Karen Kocharyan has been the principal cellist of Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra since 2017. He has had this special feeling of being at home ever since he arrived in Shenzhen. Together with his colleagues, Kocharyan hopes to delight the audience with outstanding performances and promote musical appreciation to the public.
Video and photos by Liu Xudong except otherwise stated
As the principal cellist for the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, Karen Kocharyan from Armenia knows that music speaks a universal language and has the magical power to bring people together.
The Armenian has had this special feeling of being at home from the first year, or even the first day, when he arrived in Shenzhen.
Karen Kocharyan, principal cellist for the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, at an orchestra rehearsal.
“Believe me, the first year (in Shenzhen) showed me that, the first day even, when my friend whom I knew came and picked me up, I felt myself at home, really at home,” Kocharyan told Shenzhen Daily in a recent interview.
That’s considerably different from what Kocharyan had expected as he had assumed that he would be an alien due to different cultures and mindsets. But now, whenever he leaves Shenzhen, he misses it.
The Armenian cellist first came to Shenzhen with his piano trio in 2013, when the trio staged a concert at Shenzhen Concert Hall.
“I liked the city very much. Later, I got an invitation that the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra needed a principal cellist. So I came,” he said.
An official photo of Kocharyan playing the cello. Courtesy of the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra
According to Kocharyan, his life in Shenzhen has been very active. “In China, life is very active. You are always trying to achieve something. That’s why you can see the development of this country. Every single day, you see something new, something big, something beautiful.”
When asked to sum up Shenzhen in a few words, the Armenian cellist is at a loss for words. “It’s very beautiful, dynamic, glamorous ... I cannot say only one word,” Kocharyan said. He is also fascinated by Shenzhen’s natural environment, where green is everywhere and the air is clean and fresh.
Every spring since 2017, Shenzhen has hosted the Belt & Road International Music Festival, utilizing music as a bridge to foster cross-cultural communication and exchanges.
Members of the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra at a rehearsal.
Kocharyan said he was overjoyed to have attended the music festivals for so many years. “For anyone who is living and working abroad, if you are accepted there and your effort is needed, it’s a really good and responsible feeling. And I feel myself really happy that I can do something here. I am part of this culture.”
The Armenian cellist also performed at an evening gala in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in 2020.
“I feel a really big responsibility as a personality, a musician and a professional. I’m thrilled that I can contribute in this way,” Kocharyan said, adding that he and his colleagues share the same goals of delighting the audience with outstanding performances and promoting musical appreciation to the public.
According to him, the local government strongly supports cultural development, setting an example for other nations to follow. Shenzhen Vitalization Symphony Development Foundation, for example, is an important achievement of the Shenzhen Municipal Government in promoting public participation in high culture and enabling residents to gain musical enjoyment through high-level concerts.
Kocharyan and other members of the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra at a rehearsal.
“For our orchestra, for instance, we have many concerts at various locations. Sometimes we get tired because there are so many concerts. But on the other hand, this is an amazing opportunity for people to come listen to classical music and to be involved in such an interesting and beautiful culture,” he said.
Kocharyan, who has been with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra for five years, was impressed by the orchestra’s professionalism. Working in such a professional environment resembles knowledge and cultural exchanges for him.
He believes that the orchestra will continue to uphold high standards, pushing them to join the world’s most important and prestigious orchestras and become the first in Asian orchestras.
“I remember the reception we had in Europe when we performed there. I could tell by their response that we’re really accepted,” Kocharyan remarked, noting how the audience was amazed by their approach to playing.
Every time the Armenian cellist is on stage, he believes there is an invisible connection with the audience. “It’s very special for me to find some people with whom I can feel their reaction, and I keep this connection during the performance.”
This is the connection musicians give their audience, who then give it back to them with their passion and participation. In Shenzhen, a music-loving city, this connection is always palpable, according to Kocharyan.