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Shanghai Symphony Orchestra announces line-up for 11th Music in the Summer Air Festival, bringing together top talent in China
Source: Premier
01/07/2020

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra today [30 June] announces the programme for its 11th Music in the Summer Air (MISA) Festival. The Festival takes place from 20 to 29 July and features 17 events taking place both in the Shanghai Symphony Hall and its outdoor ‘Urban Music Lawn’. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, international artists are unable to travel to China to take part in the Festival, so the line-up features only China-based musicians, orchestras and conductors. All of the events will be open to a limited 30% capacity audience, and a number of the Shanghai Symphony Hall concerts will be performed twice each evening in order for a larger audience to attend. The 9-day Festival presents audiences with a range of genres ranging from Chinese and Western classical music to jazz, culminating in Tan Dun’s Buddha Passion which features a fantan pipa soloist and dancer alongside two indigenous performers.

MISA was founded in 2010 by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Long Yu alongside the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission to revive the summer music scene in Shanghai. Over the past ten years, MISA has presented over 200 performances which have attracted more than 200,000 audience members including 10,000 teenagers. Each year the Festival aims to reach a wide audience of all ages, with ticket prices starting at just 100 CNY (c. £11 / €12.50). All of the Urban Music Lawn outdoor performances are free to the public. The Festival is sponsored by Shanghai Pharmaceuticals.

Bilibili, as one of the key strategic partners of MISA this year, is the co-producer of all live-streamed concerts of MISA 2020. Bilibili is a Shanghai-based video sharing site which aims to empower the younger generation through content sharing. All MISA 2020 events will be live-streamed on Bilibili with the aim to share high-quality content to a wider audience of young people. MISA events will also be live-streamed on the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra website in addition to some other China-based outlets including The Paper.

Main stage
Opening the 2020 MISA Festival is the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Long Yu performing with celebrity Chinese fusion singer Gong Linna who will sing two works written by her husband Robert Zollitsch, a German composer known for composing new Chinese music. Shanghai Symphony Orchestra have invited a number of Chinese Orchestras to perform in this year’s MISA Festival, including the Kunming Nie’Er Symphony Orchestra and their Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Huang Yi who will perform The Torch Festival by leading Chinese composer Wang Xilin. Other highlights include an all-Beethoven programme – to celebrate the composer’s 250th anniversary – performed by bass-baritone Shenyang, flautist Hu Zhe and SSO’s East Coast Quartet. Chinese pop star James Li performs his own songs accompanied by his band and the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra strings. 

A particularly big moment in the 2020 MISA Festival is a performance by the Opera and Musical Drama Theater of Hubei Province and Hubei Symphony Orchestra, which will be their first since the COVID-19 outbreak. To mark this momentous occasion, they will present a concert-performance of the famous Chinese opera The Red Guards on the Honghu Lake, a work that originated in Wuhan in 1956 with music by Zhang Jing’an and Ouyang Qianshu.

The 2020 Festival closes with a performance of Tan Dun’s six-act Buddha Passion, conducted by the composer himself. The work, which was originally premiered in 2018 by Munich Philharmonic, features choir, orchestra and seven soloists (including two indigenous performers) and is sung in Chinese and Sanskrit. The soloists for this performance include bass-baritone Shenyang, mezzo-soprano Hongni Wu, tenor Xiahou Jingxuand fantan pipa soloist and dancer Chen Yining.

Urban Music Lawn
Each year the MISA Festival presents music of a range of genres on its free Urban Music Lawn. Opening this year’s Urban Music Lawn is Gong Linna, a much-loved celebrity in China known for her Chinese-fusion singing, who will perform with her band. Famous Chinese amateur choir the Shanghai Rainbow Chamber Singers and their conductor Jin Chengzhi present a choral workshop performing works by Jin himself. The choir is made up of young millennial singers who sing songs about their lives and shared experiences, loved by millions around China. Chinese singer-songwriter Huo Zun and pianist Song Siheng perform works including Siheng’s Pandemic Diary of Music alongside the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra String Quartet. Other highlights include performances by guitarist Zhang Xiongguan and his jazz trio, and guitarist and singer Xu Feiyu and her jazz partners. Closing the Urban Music Lawn is the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet performing arrangements of the James Bond theme, Autumn Leaves and many more.

Young talent

MISA is passionate about fostering young talent and giving young musicians performance opportunities. This year’s Festival features performances by the Shanghai Youth Choir and Federation, the Shanghai Student Chinese Orchestra and the Shanghai Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (who celebrate their 10th anniversary this year) in addition to a MISA Student’s Fair. Some of the annual MISA projects for children and students have had to be adapted due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In an effort to create a high-quality virtual project during the special time this year, MISA will launch the nation’s first original interactive online music course. The course ‘Finding Mozart’ has been exclusively planned and produced by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and will be on a number of China-based online platforms including Bilibili and Weibo from July 18th. The course is divided into 6 lessons, each with a different theme such as rhythm, melody, harmony and structure. The aim of the course is to teach people who admire music how to think about creativity and also to inspire them through different interactive musical games.

Shanghai Orchestra Academy and New York Philharmonic

The Shanghai Orchestra Academy (SOA) was founded in 2014 as the result of a partnership between the Shanghai Symphony OrchestraNew York Philharmonic and Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Each year the New York Philharmonic travels to Shanghai to teach SOA students and performs multiple concerts during the MISA Festival. Starr International Foundation has been the Presenting Sponsor of the New York Philharmonic - Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Partnership for six years.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York Philharmonic is unable to travel to Shanghai. Instead, players from New York Philharmonic will collaborate virtually through a virtual side-by-side performance where approximately 50 New York  Philharmonic players will join with around 30 SOA students to form an online orchestra to play a selection from the third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, Pathétique. Other projects include online one-on-one masterclasses by three New York Philharmonic musicians: Sheryl Staples (Principal Associate Concertmaster), Robert Langevin (Principal Flute) and Joseph Alessi (Principal Trombone). These masterclasses are not only for SOA students but also students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and non-professional young players. MISA will also share a personal video message from Deborah Borda, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Philharmonic, as part of the ongoing partnership.

To celebrate its ongoing partnership with New York Philharmonic, SOA will share archival videos of chamber music performances featuring New York Philharmonic musicians from the last few years, which will be introduced by the Philharmonic musicians as part of the ‘Sound of SOA’ series.

Virtual orchestra
For the first time in its history, the MISA Festival is presenting a virtual orchestra and inviting amateur musicians of all ages to take part. The project is in collaboration with Shanghai-based video sharing site Bilibili who will host the scores for people to download for free. The chosen piece is a traditional Chinese work called Jasmine and the project will culminate in a video featuring a selection of videos from the public. 

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