In China, singing Handel’s “Messiah” is forbidden in public

THE words of the chorus die away: “Quan Zhongguo de ernu yongyuan xiang taiping” (China’s children will always wish for peace). The members of the orchestra pack up their instruments—cello and dizi (Chinese flute), yangqin (dulcimer) and double bass, suona (reed horn) and xiaobo (cymbals). Beijing’s International Festival Chorus (IFC), a 60-strong group of Chinese and expatriate amateurs, finishes its final performance, a recording of a cantata by Xian Xinghai, who studied in Paris in the 1920s and was one of the first Chinese composers to be influenced by European classical music. The chorus has now disbanded. Xi Jinping, the president, has scored one more small, Pyrrhic victory over Western cultural influence.

Western choral music never had a mass following in China. But in Yunnan province in the south-west,…Continue reading

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