By Zhang Zhifeng, People’s Daily
At the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics held on Feb. 4, a children’s choir from Fuping county, north China’s Hebei province performed the Olympic Anthem in Greek, transmitting their beautiful voices to the world.
“They all have tried hard and done their best,” said Liu Kai, principal of a primary school in Fuping county, when the children were performing on the stage.
Liu was always with the children when they rehearsed. He said their hard work in the past three months was worth it.
In mid-September last year, Fuping county was invited to send some of its children to sing the Olympic Anthem at the Beijing 2022 opening ceremony.
By Sept. 28, more than 200 students had been recommended by five local primary schools, and 44 of them made it to the final stage after rounds of selection, including eight from a choir of the Malan village primary school.
In the old days, Malan village was once the headquarters of Zinchagi Rhbao, one of the newspapers that later formed today’s People’s Daily. Deng Xiaolan, daughter of an editor of the newspaper, established a choir at the Malan village primary school after she retired to diversify students’ cultural activities. As one who was born in the village, she volunteered to teach the students to sing and play instruments.
The choir has performed in a number of big cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, and the children’s enthusiasm for singing has aroused huge attention from the Chinese society.
On Oct. 18, 2021, the 44-member choir established to perform at the Beijing 2022 opening ceremony gathered at Fuping county’s Bayi primary school. What they faced was an arduous task – to master a challenging Greek song and be able to perform it a cappella in less than four months.
“Their potential lies in their innocence, a unique advantage of them,” said Su Zhiyan, a music teacher from Fuping Middle School who then went to Bayi primary school to coach the choir.
The Greek language was the first challenge. Therefore, two lecturers from Beijing Foreign Studies University were invited to teach the children Greek. The children learned fast and remembered the Greek lyrics in just half a month.
The video of the choir rehearsing was sent to Beijing for the first time in mid-November the last year. “We were not sure whether we did a good job, but the directors were moved to tears, saying it was not easy for the children to be able to do this in such a short period of time,” said Liu.
Once a national-level impoverished county, Fuping was removed from the poverty list two years ago. Its residents are now living a happy life, and the children are also singing better.
“She’s confident now,” said Zhao Guojun, a resident in Fuping, referring to her granddaughter Zhao Yixuan that was singing the Olympic Anthem at the Beijing 2022 opening ceremony. Seeing the child on television, the man clapped his hands hard and almost made them numb.
Zhao Yixuan used to live in a shabby adobe house with her family, and her parents worked out-of-town. In 2019, her family moved into a new apartment of around 100 square meters and was lifted out of poverty. Her mother, who now works in a suitcase factory in the township, is able to spend more time with the girl.
There are over 53,000 residents in Fuping county that have bid farewell to poverty and embraced their new life through poverty alleviation relocation, just like Zhao Yixuan’s family has done.
Zhao Guojun still remembers that his granddaughter was afraid to join the choir when she was just selected. After training, the girl gradually became cheerful and was always asked by coaches to model herself on other children due to her beautiful and contagious smile.
“Rural children should be given a platform where they can show their talents.” That’s what the director team always said when searching for members of the choir, Liu told People’s Daily.
“These children are introversive, but they changed a lot after joining the choir. They were proud of themselves when learning that they were going to perform at the Beijing 2022 opening ceremony,” Liu said.