• Bright Sheng
  • Thirty-Mile Village (2011)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)
  • hp
  • SSAA
  • 4 min

Programme Note

First performance
February 17, 2012
Young People's Chorus of New York City
Francisco Nuñez, conductor
92nd St. Y
New York City

This piece may be performed with Boatmen’s Song to create a suite called Two Folk Songs.

Boatmen’s Song and Thirty-Mile Village were commissioned by The Yong People’s
Chorus of New York, who premiered the works on April 25th, 2004, and on February
17th, 2012, respectively, at Kaufmann Concert Hall of 92nd Street Y, New York City.
Both works are scored for a professional children’s choir, or a women’s chorus, with
harps ranging from one to three, and guiros (for Boatmen’s Song).

The pieces are based on folk songs from the northern Shaanxi Province in China. In
Boatmen’s Song, the music is a simple rhythmic towing song sung by boat trackers
along the river. I love the song for its vivid reflection of the tempestuous turbulence
of the river. By adding guiro(s), hand-clapping, and emphasizing the nonsense
words (originally to synchronize the movement of the boat hauling), I hope to evoke
the now lost scene of hundreds of boatmen pulling a large boat against the rage of
the river — a hazardous task which had claimed thousands of lives in history.

Thirty-Mile Village is a lyrical, sentimental folk song.

—Bright Sheng

Text Translations

Boatmen’s Song

Do you know, under the vault of Heaven, how many turns does the Yellow River bear?
How many ships are carried by how many turns? How many masts are held by how
many ships? And how many boatmen are there to twirl the ships?
I do know, under the vault of Heaven, the Yellow River bears ninety‐nine turns.
Ninety‐nine ships are carried by the ninety‐nine turns. Ninety‐nine masts are held by
the ninety‐nine ships. And there are ninety‐nine boatmen to twirl the ninety‐nine

Thirty-Mile Village

If you just mention my hometown,
It is the famed Thirty-Mile Village in Sui De.
Where Si Mei Zi awaits for San Ge Ge,
You are my beloved for sure.

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