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The Musical Bridge - China

Updated: Mar 6, 2019

Performer from a traditional Chinese opera in costume

It’s Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. This year the first day of the Lunar New Year was on February 16, 2018, and it began the Year of the Dog. Although Lunar New year is strongly part of Chinese culture, it is also celebrated in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mauritius, Australia, and the Philippines. Many cities in the Americas, such as San Francisco, Chicago, and Mexico City hold large Chinese New Year celebrations as well. Music is an important part of the festivities. There are many popular holiday folk and children’s songs, similar to the tradition of Western Christmas carols. One very popular song is “Congratulations - A New Year Song.” Other traditions include the Lion dance and the Dragon dance, exchanging gifts, floral decorations, taking family portraits, hanging ornamental lanterns, and travel.

Congratulations - performed by Pink Martini

Attending a Chinese New Year celebration is a great way to ​introduce children (and adults) to the music of another culture. Introducing students to music, along with other culutral elements such as food and visual art, promotes cultural understanding. Learning music is learning another language and by exposing your students and your own children to unfamilar sounds builds their musical fluency. Attending a performance of traditional folk music, a Chinese symphonic orchestra, or a traditional-style Chinese opera exposes students to new sounds and intriguing timbres (tone colors), including different scales, styles of singing, rhythmic patterns, and combinations of instruments and voices. Before attending a performance of Chinese music, it can be helpful to expose students to these new types of sounds. Start by introducing students to a variety of instruments, made of different materials and from different musical instrument families. There are a lot of traditional Chinese instruments. Even in Ancient China 3000 years ago, there were already more than 70 different widely used instruments