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China’s ‘Book of Songs’ sung by young voices

“The Book of Songs” is China’s oldest existing collection of musical verses, dating back some 3,000 years. On Dec 26 and 27, they were given a makeover, in a modern setting — the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

A musical verse known simply as “Deer Chirping” was traditionally sung to welcome guests to a feast. The melody is thousands of years old, but the arrangement and instrumentation used for the NCPA performances were a little more contemporary.

The ten songs that were performed were chosen to portray the normal lives of ancient Chinese people and how they expressed feelings and emotions.

Many of the lyrics are household lines for Chinese people. But they center on ancient attitudes and etiquette, which have mostly disappeared.

“Etiquette was always an essential part of ancient Chinese culture,” said Wu Zheming, director of Guangzhou Trout Opera Troupe. “We want the audience to get to know these traditions, which are now rarely seen in modern lives.”

Performing the songs in a truly authentic style is a daunting challenge. Organizers hope the modern interpretation will help convey the true language of ancient China.

The show is set to tour other Chinese cities, and it will be taken to New York in May.