Spring Festival Gala: Li Guyi closes show with 'How Unforgettable Tonight Is'
Updated 21:32, 05-Feb-2019
By Sun Wei
05:36

The annual Spring Festival Gala has been an integral part of Chinese New Year's Eve for many families since the early 1980s. But no matter how it's changed in form or content over the years, the closing song, "How Unforgettable Tonight Is," has been a mainstay of the line-up, sung every year by the veteran Li Guyi.

The inaugural Spring Festival Gala aired on China Central Television (CCTV) in 1983. Li Guyi was the first singer on stage that night.

"My Young Friends" and "Song of Spring" were among the numbers Li sang.

Many audience members also controversially requested "Homeland Love" via hotlines that were opened for the gala. The song is considered by many to be the first-ever pop song on the Chinese mainland.

It was originally sung by Li in 1980 and quickly became a national favorite, but it was later prohibited because her vocal style was deemed inappropriate.

However, under pressure from the audience, she was allowed to sing it, and the ban was hence lifted.

"To be frank, if this song was not performed at the first gala, it would have remained banned. The song was created at the time when the reform and opening-up policy was initiated. It was the first pop song of its kind," she said.

At the second Spring Festival Gala in 1984, Li sang half a dozen times. One of which was "How Unforgettable Tonight Is," which was used to close the show.

Li Guyi (2nd L) leads the performance of "How Unforgettable Tonight Is" at Spring Festival Gala in Beijing, February 4, 2019. /VCG Photo

Li Guyi (2nd L) leads the performance of "How Unforgettable Tonight Is" at Spring Festival Gala in Beijing, February 4, 2019. /VCG Photo

The song features a very relaxing and warm melody, and many organizers initially felt it didn't bring enough vibrancy or excitement to the occasion.

However, Chief Director Huang prevailed and made history.

"Compared to other celebratory music, this song was quiet and soft. It's also a kind of reform and a breakthrough in music. It reminds us to recall the passing year and look forward to the coming one. It's also about friendship, cherishing both our old and new friends," Li Guyi added.

"How Unforgettable Tonight Is" has closed out the gala every night since except on one occasion – in 2012, when "One Family Under Heaven" replaced it.

It was a decision that didn't go down well around the country, and things returned to normal the following year.

It all means Li has a much different Chinese New Year's Eve from the vast majority of the country. 37 years have passed since the first gala.

It has grown much bigger in scale and richer in variety during this time. Many said it has become a kind of microcosm for society's development.

"So many changes have happened over the years. The stages effects, the costumes, and the performances are more and more varied in style. More and more high tech is being used. It's a window through which we see the prosperity and development of our country," Li said.

The 74-year-old performer has appeared in all but three of the 37 galas, but says she would gladly be replaced by a new song and new singer.

(Cover Photo: Li Guyi sings "Homeland Love" at the opening ceremony of Beijing International Photography Week at the China Millennium Monument in Beijing, October 20, 2018. /VCG Photo)