Orchestrating cross-cultural understanding

29 August 2017

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra toured China to share Australian culture and build new friendships.

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra performs at the Puxian Grand Theatre, Putian, during their 2016/2017 tour of China.
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra performs at the Puxian Grand Theatre, Putian, during their 2016/2017 tour of China. Credit: Becher Townshend

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO), under Chief Conductor Marko Letonja, toured China for the first time in almost two decades in December 2016 and January 2017, performing nine concerts in seven cities.

Founded in 1948 and declared a Tasmanian Icon in 1998, the TSO is one of Australia’s leading and most awarded orchestras.

Chinese provinces visited during the tour included Jiangsu, Fujian and Shanghai, with concerts taking place in the cities of Suqian, Zhenjiang, Fuzhou, Putian and Xiamen, as well as a New Year’s Eve concert in Nanjing where the orchestra was joined by the Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Symphony Orchestra.

The focus of the tour was not only to take the TSO’s expertise to China, but also to build bridges with local musicians and audiences, and foster cross-cultural goodwill and greater awareness of Tasmania.

‘The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is an outstanding arts organisation of which our State is justifiably proud and it is a pleasure to share its extraordinary musical capacity with the people of China,’ said Tasmania Premier, Will Hodgman.    

‘The Government is a strong supporter of the arts and appreciates the value of cultural exchanges in building strong connection and supporting cultural diplomacy and avenues to grow Tasmanian businesses.’

One of the centerpiece works of the tour was Tan Dun’s Double Bass Concerto, Wolf Totem, with soloist Stuart Thomson, a work that has deep Chinese affinities and was co-commissioned by the TSO.

Overall, attendances for the tour are estimated to have exceeded 10 000 people. The TSO reached even more people through a radio broadcast of the final concert of the tour in Shanghai which is estimated to have reached many hundreds of thousands of listeners. That particular concert included Wolf Totem as well as selections from Elena Kats-Chernin’s Wild Swans and Julian Yu’s orchestration of Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata (commissioned by the TSO).

As well as the musical connections that were forged, the tour deepened engagement between Tasmania and China.

Three of the concerts took place in Fujian Province – Tasmania’s sister province – including Fuzhou, Hobart’s sister city, and Putian, soon to be Launceston’s sister city.

State and local government representatives from Tasmania accompanied part of the tour including the Minister for the Arts, Vanessa Goodwin, and Hobart Deputy Lord Mayor, Ron Christie.

The TSO was welcomed in each city by local dignitaries, senior officials and business leaders.

The TSO tour of China was supported by the Australia-China Council (ACC). The Australia-China Council was established  by  the  Australian  Government  in  1978  to  promote  mutual understanding  and foster  people-to-people  relations  between  Australia  and  China.

Local Chinese musicians and audience members got to meet Australian musicians and learn more about Tasmanian and Australian culture during the TSO’s 2016/2017 tour of China.
Local Chinese musicians and audience members got to meet Australian musicians and learn more about Tasmanian and Australian culture during the TSO’s 2016/2017 tour of China. Credit: Becher Townshend
Last Updated: 29 August 2017