China bans Western religious music

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Musicians and tour organisers have told The Daily Telegraph that a series of significant performances have been affected amid a tightening of political control over the arts and Christianity.

Among the victims are the Academy of Ancient Music, one of Britain's leading orchestral and choral groups, which was invited to sing The Messiah at the Beijing International Music Festival in October.

The performance will go ahead but has been made "by invitation only" to get round the ban.

Ironically, among the invitees are members of the Politburo and other senior government leaders.

The Sinfonica Orchestra di Roma has dropped plans to play Mozart's Requiem in the Sichuan earthquake zone in honour of the dead and to raise money for survivors.

It will play a programme of smaller, mostly non-religious works instead.

At least one other performance of The Messiah has been cancelled and one of Verdi's Requiem is under threat.

No-one was available from the ministry of culture to comment on the reasons for the ban.

But an official said: "It is not a black and white issue, and there is nothing written on paper or in the regulations.

"A smaller piece as part of a bigger programme might be OK, but a big work like Mozart's Requiem would definitely be out."

Although the official said the ban was longstanding policy, Western choral classics have been performed regularly in the last decade as China's cultural scene has opened up...

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