The sheng is a Chinese mouth organ which has been in use for over 2,500 years with the oldest images of the instrument dating back to 1,100 BCE!

It is thought the Greeks borrowed sheng technology for their water-powered hydraulis (a giant version of which was later re-created in Rome’s colosseum).

Seventeen bamboo pipes mounted in an incomplete circle on a wind-chest, often made of copper, make up the common form of the instrument, each pipe containing a free reed of metal carefully tuned with a drop of wax. For each pipe there is a finger hole, and as the player blows, a pipe sounds when its finger-hole is stopped.

What does it sound like? Sheng virtuoso Wu Wei’s demonstration is a masterly overview of the instrument (Wu Wei has made the sheng an innovative force in contemporary music).

Next year, the London Philharmonic Orchestra give the UK premiere of Ondřej Adámek’s new sheng concerto for Wu Wei at Southbank Centre (Ondřej starts work on his new piece for BCMG next year). Shortly before, on 21 March, the virtuoso joins us in Birmingham for our own celebration of the instrument with the world premiere of BCMG Apprentice Composer Donghoon Shin’s 'Anecdote', alongside Jia Guoping’s The Wind Sounds in the Sky (for sheng, cello and percussion), in a concert bookended by works from Rebecca Saunders (another Sound Investment composer), Crimson Molly’s Song 1 and Murmurs.

Book tickets for our 21 March concert now.

The premiere of Ondřej Adámek’s new piece may be a while off (we are hoping to work with Ondřej in 2019 and give the premiere in 2020) but will be worth the wait. Adámek is a composer as happy pushing the boundaries of conventional instruments as he is writing for those outside the usual orchestral vocabulary (Ondřej’s airmachine must easily be the most unusual instrument we have encountered at BCMG). Add this to the fact that Ondřej’s first piece for BCMG was performed on moving canal boats, and we can look forward to a very exciting new work from this composer.

Further listening

Ondřej Adámek - Sinuous Voices

BCMG performed this piece in our 30th anniversary concert last year.

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