Tour" in the Delegates' Room at the UN headquarters in New York City.

Diplomats, attendees from diverse backgrounds, and participants in the World Madam Global Awards Ceremony were profoundly moved by the distinctive allure of traditional Chinese musical instruments showcased during the concert.

The concert began with an overture titled "Legend of the Silk Road, Perfume of the Soul," and opened with the song "Woman Flower."

In the first movement, "Seven Colors of Erhu, Walking with Beauty, Colorful Silk Road," melodies from Chinese and Western songs created an "ink painting" of the Silk Road.

In the next three movements, a classical repertoire including "Butterfly Lovers," "Thoughts on a Silent Night" and "The Spirit of my Erhu" fascinated the audience. Next came the theme song from the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which beautifully celebrates the classic dialogue between erhu and cello.

The poetry and music of "Motherland" and "Prairie Love Song: Ten Thousand Horses Galloping" pushed the audience to one climax after another. For the encore Ma offered a mesmerizing erhu arrangement of "China Dream, Country Roads" which made the audience drunk with emotions.

"This beautiful and inspiring concert wonderfully blended classical, Chinese, and cross-cultural themes. It was a feast for the ears and soul," multimedia artist Ranjit Bhatnagar said.

"The performance was full of creativity, a perfect fusion of tradition and modernity, experimental and nostalgic, centered around her mastery of the instrument," Ranjit added.

"As a guitarist, I had the privilege of performing with erhu player Ma Xiaohui," said guitarist Tim Kelly. "Her powerful, moving melodies inspired both me and the audience. It seems that in her hands, the erhu can melt the heart of every listener."

Influenced by the lively atmosphere at the venue, the 2023 World Madam Global Overall Champion, Sepideh Behboudi, danced joyfully to the music multiple times with other audience members.

"I really enjoyed it. Professor Ma is not only beautiful, but her erhu artistry is so exceptional that it took me by surprise," Behboudi said.

That day, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting due to the Gaza crisis. Some journalists had to leave the concert early for reportage jobs.

"Music can help heal the world. It's one of the best mediums to resolve differences, misunderstandings, and promote friendship," a UN journalist, who insisted on being anonymous, commented. "With the magical language of the erhu, Professor Ma conveyed the essence of Chinese civilization to the world at this critical moment, making it even more significant."

On this topic, Ma stated that "music is an international language, and national musical instruments have their own unique tonal characteristics. Using them as messengers, they can spread melodies of truth, goodness and beauty to all."

She expressed the hope that the world can "feel the charm of Chinese culture, the spiritual beauty of Chinese art and the warmth of the erhu to move and melt hearts."

Kicked off on Sept. 17, Ma's music tour covered Nashville, the country music city of the United States, and New York City including the United Nations headquarters. The tour lasted for more than 40 days.

According to Ma, her tour was not limited to music only, but also focused on using music and lectures to bring a healing experience to the audience.

At the Belmont University School of Music and Performing Arts in Nashville, Ma held a lecture-concert on "Medicine and Art, Music and Psychology." This is part of her Global Campus Master Class Healing Tour.

"The short erhu performance was packed with information, touched my heart and my soul," John, a music student who traveled from Canada, shared. "The erhu really does have magic to warm and heal the heart."

On Oct. 21, Ma collaborated with the Middle Tennessee State University Symphony for the year's first symphonic concert. They performed the erhu concerto "Tianshan Shepherdess," as if bringing transporting the audience to the foot of the Tianshan Mountains to see the blue sky, white clouds, and the kind-hearted shepherd.

As the last note echoed through the hall, the audience rose in unanimous applause.

"Professor Ma is exceptionally talented, fluent in English, and has a great rapport with the university orchestra students. Her erhu performance shines like a diamond! Whether expressing through her musical lexicon or her spoken words, she is a rare international cultural ambassador," said Carol Nies, music director of the Middle Tennessee State University Symphony.

"Her music not only quickly introduces the audience to Chinese culture but leaves an indelible impression in this hub of country music," Nies added.

Ma, graduating from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, is a contemporary outstanding composite artist, a national first-class performer, and the famous chief erhu soloist of the Shanghai National Orchestra.

Over the past 20-plus years, Ma has made global tours and lectures such as "Erhu Shakes Hands with the World," "Music and Psychology, Erhu Art Melts the Soul," spanning Europe, America, Asia, and Africa, with over 1000 performances. These efforts deeply embody the spirit of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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