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China classical music festival to feature Wuhan musicians

Musicians from the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra rehearse a day before their concert to open the Beijing Music Festival, China's first classical music festival since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, in Beijing, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BEIJING (AP) -- China is holding its first classical music festival since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, featuring musicians from the outbreak's initial epicenter in an attempt to aid in the psychological and emotional healing process.

    Zou Ye, a composer from Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus was first detected late last year, said that Saturday night's concert is part of an effort to work through frustration and helplessness on the way toward love and tolerance and, hopefully, some meaning to what he calls "nature's tremendous revenge."

    Musicians from the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra will present a choral symphony "To 2020" dedicated to the victims of COVID-19, co-written by Zou and two partners.

    More than 11 million people in Wuhan and its surrounding area underwent a draconian 76-day lockdown at the start of the pandemic. The city accounts for 3,869 of China's 4,634 deaths from the virus and the bulk of its more than 85,000 cases.

    The end of the lockdown on April 8 was seen as a key turning point in China's battle against the virus, which has now been contained, with no cases of local transmission reported in more than two months.

    The emotional trauma still lingers for many survivors, victims' families and front-line health workers, and music can offer another medium for exploring such feelings, Zou said.

    "All we want to do is to tell the story of this historic event that we experienced and that has changed the world, and how we should face the reality and reflect on ourselves," Zou told The Associated Press. "There is a lot of information in the work -- there is frustration, helplessness, eulogization and hope."

    Zou said the festival also seeks to offer a ray of hope to musicians who have suffered economically from the pandemic through a lack of performing opportunities.

    "When the musicians of the world are losing jobs, we can start working with orchestras," he said. "This is not easy (and) we are grateful for this."

    Amid government efforts to promote its successes in fighting the virus, Zou said the festival's organizers were not "doing this for official propaganda."

    "The work was not even asked for by the authorities," he said. "It was totally out of our own intention."

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