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Youth Music Culture Guangdong 2021 Special Event Featured Yo-Yo Ma and More

The event featured three parts: an online concert by the GSO, "Inside the Practice Room with Yo-Yo Ma," and "A Dialogue with Masters Across Continents.

The Youth Music Culture Guangdong (YMCG) 2021 Special Event presented by the Department of Culture and Tourism of Guangdong Province and organized by the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra (GSO) and Xinghai Concert Hall ended successfully on January 30, 2021. Yo-Yo Ma, Artistic Director of YMCG from 2017 to 2020, joined from Boston, USA, and Long Yu, Chairman of the Artistic Committee and Music Director of the GSO, participated from Guangzhou, China. Through the global dialogue, the GSO connected with young musicians and people from different cultural backgrounds, exploring the power of music and imagination and inspiring young people to build a grand plan to change the world. It was a display and convergence of the power of thought. More than a dozen platforms including CCTV News Mobile Network, Xinhua News Agency Live Cloud, "CCTV" APP, Station B, TikTok and other platforms jointly conducted live webcasts, which attracted the attention of more than 1.5 million people.

The reason why it was called a "Special Event" was not because YMCG was changed from ten days to one day, or because of the compromises made due to the pandemic, which blocked international travel. It simply came into being, just like the improvisation tradition that is so cherished by YMCG. The YMCG 2021 Special Event was like a great improvisation in itself. Its value cannot be measured by the length of time, and it is not substandard because of the physical distance of its audience and participants. As Yo-Yo Ma described in the second part of the project "In the Practice Room with Yo-Yo Ma," the music of "The Swan" (from Saint-Saëns' Carnival of Animals) is just like the bird's beauty and quietude. But just as the swan's webbed feet under the water struggle to move forward, reluctant to give up a moment of hard work, the performer kneads the strings with his left hand and draws the bow with the right hand. The precise coordination is rarely noticed. Supporting the unique culture in front of a screen, the event was a culmination of countless sleepless nights by the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra team, and innumerable inspirations by the creative team. The goal of all these efforts, in the words of Yo-Yo Ma: "Mr. Long Yu strives for and tirelessly promotes exploring the true meaning of culture."

The YMCG 2021 Special Event consisted of three parts: an online concert by the GSO, "Inside the Practice Room with Yo-Yo Ma," and "A Dialogue with Masters Across Continents." Each part was interconnected, and the selection of the discussion content was well-intentioned. The first piece of the online concert, A Pleasant Evening, represented the great assembly of people, portraying the YMCG gathering at the end of the year; Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto with soloist Serena Wang was both a farewell to Beethoven's 250th anniversary year and a demonstration of YMCG's pursuit of cooperation and listening. "The piano is a part of the orchestra. You must integrate into the orchestra's performance, listen carefully, and actively participate in all musical dialogue," said pianist Serena Wang.

Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto integrates the influence of multiculturalism and shows the direction of future music. Sharing the same stage with Beethoven's works showcases the past and the future. The GSO has performed countless moving performances under the direction of Music Director Long Yu. This "Special Event" performance is as always, without any compromise; the two young soloists have their own ingenuity; Serena Wang was rigorous and grand, and Paloma So's imaginative performance shined in the plasticity with the orchestra.

In his "Practice Room," Yo-Yo Ma used Saint-Saëns' The Swan, excerpts from Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony, and sheng performer Wu Tong's Rain Falling From the Roof to explain the psychological and physiological mechanism of music. The realization of knowing one's heart and pushing oneself and others is deliberate.

The third part of the "Special Event" was a dialogue between Yo-Yo Ma, Maestro Long Yu, and various young people from different cultures and professional backgrounds. In the words of Long Yu, this was a "family gathering." In fact, that night many students who had participated in previous YMCGs and even performed on stage with Yo-Yo Ma came back to the stage to participate in this unique discussion. The YMCG students who could not come in person also expressed their memories and warm feelings through social media.

Li Bingyang, a violin student who participated in YMCG four times, followed the "Special Event" from the United States: "Across the screen, but with the same familiar touch, Yo-Yo Ma is still the wandering 'old horse.' He is sincere with practical actions. We follow the development of human beings." 2019-2020 French horn student Chen Jianxi said, "I am very touched to be able to present the exchange of ideas and music culture to everyone in such a special year. I hope to discuss exchanges with you in Guangzhou next year."

The exchanges between the two masters, Yo-Yo Ma and Long Yu, with youth were full of creative brilliance, without "routines" or frills. A participant of four consecutive previous YMCGs, Kunming Nie Er Symphony Orchestra Viola Principal Teng Fei asked, "If musicians lose the stage, how can they give back to the society?" Yo-Yo Ma replied, "I played for people in a hospital in San Diego yesterday through videoconferencing software, and I followed the camera to individual rooms to interact with people through music. If you think this is not enough, then think about those who have given you food and clothing and cared for you. Are you grateful? Then you will get your answer."

A YMCG volunteer, Lu Yanlin, who studied history at the University of California in the USA, asked, "What is the connection between the humanities and music? What are their meanings to society?" Yo-Yo Ma's answer was, "We look up to the sky and feel deeply our human insignificance; we look at the mountains and rivers, expressing the beauty of good fortune; we peek into our hearts, wishing to inquire and explore. Science, art, and humanities are young in the world, earth, and people. People invent disciplines and research to explore meaning in our short lives."

Li Jiang, a graduate of the Department of Comparative Literature and Physics at Harvard University, raised the question, "How can technology bring people back to humanity?" Ma shared his thoughts saying, "Technology can tell me what color a flower is, but can it write a poem? There may not be an algorithm in the world, but good literary and musical works are rich in dimensionality, which is enough to fully understand the world."

The above are just a few of the topics discussed by Yo-Yo Ma and the young attendees. The richness and depth of his imagination is amazing. In the last session, Ouyang Nana, a young cello player and singer-songwriter, raised two imaginative questions. The young lady asked frankly, "If you could go back in time to when you were 20 years old, what kind of life would you have? Do you think you would play the cello? Is there a gender of your cello?" The master responded sincerely, "If I returned to my 20s, I would be deeply worried about the changes to the environment. I would hope to get a promise from my elders to pay attention to the changes in the surrounding environment and to create a better future for me and the next generation; the cello is neither male nor female, but male or female. It can be infinitely transformed, but it needs your imagination to give it a unique life." Yo-Yo Ma joked that his imagination and intellect stemmed from "not taking himself too seriously." In other words, he always maintains an open, tolerant, and accepting attitude, especially with youth. This encouragement for young people to be free from marginal difficulties coincides with Master Long Yu's consistent support for the development of youth, especially young musicians. Maestro Yu said, "I must admit that I have learned a lot from young people. Their active thinking, the integration of communication has brought a new view of the world. This is how society develops, and the waves at the back are always pushing the waves at the front. Challenge predecessors, create new things. YMCG was created to provide such a space to let people see the vitality and ideas of young people."

The Youth Music Culture Guangdong 2021 Special Event's theme was "Music never stops. Keep playing!" In Yo-Yo Ma's words, music - like other disciplines and other art categories - is just one of the ways to interpret the world. Its mission is to endow an infinite life with endless imagination and ceaseless value. Every time a meaningful note is played, it is an attempt to change the world. By understanding the value of music, you can understand why YMCG can create a piece of history that will be preserved in one night.

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