Sunday, June 20, 2010

Practice and Competition

The Chinese organize many competitions. There are English competitions, math competitions, science competitions, teaching competitions, music competitions. I sometimes think they'd hold a sneezing competition if they could. A colleague told me this is a fairly new phenomenen, and it seems connected with the government's wish to foster constructive competition.

A number of teachers at NCUT like to perform Peking opera. We were invited to a rehearsal last week, and today was the competition between amateur music makers, opera singers and dancers who teach at various universities in Beijing. They were pretty good. As in the US, there are lots of people with moderate talent, few of whom make a living in the performing arts.

Peking opera uses the Asian music scale in which the fourth tone is raised a half step, so the music sounds odd, almost off key and it's rather screechy sounding, anyway. The female vocalist's offering was especially so. She reminded me of the emaciated off key soprano my grandmother hired to sing at my brother Kenny's Bar Mitzvah.

But the sets were beautiful, and the dancing was glorious. It's fun to watch people doing something for which they have passion.

Above: Rehearsal. Some of you will remember Mr. Guo, an NCUT English teacher, who attended the ETSU summer institute in 2007. Seated second from left, he plays a two string traditional instrument, the erhu.

Below: The performance

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