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BEIJING, March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- As China gains in international stature, the country's most important annual holiday, the Spring Festival (or Lunar New Year), is becoming an increasingly celebrated event in the West, where inviting the China' best performers to put on a show during the holiday is becoming something to be expected and to look forward to, not only by the local Chinese community and Chinese students at US and Canadian universities, but also by the mainstream society. During this year's Spring Festival, several famous Chinese performers, including Lei Jia, Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang, have brought the music and sounds of their homeland to expectant audiences in Toronto and New York, where they received a strong response and heartfelt welcome from the mainstream audiences.
On February 21 (the third day of the lunar year), snow and bitter cold could not deter the audience from attending the sold out Chinese New Year concert put on by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. With a special invitation from the orchestra, vocalist Lei Jia and pianist Lang Lang delivered an outstanding performance, igniting the audience's enthusiasm again and again.
On February 24 (the sixth day of the lunar year), the New York Philharmonic celebrated the Chinese New Year for the fourth consecutive year with a gala concert at Lincoln Center. The amazing lineup of talent included Lei Jia and Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma. This year's audience was noteworthy for the high number of non-Chinese in attendance, including James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank and many top Wall Street professionals. It was difficult to get a ticket to the concert in the 2,600-seat hall.
On the North American stage, Lei Jia impressed the audience with two traditional Chinese folk songs: The Village of Sanshilipu and In Praise of Cattle. Her performance received such a warm response, that she found herself having to repeatedly answer the curtain calls. The mostly non-Chinese audience was amazed by the rich timbre and versatility of her voice as it traversed several octaves. Some Chinese audience members cried when the young singer commenced the first verse of The Village of Sanshilipu.
How is it that the two world famous orchestras, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, both happened to invite Lei Jia at the same time? It was unexpected but a logical choice for both. Lei saw her fame rise precipitously in recent years. The young singer won the favor of audiences both in China and abroad with her outstanding performances. With her training within the Chinese traditional vocal music system, her singing embodies the most authentic of traditional Chinese vocal expression. She has long been an advocate of the new guofeng style of music, a style viewed as an expression of the essence of China, and has interpreted this style via a wide range of artistic forms and modern contexts. After listening to her album, Dandelion Sky, Joshua Cheek, Chairman of the Grammy Awards jury, praised her as "The Most Chinese of Voices." As a representative of young singers from the national vocal music community, she is highly popular not only with China's military brass and but also with the rank and file, often delivering breathtaking performance to large assemblages of the country's troops. These highly popular performances have left her little time for performances abroad in recent years, however she was featured on the album The Songs of the 56 Chinese Nationalities, a musical collection that was chosen as a national gift sent to the heads of state of every country with which China maintains diplomatic relations. The songs of the album can be heard in the listening rooms of public libraries the world over. These many accomplishments led to the two orchestras not hesitating in their decision to invite the popular singer.
When talking about why she chose to perform The Village of Sanshilipu and In Praise of Cattle in North America, Lei said it was much the same reason why she opted to sing the Homesick at this year's Spring Festival Gala Evening: both The Village of Sanshilipu and In Praise of Cattle are Shaanxi folk songs, songs that in their simplicity are highly representative of Chinese music, and, more importantly, songs that most members of the Chinese diaspora, no matter where they may have originated from in China, are usually quite familiar with and, in many cases, can even sing. She expressed the hope that the two songs will remind them of "a bowl of water, a glass of wine, a cloud, a lifetime love" - nostalgic themes meant to remind the listener of their hometown and enable them to experience the warmth of home and the concern that their kinfolk "back home" feel for them.