Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition announced the recipients of the 2018 Isaac Stern Human Spirit Award: Iranian kamancheh player and composer Kayhan Kalhor and the Xiaoshuijing Miao Farmers Choir from Yunnan Province, Southern China, whose members all are part of the Miao minority group.SHANGHAI -- On Tuesday the
Established in conjunction with the first Shanghai Isaac Stern competition in 2016, the $10,000 USD award (to be split by the two recipients) was created to recognize an individual or group - in any field and from any part of the world - who is deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of humanity through the medium of music. Recipients are chosen by president of the competition’s organization committee Long Yu, cellist Yo-Yo Ma by special invitation, and members of the Stern family.
Kalhor primarily plays the kamancheh and is known for using elements of Kurdish traditional music in his Iranian classical music compositions. He is a member of the Silk Road Ensemble currently lives in the U.S. "I consider myself a cultural ambassador for my country," Kalhor said over the phone Tuesday at the official announcement in Shanghai. "I will continue my mission to present Persian music to the world."
The Xiaoshuijing Miao Farmers Choir, led by Guangyuan Long, was established in 2002 as an extension of the village's Christian church choir, formed in 1986. With 63 members, the choir comprises fully 14 percent of the town of Xiaoshuijing's entire population of 447 people (138 families). About 80 percent of the village is Christian, and the remote mountain town is located 20 miles northwest of the city of Kunming.
Guangyuan Long and choir president Zhang Xiaoming traveled to Shanghai to be present at the announcement of the award on Tuesday. Speaking in Chinese and wearing traditional Miao costume, Long explained that most of the villagers have little education and that none of them, including him, have any training as musicians. Their musical skills were passed down as an oral tradition. Long was appointed by the village to direct the choir because he showed talent. There are no auditions; anyone who is interested can join the choir. The group has 400 songs in its repertoire, including traditional Chinese, western and the Christian music that they have learned in church.
Despite these limitations, the choir has enjoyed increasing success and recognition, performing last year with the 20th Beijing International Music Festival with China Philharmonic Orchestra, and last February at the New York Philharmonic's annual concert celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year, with conductor Long Yu.
The awards will be officially presented on Saturday after the closing concert of the Shanghai competition. Winners of the 2016 Isaac Stern Prize in 2016 were Taixiang Wu and Zhengquan Du, founders of The Einstein Orchestra, a middle-school orchestra in China; and conductor Negin Khpalwak of Afghanistan.
BELOW: Kayhan Kalhor performs for an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert in 2012.
BELOW: The Xiaoshuijing Miao Farmers' Choir performs a version of "Worthy Is the Lamb that Was Slain" in April 2018.
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