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Powerful Classical Tribute To Covid-19 Whistleblower Marks Start Of New Zealand Music Month

In a breath-taking celebration of music responding to the world around us and the power it has to unite people, SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music is proud to present Bitter Cold Night by Chinese New Zealand composer Gao Ping. A tribute to
Dr Li Wenliang, deemed around the globe as the 'whistleblower' of COVID-19 and one of the first victims of the virus, Gao Ping’s classical piece is a poetic acknowledgement of the pandemic. A stunning filmed recording of the duet for violin and piano was premiered on Friday 1 May, coinciding with the launch of NZ Music Month 2020. It is now available for viewing on the SOUNZ YouTube channel and is embedded below.

A New Zealand resident who lived in Aotearoa for eight years, during which he taught at Canterbury University and Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music, Gao Ping is currently based in his hometown of Chengdu. Living in China, he was among the first in the world to go into lockdown in response to COVID-19. The composer was inspired by the courageous tale of Dr Li Wenliang, and particularly a beautiful tribute written in the snow in Wuhan to farewell the doctor. Gao Ping felt called to document the myriad of emotions he experienced during the long night as news came through about Dr Wenliang’s deteriorating health and eventually his death, paying homage to a man who worked on the front-lines in the medical sector as the virus took hold.

“I am well aware that, during this difficult period, a thousand pieces of music may not be worth even a single face mask,” said Gao Ping of the current crisis, and his inspiration to create a work in memory of Dr Wenliang. “Perhaps, in a time long in the future, when the music starts to play, some of us will remember that extraordinary night of February 6th, 2020.”

This powerful tribute to a moment in history is performed by two of Aotearoa’s contemporary classical masters, Amalia Hall and Stephen De Pledge. Recording the piece despite New Zealand's Level 4 lockdown status, SOUNZ worked remotely with the performers from their Auckland homes to produce the final film. RNZ Concert also provided assistance with the audio. It speaks to the ability of art, and specifically music in this case, to capture a fleeting moment in time, and create beauty out of tragedy.

SOUNZ presents
Bitter Cold Night
Composed by Gao Ping; Performed by Amalia Hall & Stephen De Pledge;
with audio assistance from RNZ Concert