Source: China State Council Information Office 3
In October 1964, a grand gala was staged at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, marking the 15th anniversary of the founding of People’s Republic of China. With more than 3,000 people performing at the event, including dancers, singers and orchestras, the gala was able to accommodate 14 shows. To reach an even wider audience, it was turned into a movie by the August First Film Studio in 1965, and this was greeted with huge success.
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China in 2021, the gala will be re-presented and undertake a national tour. The first performance will be held on Dec 26 at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Xu Jian, general manager of the venue, announced.
Under the baton of conductor Zheng Jian, the symphony orchestra and singers from the Tianjin Song and Dance Theater will perform in the gala, along with the choir of the Beijing Musicians’ Association.
Classic songs, including Dongfang Hong (East is Red), Nan Ni Wan and On Songhua River, will be performed.
“At that time, there was no pop music. We enjoyed listening to those songs and singing those songs. They are songs melted in our blood,” recalls conductor Zheng, who led artists of Song and Dance Troupe of the general political department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to perform 34 songs from the gala in 2007 at the Forbidden City Concert Hall.
“Many singers, such as Guo Lanying, Li Guangxi and Hu Songhua, who performed in the gala, have become household names in China,” he adds.
Zheng notes that all of the songs recorded the history of the country’s development and they are still popular, especially among people in their 60s and 70s, who grew up listening to them.
One of the songs, Dongfang Hong, which is also the name of the gala, was written by lyricists Li Youyuan, Gong Mu and composer Li Huanzhi, based on a folk song of Northwest China’s Shaanxi province during the 1940s. The song expresses people’s love for the country and for Chairman Mao Zedong.
According to Zheng, then-premier Zhou Enlai initiated the idea of organizing the gala in 1964 and it took about 50 days to present the gala onstage.
“We rearranged the songs and gathered our top artists to perform together, hoping to pay tribute to those people who made a contribution to the development of the country,” says Zheng.
“All the artists performing in the upcoming gala are very young. They were not born when the gala in 1964 was on. However, they are honored to be part of the performance,” says Lu Sheng, president of Tianjin Song and Dance Theater, adding that he has watched the movie version of the gala more than 10 times.