On the afternoon of October 24, 2021, "Affections for the Lixiahe Area", a weekend concert organized by the Jiangsu Musicians' Association and the School of Music at NNU, was performed at the Jiangsu Centre for the Performing Arts. The concert was conducted by Huan Zhao, the famous Erhu soloist, professor from the School of Music at NNU, and a national first-class performer, Ju Liu, a famous conductor, the National Ensemble of the Jiangsu Provincial Performing Arts Group, the Jiangsu Brass Quintet, and young guitarist Yixuan Cai. Ning Xu, Vice Minister of the Publicity Department of the Jiangsu Provincial Party Committee, Jian Wang, former member of the Party Group, vice chairman and decretary of the secretariat of the Jiangsu Provincial Federation of Literary and Art Circles, Changyao Zhu, chairman of the Jiangsu Musicians' Association, Feiyu Bi, chairman of the Jiangsu Writers' Association, Minqiang Hu, secretary of the Party Committee of Nanjing Normal University, Youlian Sun, member of the Standing Committee of the Party Committee and vice president of NNU, and other leaders attended the event.
The first Erhu was made in the Tang Dynasty and has a history of more than a thousand years. It has a unique structure and a tone resembling the human voice, which makes it very expressive in performances. On the stage, well-known pieces have been performed vividly and engagingly using the Erhu. "It is said that the more popular a piece is, the more difficult it is to play. It’s very hard for a performer to play well-known pieces in a unique way because familiarity will hinder the showcasing of a performer’s own ideas and characteristics. So, innovation should be integrated with tradition," Zhao revealed. As one of the outstanding young and middle-aged Erhu players in Jiangsu Province, Zhao always has had a sincere and pure pursuit of music, carried the dual social responsibility of a teacher and Erhu player and walked the path of spreading folk music to all.
The theme of this concert, "Affections for the Lixiahe Area", is a project funded by the Jiangsu Arts Foundation for 2021. The piece incorporates the essence of the folk tones of the Lixiahe area in northern Jiangsu into an Erhu melody, showcasing the cultural atmosphere of the canal towns in Jiangsu. The unique folk music language and innovative expression are used to pay tribute to the excellent music and culture, to express the deep connotation of national spirit and help the audience relate to the music in different ways.
"Our own cultural genes should lie in the inheritance of folk music," said Zhao, adding that although traditional Chinese culture has an excellent history and background, a performer needs to learn modern and western works to broaden his horizon. “However, besides learning composing and performing techniques of western pieces, I personally think that it’s more important to retain our own national characteristics in Chinese folk music. Simple imitation won’t bring real success,” he said.