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

Pianist Di Xiao, cellist Jiaxin Lloyd Webber and harpist Eleanor Turner performed in the Elgar Concert Hall in a celebration concert that delivered a unique and exciting programme. 

The artists combined piano, cello and harp to perform western and eastern repertoires,  as well as their own compositions and arrangements. 


They were joined by Poppy Weng playing the 3,000 year-old traditional Chinese 21 string instrument ‘Zheng’ to deliver her interpretation of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’. 

The event highlighted the University’s engagement with China, which ranges from research collaborations with China’s best universities to working alongside the municipal government in Guangzhou. 

Birmingham’s relationship with China dates back to the foundation of the University. In fact, the first Chinese student joined the University in 1907 and there are now over 14,000 Chinese alumni. There is also a strong musical connection with China, as the first original Chinese violin composition was Difficult Road (Xinglu Nan), composed in 1919 by Birmingham’s famous geology alumnus Li Siguang. 

The University sponsored the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s (CBSO) recent New Year tour of China, which saw the world-famous orchestra perform five concerts in four Chinese cities - Beijing, Changsha, Guangzhou and Shanghai.  

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood attended the Beijing concert after hosting a special reception for some of the University’s friends and partners in China.  

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.” 

For more information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165. 

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 countries.
  • The China Institute is a central hub for Chinese interests at the University of Birmingham. It brings together people, ideas, funding, research and academic excellence to help create opportunities to work in partnership with China. 

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. 

Eleanor Turner, harp

Eleanor Turner is a British harpist known for the warmth and passion of her performances. Eleanor was just five years old when she started learning to play. She studied Harp at the Royal College of Music Junior Department, from the age of 11, and, aged 15, made her concerto debut at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Eleanor won First Prize in the 2007 Cardiff European Harp Competition and has performed at the Berlin Philharmonie, Wigmore Hall and Cadogan Hall.  Eleanor is a committed teacher and is Head of Harp at Birmingham Conservatoire, as well as teaching at Stamford and Uppingham schools, coaching privately and giving intensive study sessions.