Saturday, 14th September 2019, Mid-Autumn Moon Festival was celebrated in splendid fashion at the Brighton CEDP Chinese Centre.
Just imagine that you are there.
Amidst the wondrous decor of red, white and gold, the festivities explode with a mighty roar! To the sound of thunderous drums and crashing cymbals, spectacular lions and dragons of the CEDP Arts troop dance towards you. Entering from afar, they wend their way through the audience, before marking their territory at front of the scene. The lions herald a prosperous age. They are a sign of luck and good things to come. People sing to celebrate.
Honoured guests are introduced: Chairman of the CEDP, Dr Hong Lu; Executive Chairman, Alex Wu; and the board of directors. Councillor Alexandra Phillips, Mayor of Brighton and Hove, takes the floor to pay tribute to the splendour of the event and express her gratitude for the wonderful hospitality. She emphasises the importance of the Chinese community within Brighton and Hove, wishing prosperity and a growing exchange of culture and ideas.
Then: a change of pace. September is harvest season, one of enthusiasm and festival not only for Chinese people but also for those from all corners of the world. This sentiment is embodied by a high-energy, flamboyant carnival display by Brazilian dancer Marta Scott and her company – reminding us that people of walks of life who share a love for dance and movement can come together as one.
Bringing a shift in the mood, Eason takes the stage. The talented nine-year-old guitarist – wearing a light pink shirt to evoke the light-hearted atmosphere of the day – delivers a very cool rendition of the groovy, yet melancholic ‘Summer’s End’.
The strings resonate among a captivated audience, mixing with gentle backing piano, organ, and reverberant clicks and claps to re-introduce a note of modern ‘chill’. The piece was composed by Adam Davis, of the Chinese Centre’s Music department, and written especially for Eason’s performance at the Family Music Showcase for gifted youngsters, just 2 weeks previously.
Then, a young girl in a light blue butterfly dress and silver slippers walks up confidently. With delicate fingers wrapped in cloth like a fighter’s, Alice King gives an accomplished performance on the Guzheng, one of the oldest musical instruments in China, with a history of more than 2,500 years. Eight-year-old Alice is also coming off the back of her performance at the recent music showcase.
Then she shows her versatility with a lively rendition of Mama Mia on her shinning silver flute.
Now, an array of elegant ladies step forth in magnificent, brightly-coloured dresses to present a Qipao dance show. Also known as Cheongsam, these feminine, body-hugging garments, emblazoned with Chinese features and characteristic of their Manchu origins, were made popular in the 1920s by upper-class women in Shanghai. The ladies move graciously to the tune of rhythmic and soothing melodies.
A powerful vocal solo from Adam Davis, one of the event comperes, now fills the space. The song, Message, is one of Adam’s own compositions – conveying the message of staying strong through adversity, and believing in oneself always. He first performed this Mandarin translation at Tsinghua University’s graduation ceremony while he was studying in Beijing in July. Adam is currently studying Mandarin at the CEDP and with LSE Confucius Institute, with a view to translating more of his songs into Chinese. A gifted bi-lingual composer and musician (French mother – English father), he has a great deal of experience in live performance, and directing bands and choirs.
The CEDP hopes to host more music related events in the future. With this in mind, Adam has been asked to run a weekly choir and performance workshop, providing there are enough interested members. The aim is to coach singing and performance techniques in a modern style – in English and Chinese (and French!) – all in a relaxed and friendly environment. It will be open to children and young people of varying abilities, leading up to an end of term concert and the chance to perform on the prestigious Chinese New Year 2020 stage.
The tone shifts again. A young woman appears softly in a dress of pure white and cream. Yafei Wu’s inspiring and graceful performance of ballet-esque Chinese dancing is breathtaking. The compere informs the watchers that Yafei, who is currently doing a Media degree at the University of Sussex, will be running a class -and that anyone who shares her love of dance and wishes to follow her steps is welcome to speak to Yafei or any of the other CEDP organisers for details.
Martial arts now make an entrance. Jessica’s fierce and flowing moves tell a story of strength and discipline. Her kicks and cartwheels are as fluid as the abstract shapes rippling on the screen behind.
A cello with a pink ribbon. A man with a poem. A girl with a singing microphone. The artistic combination of these three unexpected companions is remarkable. The poem, made musical, is touching.
Then everybody is KungFu fighting. Loud music and loud moves. The CEDP Art troupe return with a Tai chi Fan show followed by a contrasting Panda dance. The large, romantic and clumsy Pandas perform to a sophisticated orchestral backing, filling the air with comedy.
The final celebrations: Another Carnival dance, with the audience joining in. The sharing of the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake, prepared by the volunteers. An exibition of arts, crafts, photography and jewery, from skillfull and talented graduates from Brighton University. Then, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: raffle prize draws. Families, teachers, students, doctors, friends, everybody ready? Number 97… calling number 97…
“Mid-Autumn Festival is expectant of good things. Mid-Autumn festival is caring and misses loved ones. Mid-Autumn festival is complete. Let us enjoy this time and look forward to the next gathering. Thank you all for coming.”
Photography courtesy of Sammy Lee, Pin Lan, Zhuo Wang.