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Seniors in Guangzhou rejuvenate themselves with music

2022-May-12       Source: newsgd.com

With an average age of over 70, the members of the orchestra used to be former postal workers, programmers, senior executives in enterprises. They all intend to rejuvenate themselves by devoting their retirement to pursue the enthusiasm of their youth in music.

It is widely acknowledged that famous violinists usually start to learn this instrument in childhood.

To name a few, Chinese violinist Lv Siqing learned violin at the age of four, Igor Davidovich Oistrakh, a violinist of former Soviet Union, learned it at five, and Polish violinist Wieniawski started at six.

However, it was at the age of 75 that Su Zhaofu owned his first violin. He is not a particularly talented violinist, and he even can’t read the stave. He just wants to pursue the music dream of his youth in retirement.

He is a member of the J.M. Senior Orchestra in Guangzhou. Recently, this orchestra won a gold award at the 4th Guangdong Band Invitational Event.

With an average age of over 70, the members of the orchestra used to be former postal workers, programmers, senior executives in enterprises. They all intend to rejuvenate themselves by devoting their retirement to pursue the enthusiasm of their youth in music.

A retired 87-year-old professor now becomes a student

This is the first rehearsal of J.M. Senior Orchestra after the Spring Festival. The classroom, sized nearly 30 square meters, is quickly filled by 16 students.

Dressed in a dark Chinese tunic suit, Su Zhaofu sits in the middle of the last row as usual. His music books that are laid on the instrument have been yellowed and curled because of numerous page turnings.

Aged 87, Su Zhaofu is the eldest member of the orchestra. When he was 75, the Guangzhou Elderly University started to offer violin classes. After having piano class for several years, he couldn’t wait to enroll in the violin class after hearing the exciting news.

Starting from scratch to learn violin is not an easy task. As he is getting older, his fingers and joints are not as flexible as before. His hands tumble when he plays the violin, and his fingers often press the wrong strings.

“It was very hard for me to master the skills quickly as a beginner. My daughter also laughed at me, saying that I had no gift for playing this instrument,” he said. He keeps practicing violin for two hours every day, and he often listens to related classes online and he shares what he’s learned with his teachers and classmates.

Su Zhaofu has served as a Chinese-major professor in Guangzhou University. After retirement, he finally had the opportunity for an in-depth study of the violin. “I learn playing music almost every day. From Monday to Friday, I have piano class, chorus class, violin class and band rehearsal. Moreover, I also review what I’ve learned at home after class,” he said.

A former programmer now becomes a violinist

Zhao Xiaoliang worked in the Guangzhou No.1 Bus Co., Ltd. before retirement, and he was also one of the earliest staff members to develop the Yang Cheng Tong, the public transportation card of Guangzhou.

When staying at home under the pandemic-related lockdown, he used his cellphone to make a video clip, integrating seven seniors’ piano performances of the Turkish March into a piece.

Different from Su Zhaofu, Zhao Xiaoliang learned the violin and piano when he was a child. In the 1960s, Zhao worked in the countryside of Shaoguan. Since the piano was too heavy to take, he could only bring the violin with him. To his surprise, one of his colleagues could also play the violin, so he kept learning from him at that time.

Inspired by Su Zhaofu, Zhao Xiaoliang picked up his violin again. Now, he is already one of the major violinists of the orchestra. Furthermore, he has managed to register a video account on WeChat to share videos of their practices and performances.

“I can’t wait to devote all myself to practice the violin, everyday. I really enjoy my life,” he said.

It took two-month salary to buy the first violin

Huang Qicong used to be a senior executive in a foreign-invested company, with numerous business trips around the world. After retirement, he is still busy. He spends most of his spare time in learning violin and dancing. Moreover, he often plays in performances.

He still remembers clearly that it took two months of his salary to buy his first violin when he was young. “The violin priced 45 yuan, which was my one-month salaries, and there was no discount for non-employees of the store,” he said.

Huang also recalls that although successfully bought his own violin, he could not afford a professional violin teacher, so he had to learn from his classmates. It was until he was admitted into the South China Normal University (SCNU) that he was accessible to a systematic violin study program provided by the University.

The life in SCNU was precious for Huang Qicong, then he had no more opportunity to play the violin after graduation due to the busy work.

“I think I am still a young man. One day I was taking the bus when a young person offered his seat to me. At that moment I was wondering why he did that, and I don’t think I have been that old to accept the seat the young person provide,” Huang said.

There is a motto in Huang Qicong’s WeChat account, which says, “Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind.”

A post-80s young man leads the orchestra

The head of the orchestra is a post-80s young man named Huang Jun. “Our intention is to attract like-minded seniors to play music together,” said Han Yue, Huang Jun’s wife, as well as the originator of the orchestra.

Han Yue is a violin teacher at the Guangzhou Elderly University. In 2020, she noticed that her students were eager to learn more about the violin. They always worked together to practice duets and trios after class. Therefore, the couple decided to establish the J.M. Senior Orchestra.

To Han Yue’s surprise, the seniors become more professional with numerous practice sessions and they even won the gold award at the Guangdong Band Invitational event.

In the video of the awarding-winning performance, the 12 seniors, with men in suits and women in blue dresses, play their respective instrument to perform a jazz-inspired version of The Second Waltz created by Dmitri Shostakovich.

To better present the piece in the competition, the seniors rehearsed for nearly a year. After class, they also recorded video clips of their practices with their cellphones, and then shared the videos on their WeChat group for Han Yue’s comments.

After graduating from Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Huang Jun, a Guangzhou local, decided to return to his hometown to work in the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. In the meantime, he also plans to promote classical music among the public.

He takes the orchestra’s senior members to various venues such as ancestral halls, parks and nursing homes to conduct a series of non-profit performances to the public.

This young man hopes that more and more people can fall in love with music in Guangzhou. With classical pieces being heard throughout the whole city, more citizens can get happiness, inspiration and strength from the melodies.


Co-presented by Nanfang Daily, Nanfang plus and GDToday

Editor: Holly

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