top of page
  • andrewsingerchina

#AndrewSingerChina Newsletter Vol. 3, Issue 5

Bridging Cultures



America celebrates several Heritage Months each year. This fifth month of the year is (among others) Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It is a time to recognize and commemorate the “historical and cultural contributions of people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent to the United States.”



As part of AAPI Month this year, my Chinese fiancée, Liana, and I attended the Bridge to Harmony Concert: A Fusion of Chinese and Western Folk Song. The concert was sponsored by two local churches and two local nonprofits on a Saturday afternoon that had Springtime written all over it.  We had come to experience the award-winning, American Chinese Boston Eastern Heritage Chorus (波士顿东方之声合唱团).



As the appointed hour arrived, the church filled with a buzzing crowd of more than 125 people. I noticed several Asian faces, but the majority of the audience were not. The chorus numbered more than fifty singers, a mix of sopranos and altos, tenors and basses.


Their seasoned and smiling voices flowed up to the soaring cathedral ceiling and out over the aisles as they performed famous Chinese folk songs as well as a beloved Italian tune and one song in English of inspiration and support that is now truly international in scope.



The group’s mission is to “showcase Chinese culture and choral arts, promote Chinese-Western cultural exchange, develop broader public knowledge and appreciation of fine Chinese and American vocal arts, all in the spirit of fun, cooperation, and harmony.


The artistic director and conductor, Ling Guo, shared with us their vision to “be a bridge between cultures.” As she told a local newspaper, “‘[w]e practice passionately to ensure we perform choral music beautifully worldwide.’”1



The folk songs were well-known to the Chinese in the audience. I watched them swaying and clapping. I listened to them singing along. I felt everyone’s attention and interest.


Good Days (好日子) – First two verses
Happy drums beat out the festive atmosphere year after year,
Beautiful dances bring joy to every day,
The sunshine paints today’s day in red,
The flowers of life are our smiles.

*

Today is a good day,
What the heart desires will come true.
Today is a good day,
Opening the door, we welcome the spring breeze.


The choral members come from many walks of life. There are doctors, teachers, lawyers, and others who “are just regular people who share a love of Chinese folk music and a dedication to showcasing Chinese performing arts.” Though often accompanied by a full orchestra, our concert showcased a piano accompanist, and, for one select song each, an accordion and a harmonica.



Why did the group perform O Sole Mio, this famous Neopolitan song written more than 125 years ago?


Because in addition to bridging cultures and bringing Chinese music and stories to our region, I heard a comment that the concert was also a dress rehearsal. The chorus will be competing in Italy soon. My Sunshine is one of their songs for the competition, and they sang in Italian with passion.


In fact, they sang each song with passion and enjoyment. They were having fun. They were sharing traditional Chinese culture with the American audience. Their upcoming trip will be just the latest in an almost-quarter century of traveling to many countries around the world.



Night Song of Yao Mountain (瑶山夜歌)
The bright moon shines, the gentle breeze blows,
In the Yao family village, immersed in the mellow moonlit night,
On the fields, wafts the fragrance of ripe rice.
On the night of harvest, people don’t sleep, everywhere there are songs rising,
The sound of wooden leaves blowing, the bronze drums resounding,
Face to face, dancing a dance, Hand in hand, hearts in harmony,
Earrings shining brightly, colorful skirts dancing lightly,
Songs echoing around the bonfire, soaring.


At a time when America is tearing itself apart with internal divisions--a fearful reality that also complicates, exacerbates, and threatens her relationships abroad, it is important to remember and reinforce what the United States is supposed to stand for. Recognizing the vibrant fabric that makes up the country with Heritage Month celebrations is a positive way to accomplish this.



For their last song, Jasmine Flower (茉莉花), the American Chinese chorus invited members of one of the local Church choirs to join them on stage and also involved the audience. We were taught the refrain, “Such a beautiful jasmine flower” (hao yi duo meili de molihua) and cued to add our voices at the appropriate times. This short song lent itself well to our participation.

Such a beautiful jasmine flower, Such a beautiful jasmine flower.
Fragrant and beautiful, filling the branches, praised by everyone for its fragrance and whiteness.
Let me pluck you and give you to someone else’s home.

Gifts of jasmine flowers were presented to the leaders of the two sponsoring churches. “The jasmine flower symbolizes beauty, love, and kindness. In several cultures it also represents respect and purity. Due to its fresh fragrance and pristine white blossoms, jasmine is often also used to express affection and respect.2


***


Liana told me afterwards that “music and art know no borders. Listening to this varied selection of Chinese and Western songs was beautiful, pleasant, and so enjoyable.


Spending an afternoon with the Boston Eastern Heritage Chorus and with people and organizations interested in and dedicated to bridging cultures was a fulfilling way to celebrate AAPI Month 2024.


 

1 The Sandwich Enterprise, April 26, 2024, Page 5A

2 Program Booklet

Comments


bottom of page