Superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma will lead a Bach youth project in Guangzhou, China, this January as part of the annual Youth Music Culture Guangdong, an intensive nine-day workshop with the cellist and international colleagues that is open to young musicians from all around the world.

Yo-Yo MaYo-Yo Ma. Photo © Jason Bell

Yo-Yo Ma makes his Australian debut in November, performing JS Bach’s Cello Suites in Sydney and Melbourne as part of The Bach Project, which has also seen him perform on the border between the US and Mexico.

The music of Bach will also be central to the 2020 Youth Music Culture Guangdong, which will see students “explore the questions of how the music of Bach, a fundamental composer of Western classical music, is relevant in Guangzhou in the 21st century; how his music can keep pace with the times, become integrated into the present, and inspire the future”.

“In times of change and uncertainty, people often turn to the wisdom of those who have gone before us,” Yo-Yo Ma said. “Whether philosophers or artists, the ‘ancients’ can often see our situation more clearly than we can ourselves, reminding us of the eternal truths about the world and humanity that connect us regardless of whatever our current difficulty may be.”

“Johann Sebastian Bach is one of those ‘ancients.’ Even though he lived almost 300 years ago and never travelled more than 250 miles from the place of his birth, he wrote music that still speaks to us today, no matter where we live,” he said. “Bach is able to do this because he is a ‘scientist-artist,’ someone who tells us the objective truth about ourselves, but does so with real empathy and understanding. And in that truth, we find a place where we can meet and understand each other.”

The event in Guangzhou will include lectures, masterclasses with Yo-Yo Ma and other faculty members, and more relaxed ‘salons’ in which musicians can share a meal and play chamber music together. The faculty will include cellist and Silkroad Ensemble member Mike Block, the four members of New York’s Brooklyn Rider string quartet, violist Hsin-Yun Huang, flautist Michael Gordon, trumpeter Thomas Hooten, French hornist Jennifer Montone and oboist Richard Woodhams.

Now in its fourth year, Youth Music Culture Guangdong is hosted by the Guangdong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, and the Xinghai Concert Hall.

Applications are open to musicians anywhere in the world between the ages of 18 and 35, with successful applicants offered a full scholarship for tuition and accommodation (participants must provide their own transportation to Guangzhou). Applications close October 25.

The 2020 event will culminate in a Bach Marathon in the Xinghai Concert Hall, which will see students perform in chamber ensembles, Silkroad bands and as an orchestra.