Arts & Culture

Chinese Vocal Competition Heats Up

BY Christine Lin TIMEJuly 31, 2009 PRINT
Tenor Yuan Qu (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times)
Tenor Yuan Qu (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—Vocal professionals and students from all over the globe gathered at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in New York for the third annual NTDTV Chinese International Vocal Competition.

Twenty-two contestants—11 from the female division and 11 from the male division—will continue in this weekend's contest.

This bel canto competition is part of a series of nine held by international satellite television station New Tang Dynasty TV, whose mission is to promote traditional culture through the arts. The vocal competition aims to “foster cultural exchange and promote traditional vocal arts of pure authenticity, pure goodness, and pure beauty,” according to its charter. The competition is the first one ever that is open only to Chinese and Chinese descendants.

Over 100 vocalists applied from more than 10 countries, including the United States, France, Italy, Australia, Japan, China and Taiwan. Forty-four of them were invited to New York as preliminary contestants.

On Sunday, one gold, one silver and two bronze awards will be given in the female and male divisions. The winners will take home $10,000, $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.

“The competition is meant to introduce the Chinese language to the vocal community,” said judge Yang Jiansheng, a critically acclaimed alto who began her career with China’s Central Philharmonic Orchestra and later studied with Italian operatic masters.

“It's very difficult to sing Chinese songs in a Western style. It takes great skill on the vocalist's part and they need to enunciate. But because not many contestants choose to sing in Chinese today, it's hard to tell how good they truly are,” she said.

All contestants will be required to sing two songs each of their own choosing—at least one of which must be in Chinese.

Speaking of the semi-final round on Saturday, Yang said, “Tomorrow will be a better measure of their skills.”

Contestants will be judged on the range of their voice, their use of volume and projection, how well they control their voices, and fluency in the languages they sing in, according to Yang.

Contestants may choose to sing Chinese traditional, folk, and classic songs, television and movie theme songs and arias—but all pieces must be performed in the bel canto style, which originated in 18th and early 19th century Italy and is recognized for its flexibility in the use of vocal range.

A Unique Space

In its three years of existence, the Chinese International Vocal Competition has served as a unique platform for Chinese artists to share their skills.

“This competition is for Chinese people all over the world and I think that’s what attracted me,” said tenor Alvin Tan from San Francisco, California—now a semi-finalist—who has a degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

“I think a true artist serves the music and not him or herself,” Tan said.

Another semi-finalist, mezzo-soprano Lee Yu, is participating in the competition for the third year. For her, it's about personal growth.

“Arts are related to a person’s personal experience,” she said. “For me, technical improvement has a limit, yet inspiration is unlimited. One might sing the same song differently at different ages, because he or she would have a different understanding of the song.”


Female division:

Hui-Ju Chen, soprano, New York
Yu Lee, mezzo-soprano, New York
Kai Yi Min, soprano, Taiwan
Jin Shi Wu, soprano, New York
Tao Huang, mezzo-soprano, China
Julie Lemmons, alto, New York
Yunan Ge, soprano, France
Yun-ju Chen, mezzo-soprano, New York
Chun-Ting Chao, soprano, Taiwan
Ke Chen, soprano, Michigan
Haolan Geng, soprano, China

Male division:

Yuan Qu, tenor, New York
Chee Shen Tan, tenor, New York
Chia Tien Lin, tenor, New Jersey
Yonge Wang, tenor, Canada
Alvin Tan, baritone, California
Zheng Ning, baritone, New York
Bei Gou, tenor, Texas
Jason Fuh, baritone, Ohio
Xueyuan Yang, tenor, Japan
Xing Wan, bass, New Jersey
Yi Cherng Lin, baritone, Maryland

Soprano Haolan Geng (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times)
Soprano Haolan Geng (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times)
Tenor Yonge Wang (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times)
Tenor Yonge Wang (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times)
Soprano Hui-Ju Chen (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times)
Soprano Hui-Ju Chen (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times)

Semi-finalists will move into the next round of intense competition on Saturday 10 a.m. at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater.

For tickets and other information, please see

Christine Lin is an arts reporter for the Epoch Times. She can be found lurking in museum galleries and poking around in artists' studios when not at her desk writing.
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