Text by Julie O'yang
If a certain artistic truthfulness can stir the Chinese soul and imaginations, what effect might H. C. Andersen in the shape of biblical chorale have?
I didn’t have to wonder on Tuesday evening when Ars Nova Copenhagen gave a precious, calming, and almost meditative performance in Kunming, a.k.a. the City of Eternal Spring, in southwest China. Precious, because Kunming(!) is nearly as far as the moon even to Andersen’s forever imaginative mind.
The choir, meticulously prepared by conductor Michael Bojesen, seemed energized. The twelve members, male and female singers, looking typically solemn and devoted in their European costume, sang with artistic, if sometimes distant, commitment. As well they might, responding to an unfamiliar, incomparably cool and imperturbable Chinese audience.
Copenhagen Art Ensemble (ARS NOVA Copenhagen) is recognized as one of Europe’s top choirs, whose repertoire ranges widely from baroque to contemporary music interpretations including folk songs both natural and modern in their approach. Ever since their first stage performance in 1979, the choir has launched a number of albums, built a global reputation and toured the world with their creative adaptation of engaging ethnic elements. Their vocal works reflect the close relationship between religion and Danish music, exhibiting a full spectrum of the Danish choral tradition. The song list for Kunming concert that climaxed with the famous Chinese Song Molihua (Jasmine Flower) seemed secure in body and pitch, both
added ornamentation that was smooth and to the point, delicate and subtle - maybe so subtle that the audience may, unwisely, have missed the soaring quality of the finale lyrics “Let me pick you with tender care, sweetness for all to share.”
Mr. Michael Bojesen, conductor for the choir’s China tour this time and himself a versatile artist, does share a close emotional tie with the country. His great grandfather, Carl Christian Bojesen, came to China in 1872 to work for a Nordic telegraph company which helped establish the Chinese telegraph. Carl was married to a Chinese woman and they had children. His grandfather, Peter Ludvig Bojesen, was born 1884 in Shanghai and later married an American-Chinese woman. Peter was an architect and built quite a few monumental buildings in Shanghai. His father, Samuel Ludvig, was born 1910 in Shanghai and worked for a Danish company until he left China in 1956.
Ars Nova Copenhagen China Tour is organized by Beijing-based UniArt World, a performing arts agency that runs sister offices in Vienna, Austria and Shanghai, China, dedicating to cultural exchange and artists programme exchange over the past decade. As a successful promoter of performing arts and a world-class partnr, UniArt has introduced concerts as well as theatrical works from Europe, North America and Australia to various Chinese cities, acting as a golden bridge for culture and entertainment industry between China and the world. When asked about her future plan with a country like Denmark, Lisa Zheng, general project manager of UniArt Beijing answered me with an astute smile: “Hans Christian Andersen. I became acquainted with his marvellous tales when I was very young. For Chinese people, he is always a giver. He shows sympathy for those who encountered misfortunes. A proletarian writer, one would say. China is the place to be at the moment, I want to pave a road to receive the creative generosity from Denmark that will continue to enrich the people’s imagination today!”