IAC Chinese Australian History Online Seminar Series 2 (Lecture 4)

Zoom Details:

Date:  Friday, 27 August 2021

Time: 4-5pm  AEST

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Operatic forms have a long history of development in Chinese culture with sources dating from at least the Tang Dynasty. Known poetically as the artform of the 'Pear Garden' (Liyuan 梨园), this musical tradition continues to hold relevance and meaning to the overseas Chinese and was mostly likely the first performative artform to arrive in Australia. In their very first collaborative project, Dr Michael Williams and Dr Nicholas Ng discuss nineteenth and mid-to-late twentieth century Chinese opera in Australia as examples of migrant diversity and identity. Their research engages with the origins of the genre in the examination of regional, cultural and linguistic forms, the meaning of opera in a migrant context, and the experience of diversity within a much larger fluid construct of "Chineseness".


Dr Michael Williams is a graduate of Hong Kong University, a scholar of Chinese-Australian history and a founding member of the Chinese-Australian Historical Society. He is the author of Returning Home with Glory (HKU Press, 2018), which traces the history of peoples from south China’s Pearl River Delta around the Pacific Ports of Sydney, Hawaii and San Francisco. Michael has taught at Beijing Foreign Studies and Peking Universities and is currently Adjunct Professor of the Institute for Australian and Chinese Arts and Culture at Western Sydney University. His current research includes the Dictation Test, early Chinese Opera in Australia and a history of the Chinese in Australia.

Author of Smoking opium, puffing cigars, and drinking gingerbeer: Chinese Opera in Australia (opens in a new window), In Opera, Emotion, and the Antipodes Volume II Applied Perspectives: Compositions and Performances, edited by Jane W. Davidson, Michael Halliwell and Stephanie Rocke, pp.166-208, 2020 Abingdon: Routledge.

Dr Nicholas Ng is a composer, performer and Research Fellow at the Institute for Australian and Chinese Arts and Culture (Western Sydney University). A former Lecturer (Australian National University) and Research Fellow (Queensland Conservatorium), he has been teaching erhu (2-stringed Chinese fiddle) and theory at Sydney Conservatorium since 2016.

Nicholas' upbringing in Old Rite church music combined with his world music interests has led to a unique style in his compositions for The Song Company, The Australian Voices, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and other ensembles. He collaborates with William Yang and appeared with Benjamin Law in Annette Shun Wah's Double Delicious (2020), produced by Contemporary Asian Australian Performance.

On the erhu, Nicholas has toured to festivals around Australia, New Zealand, North America, Canada and Europe. These include KunstenFESTIVALdesarts (Brussels), Sydney Festival and Auckland Arts Festival. He established the ANU Chinese Classical Music Ensemble (2003).

Nicholas has curated a number of events including ENCOUNTERS: China (2010), Music in the Gardens (2012), BrisAsia Festival (2012-2013) and Shanghai Club at The Famous Spiegeltent (2013).

Published by Orpheus Music, Nicholas has produced a book and various articles on Australia-China exchange. His artistic career has been documented on SBS Mandarin Radio, ABC Music Show, and in the ABC TV Compass program, Divine Rhythms.