Wong Chee Meng
The year-old Erhu Society, formed by lovers of the two-string Chinese instrument, will stage its debut performance at the Victoria Concert Hall tonight.
The 100-member society was founded by erhu virtuoso Wang Fang Liang from China.
Most members are his students who belong to various Chinese orchestras here, including the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.
Professor Wang, 36, a permanent resident here and former associate professor at the Xian Conservatory of Music in China, teaches at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
The society is the only one of its kind here, and is also probably the only erhu society outside China.
The ancient erhu, which was known to exist as early as the Song or Yuan dynasty, is the most common instrument in the Chinese orchestra.
Like the number of violinists in a symphony orchestra, there are about 30 to 40 erhu players in a Chinese orchestra of between 70 and 80 members.
“I believe the society will help erhu enthusiasts in Singapore improve their skills with greater interaction among themselves, especially on the theories of playing,” Prof Wang said.
Since its formation, the society has organized talks by erhu experts from China once every three months. Even an experienced player like Miss Han Yong May, 28, a master’s degree student in Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore, benefited from those lectures.
Miss Han, a three-times second prize winner at the National Music Competition, said:”You learn a lot by listening to different erhu experts from China talk about and demonstrate with instrument.
“Each has his or her own style of playing which may suit learners with different finger lengths and abilities.”
She also felt a greater sense of belonging in the group.
“One may find more identity here than in a Chinese orchestra, because everybody plays the same instrument though members come from all walks of life.
“There are engineers, lawyers, accountants and housewives among us.”
Similar sentiments are shared by Mr Freddy Chan, a 38-year-old dentist, who said:”When I first attended the society’s activities, I was surprised to see so many young members for I had expected to see more senior citizens.
“People of our generation who are English-educated tend to think Chinese music is inferior to Western music, so it is great to see so many of us sharing the same interest.”
Members of the society can look forward to a historical tour of China next year, when they will visit the hometowns of the most notable erhu composes, Liu Tianhua and A0bing, in Jiangsu province.
The concert tonight, to be performed by Prof Wang and 55 members of the society, will open with an original, Singaporean composition entitled Song Liang (Sending Ration). It was composed by this year’s Cultural Medallion winner Phoon Yew Tien.
The players will be accompanied on that piece by 30 members of the NTUC Chinese Orchestra, which will add colour to the music with the use of other Chinese musical instruments.
The concert will also feature two guest soloists. One is Xi Jiangde, the vice-president of the erhu society in China, who will play two Peking Opera tunes, Kong Cheng Ji (Empty Fortress) and Chun Gui Meng (Spring Reveries).
The other is Chen Xiu Rong, a member of the Hongkong Chinese Orchestra. He will perform Kong Shan Niao Yu (Bird Songs Amid The Empty Mountains), the work of top Chinese composer Liu Tianhua.
Another highlight in the programme is a medley of 11 well-known erhu tunes, accompanied by synthessed music, pre-programmed in a computer.
“It is challenging because the computer will not keep time with you if you do not keep time with it,” said Miss Han, who is a member of the ensemble which will perform the medley.
Source: The Straits Times, December 17, 1996, Community.