Few players are able to sing the old tunes now. This is what prompted me to look for the old tunes.”
which were originally composed with lyrics of poems in ancient China.
The latter half of the concert comprised pieces by recent Chinese composers, such as Zhao Jiping, Xi Qiming, Wang Di, Yang Yibo and the late Liu Wenjin, which combine lyrics from ancient poems with modern melodies.
“Few players are able to sing the old tunes now. This is what prompted me to look for the old tunes. It’s my duty to act as a bridge to take them to a wider audience,” says Fang, 52.
Her concert tour, which started in Shanghai last year, is a result of years of research and exploration.
Explaining how the poems were set to music, Fang says that in ancient times, intellectuals gathered at a site with great view, and inspired by the scenery they would compose poems, play the and sing.
To bring the poems and old tunes back to life, Fang and her team visited experts on musicology and classical poetry to re-create pieces that could be put on stage.
Shi Peng, 93, a Changshabased expert on ancient poems, was invited to the concert to recite
by Du Fu, a Tang Dynasty (618-907) poet.
Fang, who’s from Yueyang, Hunan province, says when she was young, she used to see old people painting, writing poems and doing recitations at Yueyang Tower, one of the best-known heritage sites in the city.
“But I did not understand the meaning then,” says Fang.
So, on learning that young people in Taiwan had organized poetry clubs and were doing recitations in the Minnan dialect, Fang was inspired to promote poetry recitation by combining music with poetry.
Shi, who was glad to perform at the Beijing concert, says: “I’m here to prove that poetry recitation is part of our history.”
Jiang Jiakeng, a Beijingbased singer in his 80s, was also at the concert, performing his best-known pieces.
Jiang has enjoyed the exquisite tones and diction of ancient Chinese poems. He began recording songs based on them with the in the 1970s.
“I’ve recorded hundreds of them, but I got very few opportunities to perform because people rarely listened to this form of music then,” he says.
However, the revival of old tunes played with and the creation of new compositions using ancient poems as lyrics has helped.
“The fad is spreading nowadays, especially in universities,” he says.
And this music form is now part of the curriculum of vocal music professionals.
Liu Hui, the director of the Shenyang Conservatory of Music, says it is a priority to sing traditional music pieces well and such old tunes are among the five traditional styles that all professional students learn and sing in university classrooms.
Fang says she will publish a textbook on the music form. singer
Speaking of how she got involved with the music form, she says: “I started learning old tunes in my college years (in the 1980s). But, I finally decided to start a program to promote it as I am at an age where I am able to enjoy the loneliness of the academic world.
“My life experience and understanding of art and literature is also able to support my work.
“And what I am doing is also changing my mindset. I am more calm now, both in life and at work.”
Fang Qiong performs at a Beijing concert, which features a combination of classical Chinese poetry and music.
Shi Peng, a Changsha-based expert on ancient Chinese poetry, recites a poem at the Beijing concert. Fang Qiong,