60 years after Yuri Gagarin undertook mankind’s first space journey, China launched the core capsule of its space station on the morning of April 29, at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, which formally embarking on the construction of one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated space-based facilities.
As the countdown ticked down to zero at 11:23 am, named Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens, the successful launching of the core capsule, marked that China’s space station construction has entered the full implementation stage, which lays a solid foundation for follow-up tasks.
During the launch of Tianhe, Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed under the baton of conductor Xia Xiaotang, with a concert, titled Fly Into the Space, along the beach nearby the Wenchang Space Launch Center. While celebrating the exciting moment with classical music, the concert also marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.
The Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed repertories designed for the special moment, which pays tribute to Chinese astronauts and allows aerospace technology and classical music to cross-border.
On April 24, 1970, China launched its first satellite, Dongfanghong 1. The day has since then been regarded as the beginning of the nation’s space explorations. The revolutionary Chinese song, also titled Dongfanghong, or East is Red, was performed at the historic moment. The song was performed by Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on April 29, with the core capsule taking off behind them, dedicating to the country’s milestones of exploring the space during the past five decades.
Another classic Chinese song performed during the concert on April 29 was Wan Quan He Shui, or Wanquan River, a popular folk of Hainan province. The song, written by Wu Zuqiang and Du Mingxin, was featured in a Chinese ballet production, Red Detachment of Women, China’s first original ballet production, which, by the National Ballet of China, was premiered in Beijing in 1964. It is best known in the West as the ballet performed for former US president Richard Nixon during his visit to China in 1972.
Chinese patriotic songs, including Ode to the Motherland, written by Wang Shen in 1951, and Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China, written by Cao Huoxing (1924-1999) in 1943, were also featured in the concert.
“It’s a great honor to perform with Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on this special occasion. With the big ocean, blue sky and the rocket right behind us, I am very excited and overwhelmed by the scene,” said conductor Xia Xiaotang before the concert started.
Xia Xiaotang said that it was the first time that he performed at a rocket launching site. The sound of the rocket launching has become a part of the concert.
“Classical music stirs the imagination, creativity, emotions. Humanity’s interest in the heavens has been universal and enduring. Space exploration also satisfies human imagination,” he added.
Besides Chinese songs, the musicians also performed Western music works during the concert.
The Planets, a seven-movement orchestral suite composed by English composer Gustav Holst, was featured during the concert. Written between 1914 and 1916, each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System, such as Mars, Venus and Jupiter. The musicians also performed David Hoffner’s Positive Outlook, which has been used as background music for many of the space launches with great significance.
“Those repertories were written with the theme of space. When we perform them during the concert, we better understand the composers’ ideas behind those works, which is quite a different experience from performing those works at concert halls,” said Xia Xiaotang.
Throughout the concert, visitors stood along the beach and enjoyed the powerful chemistry between classical music and aerospace technology. Videos have been shared on Chinese social media platforms, which received warm feedback from the fans. On May 8, the concert was streamed on major video-streaming websites, which went viral. So far, the exposure of the whole network has exceeded 124 million.
“The core capsule is a significant goal in China’s manned space endeavor. With the performance of Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the moment has further impressed us. We are proud of the country and its achievements of the strong power of science, technology, and space,” commented a fan.
“It’s a tear-jerking moment when the music of Positive Outlook started and the core capsule soaring to the sky. The scene is so romantic and I’m happy to witness the historic moment,” wrote another fan.
The concert has also been reported by major Chinese media platforms, such as People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, and CCTV. The photos of the concert have been named the best photos of the week by the Washington Post. “The rocket, carrying the Tianhe space station core module, marks the beginning of a series of missions to complete the space station by the end of 2022,” wrote by Washington Post.
The concert was sponsored by CRCC (China Railway Construction Real Estate Group), PICC (People’s Insurance Company of China). With the concert, the Xi’an Symphony Orchestra also built a partnership with OCT Hainan Group and Sanya Red Detachment of Women.
Founded in 2012, Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gathered musicians with an average of 30 years old and won a large fan base by its creative programs. It’s not the first time they have staged concerts at outdoor venues in lots of innovative ways.
Last April, Xi’an Symphony Orchestra has launched a series of online streaming concerts, titled When Museum Meets XSO, combining them with art pieces displayed at museums in Xi’an. Last July, they’ve staged a concert titled XSO Meets Huashan Mountain Summit Clouds Rhapsody, which saw 200 musicians from the Xi’an Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of conductor Tang Muhai performing on the west peak of Huashan Mountain in Shaanxi province, one of China’s five most famous scenic mountains with an altitude of about 2,000 meters, which attracted millions of fans on Chinese social media platforms.
With the classical music scene is booming in China, Xi’an Symphony Orchestra, one of the youngest symphony orchestras in the country has been trying to find creative ways to engage with their audiences. To introduce classical music to a wider audience, especially the younger generation, they will continue to try the fusion of music and other things, and take music to more impossible places.