Art songs regularly come from countries such as Germany, France, England, and Italy. Soon, you may be hearing songs from China as well.
Mei Zhong, an associate professor of Music Performance at the School of Music at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, is making Chinese songs accessible to Western singers through transliterations.
Zhong says she’s the first to provide transliterations of Chinese songs for Western singers. She’s published two anthologies of Chinese songs: volume one contains newly arranged chinese folk songs, and volume two is a collection of traditional and modern chinese art songs.
A native of Shanghai, Zhong decided to introduce Chinese songs to the West after noticing that her students had no knowledge of the Chinese repertoire.
She says her students would be “refreshed” after hearing her perform Chinese songs—Zhong is an opera singer and soloist—but the students would have no way to perform the songs if they so wished.
The song transliterations use the International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA.
“Without the IPA, I can’t read the Chinese characters, because I don’t speak Chinese,” says Loralee Songer, one of the first singers to make use of the transliterations. Songer is a student of Dr. Zhong’s in the doctoral program at Ball State. Using the transliterations, she’s added Chinese songs to her repertoire, and has even given a recital in China.
“I’ve never had the ability to pick up an album of Chinese songs, and if the characters were there alone, I couldn’t read it,” adds Songer, who also performed Chinese songs at her faculty recital in April at Taylor University, where she is a professor of voice.
Mei Zhong is currently working on a third volume of Chinese songs, which will be English translations of Chinese poems.
The Anthology of Chinese Songs, Volumes I and II, are available through the publisher, Leyerle Publications. Each volume comes with a CD of Dr. Zhong performing the songs with piano accompaniment.