A song fit for the Olympics

A north-east children's choir is singing a song written by a Durham man tonight - in Chinese.

A north-east children's choir is singing a song written by a Durham man tonight - in Chinese.

The massed choir of 500 Gateshead children will perform an anthem written by James Gilman.

The concert at The Sage Gateshead music centre will be the first time British schoolchildren have sung publicly in Chinese, and the Chinese Ambassador has been invited from London.

Mr Gilman, 74, a retired schoolteacher and education adviser from Brancepeth Close, Newton Hall, Durham, said: "We hope this concert will help raise awareness of China, its language and culture as we progress towards next year's Olympics. We also hope that next month's concert will serve as a launch-pad for the next stage of the project, to try to send a local school choir to China to sing at the Olympic Games."

Last year The Journal reported how Mr Gilman, the son of missionaries, was born in China but was forced to flee with his family in 1937 when the Japanese were about to invade.

When he finally returned more than 60 years later with his wife, Pauline, he was astonished to be granted celebrity status after his visit made news in China.

Since the trip he wrote lyrics for a song to mark the plan for the city of Quingdao to stage rowing heats when China hosts the Olympic Games next year. It is this prize-winning song, Sailing for Quingdao, which will be performed at The Sage.

Mr Gilman added said: "My ambition is to send a local choir to the Olympics to sing my songs as a means of publicising this part of the country both abroad and here in the UK."

Mr Gilman added that Michael Summers, choirmaster of the St. Thomas More R C School in Blaydon, is forming a new Gateshead Youth Choir this autumn, and is interested in sending a choir to China.

* Gateshead Schools' Music Service Showcase Concert: From Tyneside to China in Hall One of The Sage starts at 7pm and features a massed children's choir from over 20 primary schools accompanied by the Gateshead Youth Orchestra. A new selection of Tyneside songs are contrasted with songs from China, and tickets cost £7.

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