The Academical Village People Head East
For the members of the vaunted UVA a capella group The Academical Village People (AVP), one question should be very easy to answer: What did you do for Spring Break, 2019? The group, founded in 1993 by a group of young men looking to bring a new style of a capella to Grounds, has been delighting audiences ever since, and, in the process, set themselves apart from other groups of their kind by striking a balance between professionalism and fun, and performance and musicality. The AVP released 13 studio albums, performed at the White House, and traveled to Spain, England, and Scotland. And now, for their latest memory-making journey, the group packed up their stellar voices and boundless creativity and headed East…to China. The trip came about thanks to a meeting at last spring’s 25thAnniversary Concert, where they had a chance to meet and connect with 1999 alumnus Mike Ludwick, who has been living and working in China since 2007, and over that time has become well-known in the international education community, and has built robust connections in both the education and entertainment industries. Keeping his performance chops strong, Ludwick is a regular on Chinese TV, performing for millions multiple times. He served as the host and main performer for the UVA Office in Shanghai. Ludwick generously offered the Academical Village People a dream chance to be hosted by him in China and to perform with him on CCTV-4. The offer was far too good to refuse, and March found the group readying for the experience of a lifetime, preparing to show off their talents, meet new friends, and show a whole new world UVA at its finest--a group of students from different backgrounds brought together by a mutual love of music and a great passion for one incredible University.
In all, the group estimates that they gave about 15 formal performances in China. One, of course, was at the Great Wall. There were also several impromptu performances, one of which Kiran Menon, AVP’s business manager, remembers with great fondness. “I think the moment I will remember most is when we went to this public park that was near the Temple of Heaven in central Beijing,” he said. There were about 100 elderly Chinese men, and in a funny moment, the singers decided to challenge them to do push-ups and sit-ups. “It was a bunch of 70-year-old-guys just absolutely schooling us,” Menon laughed. “They went up to about 75 push-ups, and the most we got was about 50.” Afterward, the UVA guys began singing a popular traditional Chinese song called Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin [“The Moon Represents My Heart”] they’d learned in advance on Ludwick’s recommendation. “This crowd kind of formed around us and as soon as we went into the lyrics, everyone started singing along, and there were a couple of people tearing up and getting emotional,” Menon recalled. “I think that’s the moment that I’ll remember the most, about how meaningful it was to see from the Chinese perspective to see Westerners engaging in their culture in a way that really I guess most of them had never seen before,” he said. Not a single member of the current AVP group had been to China before this trip and they won the hearts of all who watched them perform.The trip was made possible by the gracious support of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs, the UVA Parents Fund, UVA Arts, UVA Clubs Association, UVA China Office, and Air China.