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A taste of China comes to Ironton

Ohio University Southern and the Tri-State will be exposed to Eastern music and culture when the Hong Kong Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School Youth Orchestra visits July 13-26.

The orchestra consists of 56 children, ages 6-16. They will perform Western and Chinese music and play Chinese instruments such as the Er-hu, Liuyeqin and the Xiaoruan.

A free concert will be Friday at 7 p.m. in the center of campus at OUS. Concert rehearsals will be Monday through Thursday from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Riffe Center Rotunda.

Bartholomew Law, the first graduate of Ohio University's Hong Kong program, will conduct the orchestra. Law received a master's degree in music from the Athens campus.

"This opportunity is great because it opens the door for two different worlds to know each other," Law said. "It is a new experience for our kids from Hong Kong, as well as kids here in the USA. Our kids have been practicing hard and are very excited about their visit."

The visit came about when Dr. Eric Cunningham, associate dean at OUS and director of OU's Hong Kong program from 1997 to 1999, spent time there developing the university's campus. He met Law, who was an instructor at the time.

Cunningham and Law worked the visit out to coincide with the Academy of Excellence, said Brian Corea, an instructor in the electronic media department at OUS.

The Academy is a two-week learning program for grades 4-8. Activities are offered in art, foreign languages, computers and other subjects, he said.

"They could have gone any place in the country, but because of the connections with OUS they are focused on life in Appalachia and what it is like living here,"

Corea said.

About 40 parents and school members will tour the area and visit local attractions such as Carter Caves State Park, Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande, the NYSP sports camp and a Loretta Lynn concert at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland.

"This is a tremendous opportunity because Ironton, lets face it, is a nice community but doesn't get exposed to other cultures. That goes for all of southern Ohio," said Dr. Pat McCoy, a member of the committee coordinating the visit and a fine arts instructor.

"It is rare to get a group this size. Ironton is really blessed," he said. "It is a good chance for people to be exposed to another culture. Ohio University is reaching out not just locally, but internationally."

Andrew George, the newly hired conductor of the Ohio University Orchestra, will perform as guest conductor during a portion of the show.

He has been a guest conductor before, but not with an international youth orchestra and he is anxious to hear how they sound and meet the kids, George said.

"I am just very excited about the whole project," he said. "I am happy to be a part of it and experience their culture. Music is a wonderful way to do that."

The orchestra has performed for former Prime Minister John Major of Great Britain and Hong Kong Chief Executive Officer Tung Chee Hwa. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune