Created 15 years ago in the mountains of Southern China, the Farmers’ Chorus of the Yunnan Province, led by choirmaster Guangyuan Long, comprises 50 farmers of the Miao ethnicity. None have ever received any professional training, instead absorbing the Western Baroque and bel canto singing traditions introduced by Christian missionaries in the 1930s by word of mouth over the course of generations.
Based at the Xiaoshuijing village church, the choir tours greater China and collaborates with international ensembles, including the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra.
Since its inception, the choir, which performs in ethnic dress indigenous to this part of the Yunnan Province, has received widespread recognition across China. Among its numerous awards are first prizes in the inaugural China Western Choral Festival, First Yunnan Nie Er Music Week, First Kunming Nie Er Cup Chorus Festival, and First National Farmers’ Chorus Festival in Guangzhou.
In 2008 the chorus represented the Yunnan province as the only Miao ensemble in the CCTV Young Singers’ Match; along with a top prize, the chorus received invitations to perform at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Central Conservatory of Music. The chorus has also appeared at UNESCO’s Humanity Photo Awards 2011, the Opening Ceremony of the second Nie Er Music and Chorus Week in Shanghai Grand Theatre, the Beijing Television Spring Festival Gala, the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival, and the Jianshui Charity Concert, and made two appearances on the popular television show Mama Miya on Shanghai Dragon TV.
The Miao reside primarily in Xiaoshuijing, a small Fumin county village of 158 families. Missionaries introduced Christianity in 1937, and today an estimated 80% of the village population identifies as Christian. In 2007 Xiaoshuijing was designated the Pilot Village of New Rural Construction in Kunming, aiming to increase agricultural production and improve living standards. This performance marks the New York Philharmonic debut of the Farmers’ Chorus of the Yunnan Province.