Do you know what the world's biggest instrument is?
The answer is the pipe organ. It is the largest instrument, but no one knows exactly how big it is, because every pipe organ is different from the others in both size and shape. The pipes of the instrument are usually set into walls during its construction, so once it is designed and built, it is impossible to move.
Organ music may be familiar to western audiences, but to Chinese people, the pipe organ is only a word. Will Chinese audiences take an interest in it? Let's follow our reporter He Fei to the the National Center for Performing Arts to experience the pipe organ with the Chinese audience.
The grand pipe organ in the National Center of Performing Arts [photo source: chinanews.sina.com]
What is this? A symphony concert?
Or a pipe organ solo show in a church?
Neither. It is actually a refreshing public pipe organ recital held in the new National Center for Performing Arts. Western audience may be accustomed to the sounds of the pipe organ, but in China, few people have ever seen or heard the instrument at a live concert.
This recital has given the Chinese people a chance to experience the sound of the pipe organ, the world's largest instrument. The organ in the National Center for Performing Arts is the biggest pipe organ in China. More than 6,000 shiny, silver pipes cover an entire wall in the concert hall.
The 30 yuan ticket price has made it easily accessible to ordinary Chinese, like this 5-year-old kid.
"My name is Sun Zhanyi. I'm 5. It's my fourth time to hear pipe organ playing. Now I'm learning the piano. Pianos don't have so many pipes."
There is also 77-year old Li Luchang.
"I've heard the pipe organ before when I was abroad. I heard it at a church once. The sound was very beautiful. When I heard it, I felt I was lying on a green field enjoying a beautiful view and also the music."
Some brought their curiosity,
"Since I only heard about pipe organ but have never seen a real one. So I came and also brought my daughter here, hoping that we can learn some knowledge from the lecture."
And some have devoted themselves to pipe organ study and performance.
"I came to Beijing especially for this lecture and other pipe organ concerts since I am sort of majoring in pipe organ performance. I've studied pipe organ for about 4 or 5 years. Actually in China we don't really have that specific major but in a preparation stage."
Winfried Boenig , the organist of the famous Cologne Cathedral in Germany, gave the recital. He was more like a narrator, telling Chinese audience what the pipe organ is, what kind of sounds it can produce, and interesting stories behind the music.
This piece of organ music is called "Bell Ringing." It was written by famous French composer Louis Vierne. Vierne was inspired to write this piece after the clang of church bells ringing rendered him sleepless. Close your eyes and listen, and see if you can feel the composer's muse.
Although Boenig needs a translator to communicate with the audience, music has no such boundaries.
"It is not necessary that you know a lot about it. You can just feel it, listen to it by heart. And I think I felt the concentration of the audience."
Professor Shen Fanxiu in the National Center of Performing Arts [photo source: news.sina.com]
Professor Shen Fanxiu is China's top organist. She has organized and given similar public recitals to promote pipe organ music in China. This time, she was invited to serve as Boenig's translator.
"The pipe organ has a long history in Europe. In China, we actually brought the instrument in some 200 years ago. It disappeared during the Cultural Revolution. In 1980, the Beijing Concert Hall bought a pipe organ. Along with the expansion of the Opening Up policy, many big cities have gotten their own concert halls with pipe organs, such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Wuhan. Now the National Center for Performing Arts has a wonderful organ, and we organized this recital and many other pipe organ concerts, hoping that these activities could raise audience' attention. Hope our lecture could bring our audience into the music world of pipe organ and our Chinese people can gradually get familiar with it and then like it."