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Pop goes the theater

Festival gives the mainstream music genre an unconventional home in venues in Beijing that typically host plays rather than concerts, Xing Wen reports.

By Xing Wen | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-18 06:19
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Jiang Tao, a veteran music producer who is also secretary-general of the festival's organizing committee, poses with Wong at an event. [Photo provided to China Daily]

It's universally agreed upon that performing in front of audiences and critics is the ultimate test of ability and courage for a stage actor. But for veteran music producer Jiang Tao, singing in a theater with a superior sound system and fostering closer interaction between audiences and performers also serves as a touchstone for a talented singer. That's why he has run the annual Beijing International Pop Music Festival, which offers pop musicians opportunities to perform in theaters, since 2015.

Singer-songwriters Jeremy Zhang, Zhang Qiang and Jin Wenqi, as well as the bands Wild Children, New Pants and Sir Deer, are among the artists who have been invited by the festival over the past 10 years.

Jiang is one of the festival's initiators and is now the secretary-general of its organizing committee.

"Compared to stadiums and arenas where concerts are frequently held, theaters enable the audience to perceive the performers' nuances more distinctly. And because they have superior sound systems, theaters also enable artists to better showcase their skills," he explains.

Veteran artist Gong Linna performing at the annual Beijing International Pop Music Festival last year.  [Photo provided to China Daily]

He says lively and bustling outdoor music festivals typically prioritize the interactions between performers and crowds. In contrast, within a theater setting, audiences tend to quietly appreciate performances with less interaction.

"This scenario presents artists with a greater challenge: how to properly handle the atmosphere in a theater filled with thousands of people."

Jiang recalls singer-songwriter Lao Lang's solo concert, which was held as part of the first Beijing International Pop Music Festival in December 2015 at the Beijing Poly Theatre.

"As the concert progressed into its final third, the audience began to stand up. However, their reaction wasn't the chaotic frenzy seen in rock concerts, where people jump onto chairs. This warm and orderly atmosphere made me feel particularly good. It fulfilled my ideal image of pop performances in theaters," Jiang recollects.

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