World’s top children’s choirs ignite China’s performance market
Singing for New Year
Published: Jan 04, 2024 10:52 PM
Members of the Little Choir of Antoniano perform in a concert in Shanghai on December 31, 2023. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Members of the Little Choir of Antoniano perform in a concert in Shanghai on December 31, 2023. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

"Xie Xie Shanghai!" (Thank you, Shanghai!)

When the children from Italy shouted these words in unison on the first day of 2024, everyone in the audience was moved by their genuine gratitude.

The Little Choir of Antoniano, Italy's most representative choir, returned to China after a four-year hiatus. Their New Year Blessings concert resonated powerfully with Chinese audiences, awakening memories of good times and inspiring hope for the New Year.

With the arrival of the New Year, performance markets in Chinese cities have become exceptionally active. From large concerts to small theater performances, a variety of shows are available to meet the diverse needs of different audiences. 

Young audiences, in particular, have a wide range of choices. Performances by world-class children's choirs, like the Little Choir of Antoniano, offer not just a luxurious audio-visual feast but also open up a world full of art and dreams to the children.

Cultural ambassadors

Accompanied by cheerful disco-style melodies, the children waved finger lights, transforming the theater into a galaxy of twinkling stars. 

"Light up the stars. For every star that shines, a dream will be born," a young singer joyfully sang, uplifting and delighting everyone present.

This sort of magic is inherent in the Little Choir of Antoniano's New Year concert, captivating and enthralling audiences young and old. Their repertoire is eye-catching, featuring quirky songs about a lone vegetarian zombie, a silent crocodile, a giant panda with wings, and a donkey with dyslexia. Behind these fanciful stories lie profound life lessons.

The Little Choir of Antoniano, the most famous children's choir from Italy and Good Will Ambassador for the UNICEF, was established in 1963 and currently has more than 60 members ranging in ages from five to 12. 

Members of the Little Choir of Antoniano perform in a concert in Shanghai on December 31, 2023. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Members of the Little Choir of Antoniano perform in a concert in Shanghai on December 31, 2023. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Throughout its history, the choir has recorded some 1,000 songs, toured much of Europe, and taken part in TV and radio broadcasts. Most of their songs are from Italy's annual Zecchino d'Oro competitions, in which professional musicians write songs for children.

After the great success the choir enjoyed with its first tour in Shanghai in January 2016, and it has visited China six times since.

"The songs make me feel warm every time I see the stars above, and they make me believe that even a child has the power to change the world. Children are a future we can trust," Wu Han, an audience member from Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times.

"Donkey NuNu" was the song that moved the concert's producer, Liang Xiaoxia, the most. The song is about a little donkey that always misreads and mispronounces words, despite his best efforts. "This song is actually about children with dyslexia. These children's singing might not be perfect, but in them, in these songs, you can feel the power that touches the soul," Liang said.

The Little Choir of Antoniano has long-standing ties with China. Their works, translated and introduced by a Chinese fan group, have been popular on Chinese networks for over a decade. Since performing in concerts in China, they have attracted even more fans.

This bond continued even during the pandemic. Even when the choir could not visit China for a physical performance, it held remote concerts for its Chinese audiences, sending adoring fans blessings.

"This year we are very happy to be back in China. Because, for us, it is very important to be connected with people and children's singing is one of the best ways to connect people," Giampaolo Cavalli, general manager and director of the choir, told the Global Times.

"In my view, China has not changed much in the last four years. It is even better now, as we have seen more people involved in our music and giving us a warm welcome. This has been impressive and enjoyable for us." 

Through performances in China, many of the choir's members have also fallen in love with the Chinese language and culture. Luca, 10, is one of them. He has been studying Chinese for two years, and his family often experiences Asian food and culture in Italy.

When singing "China in the Lights," Luca's accurate pronunciation amazed the audience. In addition, he also took the lead in Jay Chou's song "Snail" and Eason Chan's "The Lone Warrior" in Chinese.

The encore song "China in the Lights" was also one of the most touching moments of the performance, moving many in the audience to tears.

Li Chenlin, a parent from Beijing, specifically traveled with her 7-year-old daughter to Shanghai to witness the performance. "On the way back to Beijing the next day, the child kept listening to 'China in the Lights' on her phone and learned it all the way," she said. "We came to see this choir four years ago and loved it. Even if we did not understand the language, we were deeply moved," Li told the Global Times.

The choir's New Year performance in Shanghai sold out over 10,000 tickets in a week. On Saturday, two more performances will be held at the Jiangsu Grand Theater in Nanjing, the capital of East China's Jiangsu Province.

An art feast

In addition to Italy's Little Choir of Antoniano, the US' well-known children's choir, One Voice Children's Choir, also held New Year's concerts in Shanghai, Hangzhou, and other cities, attracting many fans and kicking off a hot performance season.

The One Voice Children's Choir, founded in 2002 during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, consists of children and teenagers aged between four and 17. They can perform everything from traditional hymns to popular contemporary songs in various styles.

In Beijing, in just the three days of the New Year's Day holidays, there were over 20 performances titled "New Year's Concert." Various theaters, concert halls, and art groups in Beijing rolled out New Year's concerts, serving up an art feast for the capital city's citizens.

According to CCTV, data show that during the recent New Year's Day holidays, 153 theaters in Beijing held a total of 268 business performances in 807 sessions, attracting over 216,000 audience members and generating about 53.538 million yuan ($7.54 million) in box office revenue, a 442.8 percent increase compared to 2023.