Silk Road from Peking… to Kilmarnock
Grange Academy reverberated to the unearthly sounds of the erhu recently, as the world-renowned Chinese Orchestra of Peking University delighted youngsters with its first ever performance outside China.
Eminent composer Professor Nigel Osborne – who has shared a stage with Barack Obama in his time – said hearing the orchestra perform a Chinese song written by Annanhill pupils was “one of the most exciting moments of my career” – and a “world first”.
Professor Osborne was visiting Grange Campus to see youngsters work with the Chinese musicians.
The 70 players of traditional instruments such as Chinese bamboo flutes, erhu (a two-stringed Chinese violin), pipa (lute) and yangqin (Chinese dulcimer) played music from all regions and traditions of China, as well as new compositions in Chinese classical style.
The musicians themselves are the elite of a new generation of young people at China’s leading university, studying a wide range of subjects from the sciences and humanities to new technologies, law and medicine.
Professor Osborne said they were “the smartest of a country of hundreds of millions, to get into this high-flying group at Peking University” – the future top politicians, business leaders and scientists of China.
Their performance thrilled pupils from Annanhill Primary, Park School and Grange Academy, who joined the orchestra to play melodies on metallophones and to sing in Mandarin Chinese.
The prestigious cultural visit was designed to boost Grange Academy’s huge Silk Road project, an innovative educational programme relating to pathways of commerce, thought and knowledge stretching from China to Scotland.
The project involves all school subject areas in studying the historical trade routes that criss-crossed Eurasia for 2,000 years. Silk travelled from China to Scotland, but so also did cultural, scientific, mathematical and religious ideas.
By following the silk route, the school touches on many areas of interest, using music as an entry point to learning in the arts, sciences and social subjects.
The orchestra’s visit celebrates strong emerging links between China and Scotland.
Professor Osborne said: “Grange Campus has made a fantastic contribution to learning and teaching. These young Scottish pupils have composed authentic Chinese songs which have been played by a top Chinese orchestra – a world first!”
Grange Academy Headteacher Fred Wildridge said: “This was the elite orchestra’s first major visit abroad and we were proud that they chose to come to Scotland and indeed Kilmarnock.
“The stunning performance fitted well with our Chinese language programme in school and linked also to our Silk Road project”.
Councillor Stephanie Primrose, Spokesperson for Lifelong Learning, said: “The spectacular show was a real treat for the young people, bringing vividly to life the culture and language of China.
“The visit to Grange Academy – where global citizenship is high on the agenda – also provided a wonderful opportunity for pupils to meet the young Chinese performers face to face”.
As part of the Silk Road project, 1,000 pupils from Grange and two other schools in the project are due to perform in a mass concert in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall in November 2012.