Feature: Enduring Friendship Between China, U.S. Art Troupes Reverberates Through Music


In an auditorium at the China Welfare Institute Children’s Palace in Shanghai, as the melody of the famous Chinese song “The Moon Represents My Heart” filled the air, music once again became witness to the enduring friendship of five decades between the Philadelphia Orchestra and the institute.

Jointly performed by artists from the orchestra and children from the palace’s Little Companion Art Troupe, the song wraps up the visit by a 23-member delegation from the Philadelphia Orchestra to Shanghai.

The bond between these two institutes could be traced back to 1940, when the China Aid Council, in response to a call from Soong Ching Ling, founder of the welfare institute, asked the Philadelphia Orchestra to hold a charity concert in the United States to raise funds to support the medical work of the late Dr. Bethune in north China.

Consequently, the Philadelphia Orchestra became the first orchestra to visit and perform after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1973. During their maiden trip, the members visited the welfare institute and were deeply impressed by the pivotal role that art played in enlightening the children. In 2013, the orchestra visited Shanghai again and performed together with the Little Companion Art Troupe.

The latest visit by the Philadelphia Orchestra was warmly received by the children and faculty of the Children’s Palace. Tristan Rais-Sherman, a conductor of the U.S. orchestra, was presented with Chinese paper-cut items crafted by the children, while violinist Davyd Booth received a paper-cut silhouette of himself.

“I like the gifts very much, and I will keep them forever,” said Rais-Sherman. “This is my first time in China. The whole trip has been very busy, so I have not been able to see much of the city yet. But I have been impressed by the trip so far.”

Speaking about his visit to ShanghaiTech University the day before, Rais-Sherman said: “It was so much fun and such an enjoyable experience. It was great to be at ShanghaiTech because I had a side career in tech as well as software engineering. I was able to speak to the students about the skills that they might need in music and engineering or science because I know a little bit about both.”

Booth, 73, has been to China 13 times since he first set foot in the country in 1973.

“Actually, the 1973 visit to China was the first time I ever left the United States in my life. It turned out to be such a strong thread throughout my life. I’m deeply grateful for this wonderful opportunity to be here again after 50 years,” he said.

“The power of music is very strong,” Booth added. “We have a wonderful foundation that we have built since 1973. We play all over the world actually in many countries, but this is our most extensive friendship. We develop friendships with many organizations here and with many individual people that I still keep in contact with, so it is a very important event in our lives, both professionally and personally.”