Birmingham welcomes Year of the Metal Ox with online concert

Tazmin Barnes, Di Xiao and Jiaxin Cheng performing
Tazmin Barnes, Di Xiao and Jiaxin Cheng

Music lovers have the chance to attend a special online concert from the University of Birmingham marking the Chinese New Year with a magical fusion of East and West.

World-class pianist Di Xiao is joined by renowned cellist Jiaxin Cheng and 18-year-old singer-songwriter Tazmin Barnes to help the University’s China Institute to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Metal Ox with a mix of traditional Chinese and Western pieces.

The event is streaming on the University's YouTube channel and also premieres on the University’s Facebook page at 13:00 GMT on Wednesday 10 February.

Recorded in the University’s Elgar Concert Hall, in a COVID-safe setting, the event highlights the University’s engagement with China, which ranges from research collaborations with the country’s best universities to working alongside the municipal government in Guangzhou.

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.

“We would have loved to continue the China Institute’s tradition of marking Chinese New Year with our concert on campus, but current circumstances mean that we have had to move our musical celebration online.

“We’re delighted that these exciting musicians have joined us for this outstanding event. Moving the concert online gives more of our friends in Birmingham, China and around the world, the chance to share in a fantastic musical experience that will bring us all a little happiness in these difficult times.”

Birmingham’s relationship with China dates back to the foundation of the University. 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 of Birmingham launched its China Institute in 2012 to gather together its wide-ranging research and teaching activities with Chinese partners and to encourage inter-disciplinary research across the University that focuses on collaboration with China.

Notes to editors:

  • For more information or photos, 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 6,500 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’, 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 and in 2009 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. In 2019 Di completed a sold out tour, which took in 8 cities across China, showcasing her new album “Femmes de Legende” which features female composers. Di is director of the International Piano Academy and in 2017 was awarded the ‘Big Ben Award Top Ten Outstanding Chinese Young Persons Prize’.

Jiaxin Cheng, Cello

  • Cheng graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, China, 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's degree at the University of Auckland in 2001. While in New Zealand, Cheng was principal cello of the Auckland Chamber Orchestra and played regularly with both the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. With the Auckland Symphony Orchestra she performed cello concertos by Dvořák, Elgar and Lalo. Cheng was also a founding member of the Aroha String Quartet.
  • Since 2007, Cheng has lived in London where she has given several recitals. Her performance in April 2008 at Her Majesty's Theatre with both Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber was described as "the emotional highlight of the evening".[citation needed] She appeared as a soloist at the Royal Festival Hall in April 2011 and with Julian Lloyd Webber for BBC Radio 3, Classic FM, CNN Global TV and BBC Television. They have recorded for Universal Classics and Naxos and they made further recordings in 2013 as well as touring together with the European Union Chamber Orchestra and English Chamber Orchestra.

Tazmin Barnes, vocals

  • Tazmin Barnes is an 18 year-old singer-songwriter from the UK who grew up in China. She has landed two Top Twenty iTunes Pop Chart Positions with her EPs “Trapped” and “Powerful” and is also a two-time finalist in the UK Songwriting Competition. Tazmin is a regularly featured artist on BBC Introducing, having been recorded live in session and listed as Artist of the Week with numerous Tracks of the Week.
  • She has written and worked with well-known producers such as Jin Jin, Fred Cox, Glow Beets and Phil Harding. Tazmin was only two years old when she moved to China and began her singing career at 7 by performing in Talent Shows. By age 10, she was the lead singer in her school band, which successfully booked concerts and corporate events all over Beijing. From an early age Tazmin appeared on TV & Radio in China and was a child model for brands such as Disney and Li Ning, featured on prominent advertisements on the Beijing underground.
  • Tazmin is greatly influenced by her upbringing abroad, where she studied Mandarin from a young age in a bilingual school. Fascinated by Chinese history and culture, she is currently studying the language at University. Although Tazmin predominantly sings pop music in English she thoroughly enjoys expanding her musical horizons by singing in both Chinese and Spanish, and singing a mixture of genres from musical theatre to classical-crossover.