Hidden from small

Celebrating the Universal Language of Music: China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra Visits Philadelphia

November 06, 2017

From Chinatown to Center City to Verizon Hall, the beautiful sounds of China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra (NCPAO) were heard throughout Philadelphia on Wednesday, November 1, 2017. In town as part of a six-city tour, the NCPAO felt particularly at home in Philadelphia, the city that Li Zhixiang, vice president of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), referred to as “their second home.”

Philadelphia Orchestra cellist John Koen snaps a selfie with a musician from the NCPAO during a meet and greet between the two ensembles. Photo by Jessica Griffin

The visit marked the return of the NCPAO to Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Orchestra first presented them in 2014 during their debut North American tour.

United by the universal language of music, the NCPA has been a partner with The Philadelphia Orchestra from the very beginning of its innovative and successful China Residency Program, which launched in 2012 as part of the Orchestra’s ongoing commitment to cultural diplomacy.

“The NCPA was our first and continues to be our primary strategic partner in fostering cross-cultural understanding and new models for arts partnerships with China,” said Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore.

During the Orchestra’s tour of Asia last spring, the two organizations launched a second five-year partnership, solidifying this fruitful partnership for the future.

“I feel immense pride in the Orchestra’s role as a global ambassador for the arts and in the work that has been done to bridge cultural divides through the undeniable power of music,” added Vulgamore.

During the November 1 visit, the NCPAO participated in a variety of special activities that exemplified the unique people-to-people exchanges that are the hallmark of the China Residency Program.  

The day began with a free pop-up concert at the Shops at Liberty Place.

Photo by Jessica Griffin

The residency activities continued at the Chinese Christian Church and Center in Chinatown, where NCPAO musicians performed a free chamber concert.

Students at the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts enjoyed a conducting rehearsal with NCPAO Assistant Conductor Yuan Ding.

Ambassador Nicholas Platt has provided invaluable counsel to the Orchestra on its journey in China. He delivered a presentation titled “China: Then and Now,” detailing the organization’s rich and storied history in China, dating back to 1973 when President Nixon asked the Orchestra to be the first from the United States to perform there.

Friendships have developed between the two orchestras over the years. A backstage reception gave the musicians a chance to reconnect.

Philadelphia Orchestra horn player Jeffry Kirschen and a musician from the NCPAO go over a score together. Photo by Jessica Griffin

The celebration culminated with a performance by the NCPAO in Verizon Hall, complete with a nod to the cultural exchange between the two orchestras—a performance of Brahms’s Symphony No. 4, which Yannick and the Fabulous Philadelphians performed this past May in Beijing.

Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore welcomes the audience, and the NCPAO, to Verizon Hall. Photo by Jessica Griffin

Violinist Ning Feng performs Zhao Jiping's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the NCPAO and its music director, Lü Jia. Photo by Jessica Griffin


Cellist Gautier Capuçon, Lü Jia, and the NCPAO perform the United States premiere of Chen Qigang's Reflection of a Vanished Time. Photo by Jessica Griffin