Yunnan Church Choir Gives First International Performance in U.S.

By Yi Yang, March 06, 2018 09:03 AM

The Xiaoshuijing Miao Farmers’ Choir

On February 21, 2018, the Xiaoshuijing Miao Farmers' Choir from a church in Yunnan made its first international debut at New York Lincoln Center. Their tour aimed at celebrating the 2018 Chinese New Year and concluded on March 1 when they gave a concert at London's Royal Festival Hall. This marked the first time the remote village choir cooperated with the world's top orchestras.

The church choir, comprised of 50 Miao Christians, inherits the gift of singing and dancing from their ancestors who accepted the gospel in the 1930s.

Directed by Yu Long, a renowned Chinese director, the Xiaoshuijing choir joined the New York Philharmonia Orchestra and the London  Philharmonic Orchestra to sing English hymns and Yunnan folk songs, according to yunnan.cn.

The performances consisted of 24 songs, including world-famous pieces like Beethoven's Fantasia in C minor for piano and Handel's Hallelujah which accounted for 60% of the repertoire. Tens of thousands of people watched their shows.

"The kind and pure bel canto sound of the Xiaoshuijing choir presented its own voice so that China and even the world can hear our voice. This is our original intention." Said Zhang Xiaoming, the choir's leader, in an interview.

The choir members from the Xiaoshuijing Church have to farm during the day. In the evening, they rehearse in the church. Singing hymns has fitted into their everyday life. They sing at any time.

Situated in Fumin County, Yunnan's capital Kunming, the Xiaoshuijing Miao minority village has over 450 Miao residents. In 1937, Arthur G Nicholls, an Australian missionary, preached the gospel in the village and established a local church. A choir was also founded. At that time many old villages learned how to sing multi-part songs and the skills have passed down through the generations.

Around eighty percent of the villagers are Christians who have learned hymns since childhood. Except general hymns taught by previous missionaries, they also sing Handel's Messiah, Mozart's Gloria, and Beethoven's Ode to Joy. Existing for decades, the choir has learned from missionaries to sing four-part harmony and even sing English hymns.

According to Rev. Long Shaorong of the church, it became known in 2002 when they ranked first in a chorus competition held by Fumin County. Two years later, the choir gained fame nationwide when it joined a large-scale concert conducted by CCTV, China's state TV broadcaster. It won the first prize in a national match for young singers in 2008 and performed in the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 2009.

When there is no performance, the members do farm work or run a small business and attend church services and present hymns on Sundays.  

-Check file video of Xiaoshuijing Miao Farmers' Choir below:

- Translated by Karen Luo

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