Australian conductor appreciates the harmony of Chinese music

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Australian conductor Guy Noble conducts the opening piece, Jasmine Flower, at the East Meets West concert in Canberra on July 30. [Photo/Xinhua]

Guy Noble, one of Australia’s most versatile conductors, who has taken over the touring East Meets West concert, says he would like to know more about Chinese music.

“I am impressed by the history and beauty of the music and melodies, as well as the different kinds of scales and harmonies that Chinese music has,” he says.

“Even when we put them in a Western form, they’re still incredibly beautiful and quite refreshing to the ears of someone who listens mostly to Western music,” he says.

The East Meets West concert tour in Australia resumed this year after being postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was hosted in Canberra on July 30, offering audiences a repertoire of well-known Chinese and Western pieces such as Jasmine Flower, Carmen, Romeo and Juliet and The Yellow River Piano Concerto.

Noble says it was his first time conducting the Yellow River Piano Concerto. “So we all learn together,” he says.

The conductor loved the music, which he described as “fantastic”. “It’s beautiful…he has wonderful energy and great passion.”

The Canberra gig was scheduled for last fall. On July 30, Noble said he felt good about finally doing the gig.

While it was called East Meets West, music from China and the West with the same themes were brought together. For example, they have the famous Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto from China, as well as Suite No. 2 from Romeo and Juliet, Op 64ter.

Chinese and Australian soprano singers Ya Fen and Victoria Lambourn performed a duet Hope Betrayed, inspired by the classic Chinese novel A Dream of Red Mansions.

Noble says he loved the duet because they showed completely different singing styles: those of traditional Chinese opera and Western opera. “They’re not exactly the same, but they got together,” he says.

In an interview before the concert, the bandleader said he thought the audience might also be “East Meets West”.

“I hope the two audiences will come together, joined by the music. That’s what it’s all about,” he says.

“I think by meeting each other and listening to music that isn’t normally heard, every kind of culture gets to know each other a little bit more.”

A professional conductor for over 20 years, Noble regards music as an international language. He notes that more music at the concert is about love, which is also an international language.

“We are much closer than we think,” he says.

“The more we understand another culture, the less foreign or concerned we feel about it… The more we know each other, the fewer disagreements we will have.”

Noble worked in Hong Kong, a city he loves. He also praised some Chinese musicians, like pianist Lang Lang, who he said inspired many children in China to learn music, but he admits his knowledge of Chinese culture is limited.

He says conducting the Canberra gig was an experience he enjoyed, which makes him more interested in learning about the background and history of the music, and the stories behind it.

Noble is ready to create more things that may involve dance or calligraphy, or some of the other aspects of Chinese culture, and combine them with music.

He would also like to visit other Chinese cities one day, or possibly work in the country. “It’s obviously such a huge, amazing place,” says Noble.

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