University of Birmingham welcomes the Chinese Year of the Monkey

The University of Birmingham’s China Institute has marked the Chinese New Year with the help of three world-class musicians.

Pianist Di Xiao, cellist Jiaxin Lloyd Webber and violinist Jiafeng Chen performed in the University’s Bramall Music Building to staff, students, partners and members of the Chinese community from across the West Midlands and beyond.

The musical trio helped celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Monkey with traditional Chinese music that transported the audience in the Elgar Concert Hall to the land of dragons and emperors, as well as European classical pieces, by Bach, Schubert and Debussy.

Chinese New Year

Last night’s (28 January) celebrations marking the Year of the Monkey also included a networking event showcasing the University’s engagement with China, which ranges from research collaborations with some of China’s best universities to working alongside the municipal government in Guangzhou.

The University’s relationship with China dates back to its foundation. In fact, the first Chinese student joined the University in 1907 and there are now some 14,000 Chinese alumni.

The University of Birmingham launched its China Institute in 2012 to gather together its wide-ranging research activities with Chinese partners and encourage inter-disciplinary research across the University that focuses on China. In addition to the Birmingham-based Institute, the University established a presence in Shanghai in 2009 and opened the Guangzhou Centre in 2011, to host its activities in China.

Professor Jon Frampton, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor (China) and Director of the China Institute, said: “Chinese New Year offers the perfect opportunity for the University of Birmingham to reflect upon our proud and longstanding relationship with China, which spans over 100 years.

“Our celebration also gives us the chance to bring together people from the diverse communities in the University, as well as further afield in the city, which have an interest in Chinese culture and working with Chinese partners.

“Our engagement with China is ever expanding and our event will provide an excellent opportunity to experience more about the University’s exciting vision of its future partnerships with this powerhouse of the world economy.”


Notes to Editors

Image: Di Xiao, Jiafeng Chen and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber before their performance (credit: Nicola Gotts)

For more information or more photographs, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312

Artist Biographies

Di Xiao (Didi), Piano

Described as ‘a pianist of awesome gifts’ pianist Di Xiao’s international career started at 17, when she played the Yellow River Piano Concerto for the Malaysian Royal Family in Kuala Lumpur. Subsequently she has taken to the stage across the globe from Europe to Malaysia, Singapore, Ukraine, India, China and the UK. In 2009 Di was selected as the UK’s representative to the universally acclaimed European Concert Halls Organisation (ECHO) Rising Stars series which took her to some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls.

Di is the director of the International Piano Academy and has held teaching positions at both the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Conservatoire. In 2014 Di was awarded a ‘distinguished contribution to culture and arts’ by the Mulan Foundation (UK) and an Honorary Professorship by Shanxi University (China).

Jiaxin Lloyd Webber, Cello

Jiaxin Lloyd Webber graduated from Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1997. She was already giving performances with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, but left China for further studies in New Zealand, where she received her Master Degree at Auckland University in 2001. While in New Zealand, Jiaxin was principal cello of the Auckland Chamber Orchestra, a founder member of the Aroha String Quartet and played regularly with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Now living in London, Jiaxin is married to the world renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and has performed with Julian for BBC Radio 3, Classic FM, CNN Global TV and BBC TV. They have recorded for Universal Classics and Naxos and in 2014 they will tour together with both the English Chamber Orchestra and the European Union Chamber Orchestra.

Jiafeng Chen, violin

Violinist Jiafeng Chen has been hailed in the English press as “not only technically brilliant, but also subtle, deeply felt and astonishingly mature”. He is a prize winner of several major violin competitions including the International Competition for Young Violinists K.Lipinski and H.Wieniawski, in Lublin, The Sibelius International Violin Competition, in Helsinki and the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition in Cardiff. Chen is also a Laureate of the Queen Elisabeth International Violin Completion.

Born in Shanghai, Chen holds a Bachelor of Music (Hons) Degree from the Royal College of Music, in London and a Master of Music Degree from The Juilliard School, in New York City.