Boatmen’s Song was inspired by a folk song from northern China, which was used by the boatmen as they towed their boats along the river. As this means of propulsion is now consigned to history, only the music remains; however the hand-clapping and nonsense words still reflect the unending turmoil and unrest of the river.
Bright Sheng is a contemporary Chinese composer, who settled and studied in America following the Cultural Revolution. He is known for writing down traditional Chinese tunes and folk songs in a western style.
Boatmen’s Song was commissioned by The Yong People’s Chorus of New York, and scored for a professional children’s choir, or a women’s chorus, with Harp and Percussion.