Chinese Musical Ensemble Takes Center Stage at University of Dubuque

Sep 7, 2018

DUBUQUE, Iowa – University of Dubuque Heritage Center continues its sixth annual Live at Heritage Center Performing Arts Series with Manhu on Friday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m. in John and Alice Butler Hall. Part of Arts Midwest World Fest and hailing from the Stone Forest in China’s Yunnan Province, Manhu brings to life the traditions of the Yi people, an ethnic minority group with a rich musical history.

WHAT:            Live at Heritage Center Performing Arts Series – Manhu from China

WHEN:            Friday, Oct. 5 – 7:30 p.m.

WHERE:          John and Alice Butler Hall, Heritage Center, University of Dubuque

TICKETS:        Adult $15-$20 advance/$20-$25 day of show; Alumni/Military $12 advance/$17 day of show; Child/Student $10 advance/$15 day of show

Manhu, which means fierce tigers, has a multi-layered sound that is uniquely bewitching. Playing the hulusheng, a mouth organ made from dried gourds, and even an ordinary leaf as a reed, Manhu shares instruments and songs that are well-known in their homeland but rarely seen on an international stage. The ensemble has performed throughout China in prestigious venues such as the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing and Shanghai Music Hall; however, this is their first international tour. Manhu presents a fascinating reinvention of Yi music, most specifically from the Sani region of the Stone Forest, an area geographically isolated from other Yi populations with its own musical and cultural identity. Although often viewed as newcomers, Manhu has been playing together since 2003. They are multi-instrumentalists, proficient in a range of Yi instruments. The musicians choose to present an upbeat imagining of how these often inaccessible traditions can be adapted into a modern band.

In collaboration with Dubuque Arts Council, UD is in the midst of a two-year partnership with Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest. During the partnership, four international ensembles representing Israel, Japan, China, and Norway each spend one week in the Dubuque area. Manhu is the third ensemble to visit with Sofi & the Baladis from Israel and Ondekoza from Japan already having visited. The final ensemble to visit early next year will be The Unni Boksasp Ensemble from Norway.

“We’re so fortunate to have these groups coming to our community,” said Thomas Robbins, executive director of Heritage Center. “The groups not only perform a public concert but most of the week they are in the schools sharing their culture through workshops. It’s not often communities like ours have the chance to host international ensembles like Manhu at all—let alone for a full week. We’re fortunate. It’s a rare opportunity for us to enjoy an authentic slice of Chinese music and culture right here.”

Arts Midwest, one of six U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, partners with program sponsors like The National Endowment for the Arts, 3M, and The Heart Foundations to cover a substantial portion of the program cost so communities throughout the Midwest can enjoy this rich arts experience. Dubuque was selected as one of nine Midwestern cities to host the 2017–2019 Arts Midwest World Fest season and it is the only partner community in Iowa.

Arts Midwest World Fest presents international music ensembles in the nine-state region it serves with the goal of connecting small and mid-sized Midwestern communities to world cultures. Arts Midwest’s mission is to promote creativity, nurture cultural leadership, and engage people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people's lives.

“Arts Midwest’s goal is to make meaningful and lasting impressions on the communities that host this program,” said David Fraher, president and CEO of Arts Midwest. “We think week-long residencies can offer so much more than one-day visits. There are more opportunities to truly connect with each other whether through workshops in schools, concerts in the greater community, or through social gatherings. We want this to be a rich experience for the entire community.”

Prior to the performance, members of Manhu will deliver a free pre-show lecture from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. in Babka Theatre, adjacent to Butler Hall, offering insights on the group and their music as well as time for questions and answers.

Manhu can be chosen as part of a flexible season ticket package or single tickets are available Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Farber Box Office, Heritage Center, University of Dubuque, 2255 Bennett Street; by phone at 563.585.SHOW; or online at

A program of Arts Midwest, the 2017–2019 Arts Midwest World Fest cycle is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Hearst Foundations, 3M, the Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN program, the Kaufman Family Fund for Israeli Cultural Exchange, the Nordic Culture Fund, and Music Norway. Additional support is provided by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Heritage Foundation Grants Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation for Manhu. Funding for Manhu is provided in part by contributions from the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest; Israel Lottery Council for Culture & Arts; and Music Port.

Arts Midwest is also generously supported by Illinois Arts Council Agency, Indiana Arts Commission, Iowa Arts Council, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Minnesota State Arts Board, North Dakota Council on the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, South Dakota Arts Council, and Wisconsin Arts Board.