Though Quan họ originated in Bắc Ninh province, nowadays it has been spreading to all over the northern of Việt Nam. Quan họ is now sung in almost every spring festivals, in which, Vietnamese things are best seen.
Spring festivals and Quan họ
Quan họ folk songs were created by the Kinh people community living in 49 Quan họ villages of Kinh Bắc and nearby areas. Vietnamese greeted New Year according to the Lunar Calendar; hence in provinces of Red River Delta, the first and second month of lunar year were not only the resting time after harvesting season but also considered the months of joyful spring festivals.
Spring festivals are the occasions for singers from one village inviting singers from other village to join the New Year celebration, visiting friends, and singing Quan họ folk songs. Just like other countryside villages, the festivals in Quan họ ones contain two main parts: religious rituals and the gathering.
Together with different customs and economic development, each village worships its own tutelary deity, which results in its unique cultural features. The festival always starts with the religious ceremony of the tutelary deity, when people pray for good fortune, abundant crops, and a new year full of happiness. The second part of the festival comes later, including many traditional games and art performances. Quan họ folk songs are an irreplaceable part of this occasion.
Quan họ in the community gathering
The organization of welcoming party and singing competition normally follow those following strict steps. In the afternoon of the day before the festival, representatives of host village come and send the invitation to the village which they strike up the friendship with. On the first day of the celebration, people of the host village wait at the village’s gate to greet the guests, leading them to the center communal house and pagoda, doing religious rituals and singing the very first songs. After that, everybody get together and sing Quan họ folk songs until dawn with one hearty dinner at midnight.
The festival continues the next day when male and female singers of the two villages visit each other house and go sight-seeing in the freshly humid air of spring. It is the best time for people to make acquaintance to understand more about each other.
On the last day, the host sees the guest off to the village’s gate, where they sing the last songs about love and regretting having to part, as the sincere goodbye. Spring festivals only last for a few days, but their echo of tenderness, elegance with profoundly meaningful songs the whole year.
Nowadays, singers not only sing Quan họ folk songs in their villages’ festivals, but also come to other provinces and big cities to perform, in the hope of bringing Quan họ closer to both Vietnamese and foreign friends.