There are several children's choirs in China although we have very limited information about them. We do not know if there were children's choirs in the long historical tradition of China. We know that informal choirs were organized by Chruistian missionaries. The first formal choirs we havecnoted are from after the 1949 Communist Revolution. The Chinese choirs that we have noted are normally mixed choirs with both boys and girls. We have observed no tradition of boys' choirs as in the West. We stress, however, that there our information about Chinese choirs is very sketchy and we welcome any insights that our Chinese readers may be able to offer. We have no information on individual choirs at this time. We know little about these choirs, incliding the type of music they perform, who sponsors them, and how they are costumed. These choirs include different age groups. We have noted both children's and teen choirs. Ethnic or regional costuming appears less important in these choirs than with dance groups. Some have costumes of rather formal western clothes. Others appear to perform in simple almost casual children's clothes. A Chinese reader informs us that choral singing is popular in China and that many schools have organized choirs. His seconfary school has two large choirs.
China does not have boy choir tradition in its musical history. Music was part of religious celebrations. This music today is seldom heard, except in temples and here they normally play recorded music. An actual chorus is very rare. A Chinese reader writes, "We never think of our religion music as real music, while the Western world thinks of it as classical Chinese music."
Children's choirs in China is a introduced music form from the West. Choral songing was introduced by Christian missionaries. The first children's choir should be in Yuan Dynasty (just before Ming). The Yuan were Mongolian invaders. An Italian missionary adopted some orphans in Beijing area and trained them for singing Christian music. The Khan (emperor) at that time loved to listen to this choir and often invited the children to his palace. I'm not sure if it's a boys choir or mixed choir. The first formal choirs we have noted are from after the 1949 Communist Revolution. Some were founded in the 1950s. We are uncertain how they fared during the Cultural Revoluton. Chinese children's choirs began to grow quickly in the 1980s after the Cultural Revolution. Quite a few were established in the 1990s.
The Chinese choirs formed since the 1980s are generally attached to a government department, a school, or a children activity organization. For instance, China Children's Radio Choir is attached to China Center Radio Station. These organizations have budgets needed to support the choirs. This is the main way in which Chinese children's choirs are organized. Although choral music was introduced my Christian missionaries and Christian churches play an important part in orhanizing choirs in the West, this is not the case in China. The Chinese Government in mainland Chinan strictly limits the access of Christian and other religious groups to children. The situation is different in Hong Kong and Macao.
There are not special choir schools in China. But some organizations organize afterhours children's choirs and charge those children's parents as vocal or chorus training fee. That is for profits purpose. These choirs are numberless. A famous example is Hongkong Children's Choir.
The Chinese choirs that we have noted are normally mixed choirs with both boys and girls. We have observed no tradition of boys' choirs as in the West. We stress, however, that there our information about Chinese choirs is very sketchy and we welcome any insights that our Chinese readers may be able to offer.
There are several children's choirs in China although we have very limited information about them. We have little information on individual choirs at this time. There are many famous children's choruses in China. The most famous is the Yinhe Choir (Galaxy Children's Art Group). It belongs to Chinese Center Television System (CCTV). As the Vienna Boys Choir, the Yinhe Choir is a Chinese national treasure. It was founded in 1961. The Yinhe
Choir and Vienna Boys Choir are brotherly groups. Vienna Choir boys visit China frequently. They attended Yinhe's 40th anniversary in 2001.
Chinese children's choir sing a wide range of music, including:
Chinese folk songs: The most famous should be "What a beautiful Jasmin". This incidentally is the only Chinese song in Vienna Boys choir's song listing. Many other foreign choirs sing this beautiful song.
Chinese modern songs: This does not mean popular songs. The Chinese call many songs from 1949 to Culture Revolution the "old song". These songs are mostly about the Communist party, Chairman Mao or agriculture and industry and full of revolution and working-class enthusiasm. These songs are now not popular and rarely sung. Newer Chinese songs have a different style. Typical example is "Song of the Changjiang River" and "The same song".
Children's songs: This is the main part of a music performed by most Chinese children's choirs. The purpose of most Chinese choir's as they are largely school rather than church based, is to enrich a child's life, not ritual. So the songs are very close to children, generally gay, lively sounding tunes. These include foreign children's songs from many different countries, for instance, American ("It's a small world","Jingle Bells", "Do-Re-Me"from "The Sound of Music"), "When a child is born"); German ("Little Teenager", "Street Boys Chorus" from Carmen). Most Chinese choirs for the most part avoid selecting a song that a child would not find interesting, such as a long foreign sacred work.
Foreign art songs: Some classical foreign pieces are occassionally sung by Chinese choirs. Examples here are "On Wings of song", Bach's "Ave Maria", Schubert's "An die Musik" and "Die Forelle", J.Strauss's "Blau Danube", and the Italian piece "Santa Lucia". These pieces are less common because they are not as much fun for the younger children to learn. In fact some require considerable practice beyond the capability of many school choirs where practices are limited. Some choirs do attempt them, in part because they are staples of many foreign children's choirs.
We have little information about who sponsors the choirs in China. Many are attached to schools. A Chinese reader informs us that choral singing is popular in China and that many schools have organized choirs, both primary and secondary schools. A primary school choir can be seen here (figure 1). Oir reader's secondary school has two large choirs. Groups outside Government entities and schools sponsoring choirs are in mainland China. But in Hongkong, Macao, and Taiwan, the situation is much alike to that in Europe and America. The lack of sponsors have impeded the growth of coral music in China. Everyone likes children's voices, but choral singing is an introduced culture. Many people look at a children's choir as child's play or a school activity rather than serious music. We don't have the conception of sponsor a choir, especially school choisr, that is seen as the school's business.
These choirs include different age groups. We have noted both children's and teen choirs.
We have only limited information on choir uniforms. Ethnic or regional costuming appears less important in these choirs than with dance groups. Some have costumes of rather formal western clothes. Others especially the primary school choirs appear to perform in simple almost casual children's clothes. The primary school choir seen here wear white dresses and white shirts and blue shorts. Note the red Young Pioneer scarves. The boys' simple clothes are much alike what was worn in the 1960s before the Cukltural Revolition. This style of school clothes is still common for pupils. (A point in dating Chinese photographs, colored photography became popular among Chinese civilians in the 1980s. There was almost none in the 1960s!)
Wang Chen, e-Mail, August 27, 2002
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