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Fusion of east and west music for Festival

Source: City of Sydney

When renowned Australian composer John Huie first arrived in Hong Kong 25 years ago he was so underwhelmed by the traditional, cheery Chinese New Year music on offer that he blazed a trail in developing a new sound in modern and experimental Chinese music.

Fast forward to 2017, and his breakthrough new approach to music will feature in his own performance as part of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival.

In the peaceful seclusion of Sydney’s Chinese Garden, master instrumentalists from China and Australia will come together for a unique chamber performance. Mr Huie, the artistic and musical director, said it will be a seamless fusion of eastern and western music to challenge audience expectations.

“Chinese New Year in Sydney is a massive event and I am so excited to be a part of the festival, bringing this music to a new and wider audience,” Mr Huie said.

“It’s a whole new style of music, a whole new sound you’ve just got to hear. My mum doesn’t like Chinese music, she’s very frank about it, but she says she likes this music.

“One of the pieces we’re playing is actually by a Canadian group. It’s called Red Grass – it’s basically country and western blue grass with Chinese instruments.”

The world renowned Beauty and Melody Orchestra from Sichuan, China, will be joined by a star-studded line up of Australian musicians, including David Berlin, principal cello of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; violinist Vivien Jeffrey, who is also Deputy Concertmaster of the Australian Opera; internationally acclaimed classical flautist Jane Rutter; and the highly talented Hugh Fraser on double bass.

On a floating stage in the middle of the Garden’s pond, the internationally acclaimed musicians will bring their intoxicating music to an audience of up to 200 each night.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the fusion of eastern and western culture is part of what makes Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival unique.

“Music is the international language, so what better way to break down barriers and bring communities together, by making music a highlight of this year’s Chinese New Year Festival,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Celebrating Sydney’s rich Asian heritage and culture, this year’s festival will bring a diverse mix of music to the streets of Sydney to entertain and inspire, and ring in the Year of the Rooster.

“From modest beginnings, our Chinese New Year Festival has grown to become the largest celebration of Lunar New Year outside of Asia. Last year’s festival attracted 1.3 million people who came to celebrate proud cultural traditions in a modern Australian setting.”

Mr Huie lived and worked in Hong Kong and Shanghai from 1991 to 2009. He composed music for films and TV commercials, released albums recreating the sounds of Shanghai jazz in the 1930s, and also met his Hong Kong born wife, Grace Fong.

“I was surrounded by Chinese instruments all the time, so I began using the Pipa, Erhu and Guquin in my work. I gradually started writing for those instruments and became familiar with what they can and can’t do,” he said.

“You’ve really just got to experiment and that’s what I was doing for all those years. It was a fantastic journey and it’s still ongoing. China is a massive place and you can’t stop learning.”

Produced by the China Cultural Centre (Sydney), in partnership with the Chinese Garden of Friendship, Chinese Garden Chamber Music is just one of many performances to be held across the city as part of City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival.

There is a spectacular line-up of musical performances, from the world renowned conductor Tan Dun leading the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, to chilled-out Sunday sessions at the Art Gallery of NSW with Chinese-Australian contemporary musician, Marcus Whale.

Appearing for the second time as part of the City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year celebrations, Chinese Contemporary classical composer and conductor Tan Dun, best known for his scores for the movies Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, will join the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to conduct a one-night only event – Music under the Moon.

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