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Chinese and Egyptian musicians, far apart, still hit inspiring note

China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-15 08:32
Workers carry medical supplies donated by the Chinese government in Cairo on Sunday. The supplies were the second batch of donations from China consisting of N95 masks, protective suits and testing kits.[Photo/Xinhua]

CAIRO-As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, Chinese and Egyptian musicians, thousands of kilometers apart, staged a virtual performance of the Triumphal March from Aida, using music to soothe suffering hearts and inspire people in these difficult times.

The piece, symbolizing victory, will encourage people to overcome the epidemic with optimism and courage, the musicians say.

Inspiring music

"I played trumpet in my room, and the Egyptian musician played trumpet far away at his home. At different times and in different locations, we shared the joy of playing together with music as the carrier," Yuan Ye, principal trumpet of the Liaoning Symphony Orchestra and an initiator of the online performance, says.

"Friendship started when musicians from Liaoning performed in Egypt last year," says Zhu Xinyu, vice-president of the Liaoning Opera House, adding that as musicians from both countries were quarantined at home,"there came the idea of (an) online performance".

The Triumphal March from the second act of Aida by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi tells the story of an Egyptian pharaoh, and "is well known among the Chinese", says Shi Yuewen, cultural counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Egypt, who selected the piece for the performance.

In the opera, musicians playing long trumpets lead the heroic triumphant soldiers into the city, "which is very consistent with the desire of people today to overcome the epidemic", says Shi, also director of the Chinese Cultural Center in Cairo, who initiated and coordinated the performance.

Magdy Saber, the head of the Cairo Opera House, says the famous piece is deeply inspiring for the two peoples at this time, "blowing the horn of unity and cooperation to fight the virus".

Sincere cooperation

"The key to a virtual performance is remaining aligned and performing in rhythm," says Li Qiu, chief of the Liaoning Symphony Orchestra, who gave this type of performance for the first time in his 30-year career as a musician.

"Usually, we have a conductor for a performance," Li says, adding that in terms of recording music at home, "it is difficult to step on every beat exactly. Some of us recorded (our part) seven or eight times".

"The video brings me a lovely memory of Egyptian musicians," he says.

"The process requires coordination of many technical details," Shi says, adding that they had exchanged many emails and made a lot of phone calls to nail down details.

The time difference of six hours between Egypt and China and the unstable internet in Cairo made the task even more difficult, Shi says.

It took nearly half a month to finish the complete video, Zhu says, which lasts one minute and 34 seconds.

"We recorded it repeatedly, and finally presented this complete work to everyone," Zhu says.

Saber says in an email interview that he was deeply moved by the willingness of the artists of the two countries to jointly complete this performance and overcome all difficulties in a spirit of union and cooperation.

"The cooperation has created a grand feast for the two oldest civilizations in history," Saber says.

Sharing joy, sorrow

After the video was posted online, "many of my colleagues congratulated me on the great significance of this cooperation," says Jiang Haisheng, principal second violin of the Liaoning Symphony Orchestra, who participated in the performance.

"My daughter, who is studying in Germany, gave a thumbs up for this special performance and said she was touched," Jiang adds.

The video has attracted a lot of attention from Egyptian audiences after it was broadcast on the official websites of the Cairo Opera House and the Chinese Cultural Center on April 22.

The event is a vivid expression of cooperation and sincere friendship between the two peoples, says Egyptian Culture Minister Enas Abdel Dayem.

"Despite the geographical distance, we are sharing joy and sorrow," says Shi, adding that since the COVID-19 outbreak, China and Egypt have stood by each other and helped each other to overcome difficulties, which highlights the ever-growing friendship between the two countries.

"Best wishes for both Egypt and China!" Saber wrote.

Xinhua

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