Chinese New Year Concert: Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Unites Cultures Through Music

Published in Arts  
Li-Wei Qin Li-Wei Qin

Following last year’s inaugural concert, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Festival Centre will again present a concert that unites cultures through the power of music in a Chinese New Year Concert.

In the lead up to the show, Cellist Li-Wei Qin talks about what he loves about Chinese New Year.

What makes Chinese New Year so special?
I could write an essay about this, but in a nutshell it is a very special time of year, as it celebrates the importance of family.

How do you normally celebrate Chinese New Year?
When I was young in China, my family would meet and spend time together. Now that we are all in different countries, it is more likely that we are in touch digitally, Facetiming or with phone calls.

As a Chinese Australian how important do you feel a Chinese New Year concert is?
The beauty of music is that it has no boundaries in a time sense, and crosses over geographical boundaries. A Chinese New Year concert in Australia is very important as it makes those people who have lived in China, or have a strong connection with the country, a sense of feeling at home, for the three days of celebration. It also gives Australians an insight into one of the many celebrations of our very multicultural country.

You perform across the globe, where do you call home?
I live in Singapore now, and my parents live in Melbourne, so I call both Singapore and Melbourne home, and also London and Shanghai, where I spend a lot of time performing.

What are some of the differences in musical approach across China and Australia? How will they complement one another?
China is a very ancient country, and Australia is a relatively new country. Chinese Western music has a very strong tradition heavily influenced by Russia and Germany. Australia has a very open-minded approach to music and music education. The marrying of the two approaches works so well.

Describe your playing style?
Global.

The concert is conducted by Australian Chinese conductor Dane Lam... Describe him as a conductor?
I worked with Dane Lam recently in China. He is a very sensitive and intelligent conductor. We have a very similar approach to music, and we work very well together.

You were born in Shanghai and moved to Australia at the age of 13 and received the Young Australian of the Year Award in 2002. What has been your biggest obstacle as a young performer and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge as a young performer for me was adapting to a different culture. I had to learn to understand the Australian perspective on music, which is much more open and freer than the way I was taught in China, which, as I said earlier, is steeped in tradition.

You come from a musical background with your mother teaching you the piano from the age of four and your father teaching you the Cello from age seven, why did the cello win out over the piano?
I felt a greater affinity with the cello because for me the register of the cello feels a bit more human perhaps. I still play the piano, occasionally.

What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment?
Musically, my biggest accomplishments have been playing at the BBC Proms, recording with the London Philharmonic, playing with the LA Philharmonic, and performing at the Beijing Olympics.

What kind of collaborative projects would you like to see China and Australia working on in the future?
China and Australia are great examples of mixed cultures embracing music. Marrying of the old ancient tradition with an open-minded approach is a great representation of East meets West. I hope we continue to see this collaboration.

2019 is the year of the pig, what is your Chinese zodiac? How synonymous is it with your personality?
My Chinese zodiac sign is the Dragon, and I would like to think I represent its characteristics – brave and courageous.

You’ve performed previously with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, what makes them unique?
I have also recorded with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, as well as played with them many, many times. I feel like I have grown up with this orchestra, and that it is my Australian musical family. I know so many of the players. It is the perfect musical reunion for Chinese New Year.

The Chinese New Year Concert plays Adelaide Festival Centre's Festival Theatre on 10 February.

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