Traditional Chinese music faces a tough battle for the hearts, minds, and iPods of a new generation. Amidst the rise of western imports and home-grown C-pop, there seems to be less and less space for the songs that provided a soundtrack to Chinese history for centuries.
Even if the tunes of old live on, the ancient instruments that performed them are playing an increasingly marginalized role in modern society. Classical western instruments are now more widely taken up by Chinese children, some of whom may only see their ancestral music performed in the name of tourist donations.
The first time that a group of people stood together and sang in unison, a captive audience was born. Through that performance, early humans realized that multiple voices produced a much richer sound than a single one could.
Throughout history, developments in musical notation led to different forms of group singing: in harmony (as seen in European choral music), backed by musical instruments, or within a church. The latter is the origin of the phrase “a capella” (Italian for “in the manner of the church”), which has come to mean singing without musical accompaniment.
The most common type of arrangement is a mixed choir of male and female singers, usually consisting of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices. Choirs can be categorized by the kind of institution that directs them – for example, a church, a school, or a community organization – or the kind of music they perform, such as a classical choir, a barbershop quartet, a gospel choir, or a show chorus.
At first glance, live music shows may not seem the most family-friendly of places. Crowds, loud noises, and smoking keep many parents and kids at bay.
However, as music lovers grow older and start families, they need not fear abandoning the shows they love just because they now have little ones in tow.
“They don’t want to settle down, so it’s understandable,” says Pierre Brahin, a Beijing-based composer and musician from France who plays world music, jazz, and flamenco. He is also father to 6-year-old Lucien.
While many musicians and die-hard fans worry about how having a family may impede their chances of catching gigs, those gripes are usually unfounded. “I have a lot of friends who are musicians, and nearly all of them have kids,” he says.
Travelers: Deputy Head Teacher at the British School of Beijing (BSB) Sanlitun, Christine Armstrong, and her two kids Sophie (age 7) and Jack (age 5), who both attend the school.
Destination: East coast of Australia
Dates: December 14, 2013 to January 4, 2014
Travel plans: The family flew from Beijing to Sydney with
Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, where they spent a day in the city between flights. After staying one night at the Mercure Hotel Sydney Airport, the three travelers flew to Brisbane with Qantas and hired a car from Thrifty Car Rental. They then worked their way down Australia’s east coast, passing through Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Port Stephens, Shoal Bay, and Katoomba before returning to stay in the north Sydney suburb of Manly for four days. The trip was mostly organized by Christine, with the help of Australian friends and the websites elong.com (flights) and agoda.com (hotels).
Cost: International flights RMB 17,000; internal flights RMB 1,500; hotels RMB 4,000; house rental RMB 2,200 for the
family’s share; car hire RMB 6,000, spending money RMB 16,000; visas were free for British passport holders. Approximate total RMB 47,000.
At the time of this article’s writing in mid-January, Beijing had yet to receive its first bout of snow. Luckily, families can escape to a winter resort to ski and snowboard on man-made runs. Non-skiers can join the fun too, with activities like sleighing, tubing, hiking, or simply kicking back at the lodge.
The capital is not short on places to ski, but there is a more serious destination about 200km northwest of Beijing in Chongli, a county in Hebei Province trying to establish itself as the “Davos of China” in reference to the famous ski resort in the Swiss Alps.
Also nicknamed the “Backyard of Beijing,” Chongli’s average temperature is about 7°C lower than in the capital. The area’s heavy snowfall and better snow quality make the county a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders.
There is nothing quite like being immersed in a 40°C water while feeling below-freezing air on the skin of your shoulders. But while we can appreciate the therapeutic effects of hot water gushing from beneath the earth, a major drawback of traditional hot springs is the fact that you have to share a pool with strangers. Luckily, many hotels and resorts in Beijing’s suburbs now offer private hot springs on balconies and courtyards.
Most of these are located approximately 40km north of Beijing in Changping District. The small town of Xiaotangshan may have a somewhat unfortunate reputation as a former SARS treatment site, after the government hastily built a hospital there in 2003 to deal with the outbreak, but it is traditionally known for its rich geothermal resources.
Like most parent-owned businesses, Little Chic was conceived from an unmet need.
“Our children are the real force behind Little Chic,” says Emily Cheng, one half of the duo behind the children’s furniture brand. “We couldn’t find any stylish and reasonably-priced furniture in Beijing, so we decided to design and make our own.”
Love Is in the Air
Whether you are a romantic or a cynic, Valentine’s Day is almost here. No matter your stance on the holiday, showing how much you appreciate your partner never goes out of style.
Though far from cheap, hotel brunches offer reliability, convenience, and a plethora of choices to satisfy picky eaters and disparate tastes. But with so many vying for your attention (and renminbi), how does one separate the best from the rest? Luckily, we do the testing for you. (Note that all prices carry a 15 percent surcharge.)
By the way - HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Sunday Zone at Kerry Hotel Beijing
The city’s newest Sunday brunch includes access to Kerry Hotel Beijing’s Adventure Zone, a play center built from imported parts and featuring a 7.3m-high slide with a sheer drop (see Birthday Bash on p17 for a review). The brunch selection is all about customization, with different stations offering made-to-order Asian and Western dishes. The dessert corner is one of the most extensive in the city, with big bins filled with candy and rocky road chocolate that can be chipped off with a mallet.
RMB 398+ per adult (no alcohol), RMB 498+ (all-you-can-drink champagne), RMB 194+ per child (ages 6-12, includes access to Adventure Zone for two hours between 11.30am-3pm), free for kids under 6. For every two paying adults, one child under 6 can get access to the Adventure Zone; additional children are charged a minimum of RMB 100 each for entry. Sun 11.30am-3pm. Kerry’s Kitchen, 1/F, Kerry Hotel Beijing, 1 Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District (8565 2088 ext 40) 朝阳区光华路1号嘉里酒店1层嘉品
Travelers: Martin (Germany) and Lisa Buchmueller (US), along with their son Max (age 4), who attends Eduwings kindergarten in Shunyi. They joined eight other couples/families from all across Europe, made up of Martin’s group of friends from an Erasmus year at the University of Birmingham in the UK in the 1990s.
Destinations: Solingen, Germany; Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Dates: June 19-28, 2013
Travel plans: The family flew from Beijing to Dusseldorf in Germany to drop in on Max’s grandparents in nearby Solingen. They then flew Air Berlin to Mallorca where they rented a ten-bedroom house in Alcudia in the northeast of the island.
Cost: Flights were approximately RMB 21,000. Car rental for three days in Germany cost RMB 2,500 and seven days in Mallorca cost around RMB 2,000 (both Opel Corsa, both excluding gas). Accommodation at the Finca Casa Siona in Mallorca worked out to about EUR 50 (RMB 418) per person, per night, with an additional nightly fee for the group’s private chef of EUR 30 (RMB 251) per adult.