November 28, 2018

Westminster Choir Visits China

Since its founding in 1920, the Westminster Choir has served as an American Choral Ambassador through its tours and performances in 29 countries. In October, they added one more nation to that list: China.

Westminster Choir was the only ensemble from the U.S. invited to participate in the 2018 Beijing International Students Chorus Festival. The trip was supported by Kaiwen Education, the company to which Rider University wants to sell Westminster Choir College.

 The other ensembles in attendance were from South Africa, Poland, Korea, Japan, Austria, Latvia, Spain, the Philippines, and Malaysia, as well as several Chinese schools and universities.  Westminster presented four concerts as part of the festival, including a joint performance with the Malaysian Institute of Art Choir. This concert was especially meaningful since the Malaysian choir is conducted by Susanna Saw, who is enrolled in Westminster’s online Master of Music Education program.  This past summer she participated in Westminster’s Choral Institute at Oxford in Oxford, England, and Westminster’s Summer Choral Festival in Princeton.

Westminster’s Dean Marshall Onofrio joined the choir for the visit to Beijing.  He said, “Our visits to the two Kaiwen academies were wonderful opportunities for us to learn about the school programs and the educational mission of the academies. It is clear that Kaiwen’s mission aligns directly with the core aspirations of Westminster. Their commitment to musical and educational excellence is deep and genuine.”

 Westminster Choir’s conductor and Director of Choral Activities Joe Miller also presented a lecture to choral festival participants about choir voicing at Tsinghua University. “The Chinese choral community is one of the fastest growing markets in all of classical music, and they are hungry for curriculum development and the expertise to bring quality vocal and keyboard education to their schools,” he said.

 In addition to the festival events, Westminster Choir presented an independent concert at the Forbidden City Concert Hall, which is renowned for its fine acoustic.  The audience, composed of families and members of China’s choral community, gave the choir a standing ovation and purchased Westminster Choir recordings, which were sold out in 10 minutes.

The choir also visited the Kaiwen Academy Haidian and Chaoyang campuses, where they collaborated with the Kaiwen students for choral workshops. Its concert in the Arts Center’s state-of-the-art concert hall on the Chaoyang campus was the inaugural performance in the school’s new performance series.

 Between performances and workshops, the choir members were able to squeeze in to visit some of China’s best-known historic sites: the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.  And they concluded their visit with a celebratory Peking Duck dinner hosted by Kaiwen Education.