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Ensemble from rural China to spend week here

Manhu, a performing group from the Stone Forest region of China, will conclude their weeklong residency with a concert Oct. 28 at the Sheldon Theatre. Submitted photo

Musicians from the Stone Forest province of southwestern China will arrive in Red Wing Monday for the final stop on their Arts Midwest World Fest tour.

Manhu will be in residence for a week, culminating in a concert at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28 at the Sheldon Theatre.

Manhu is one of four international performing groups on the tour. Two performed at the Sheldon Theatre last year and the other two are scheduled this season. Each group spends a week in a selected city in nine participating states.

This year musicians have been to Iowa and South Dakota and currently are in North Dakota. They speak almost no English, according to road manager Shigeyo Henriquez, but have an interpreter and communicate through their music.

Manhu performs a particular style of folk music of rural China and is not what people might consider "typical," Henriquez said.

The group, four men and one woman vocalist/dancer, represent "a very, very small tribal group" in China, she added. Their home area is a remote landscape of small towns, quiet lakes and forests made of stone.

According to Arts Midwest, "Manhu brings to life the traditions of the Yi people, an ethnic minority group with a rich musical history." The Yi people are a distinctive minority of the Sani subgroup with their own language, writing and music.

The musicians perform on unusual instruments including a hulusheng — a mouth organ made from dried gourds — and an ordinary leaf which they use as a reed.

"Manhu shares instruments and songs that are well known in their homeland but rarely seen on an international stage," Arts Midwest noted. "The ensemble has performed throughout China, but this is their first international tour."

Their music will be "very new" to most people, Henriquez said, describing it as "folksy with a beat." At an event during their North Dakota residency, she added, someone commented "The music is more like mountain music — like bluegrass."

During the Sheldon concert, they will be wearing traditional garb as they sing, dance and play music of an age-old culture that they have made modern and lively, theater spokespeople said. The audience likely will be invited to join in a tribal dance.

Because the tour is a cultural exchange, members of the ensemble are learning about this country while they share traditions of their own land.

During last year's visit to Red Wing, Henriquez said, the musicians had a chance to see Eagles on the river and explore a bit of the landscape. They hope to continue discovering local sights, sounds and foods.

The Manhu concert is part of the Enlighten series, which features artists from around the world "that blend tradition and innovation to create the unexpected," Sheldon officials said.

Tickets are $20. The Manhu concert is a Kids Play Free event, which allows a child 14 and under to attend free with the purchase of a regular adult admission. For reservations visit the box office, call 651-388-8700 or to online to www.sheldontheatre.org.

The Sheldon will have one more visit by an Arts Midwest touring group this season. The Unni Boksasp Ensemble from Norway will perform a concert of fiddle music and vocals March 30.

Outreach includes public workshop

Manhu, a group of traditional musicians from rural China, will present a public lecture-demonstration at noon Friday, Oct. 26 at Minnesota State College Southeast, 308 Pioneer Road.

While there, they will have an opportunity to tour the school, which includes several music programs that involve making and repairing band and stringed instruments.

The ensemble, which performs on unique instruments including a mouth organ made from dried gourds and a leaf used as a reed, will make several stops during its weeklong residency in Red Wing.

As part of the Arts Midwest World Fest tour, Manhu also will do presentations at local schools, a senior residence, a manufacturing plant and the Minnesota Correctional Facility, leading up to their Sunday, Oct. 28 concert at the Sheldon Theatre.

For information on the public workshop or to register, contact the Sheldon at 651-388-8700.

If you go...

Who: Manhu

What: Arts Midwest World Fest concert

When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28

Where: Sheldon Theatre

How much: $20; Kids Play Free

More info: 651-388-8700 or www.sheldontheatre.org

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