Mother’s Day Luncheon in Our Garden (5/10/2021)

(By Joan Huang)

Dvorak’s Songs Mother Taught Me was played on the squeaky phonograph in my house when I was a child, I remember that was a 78-rpm heavy record. Later, when the notorious Cultural Revolution took place, I helped my father to smash all the Western classical music records into pieces over night because we were afraid of that the Red Guards would search for the evidences of bourgeois. However the Songs Mother Taught Me did imprint in my heart, because it was my mother who taught me many many of her songs, which influenced me to become a composer in my late life. My mother taught me songs since I was a kindergartner in Shanghai because she was a well known children’s song writer in China.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I love my mother!❤️❤️❤️

Finally the ferocious pandemic subsided. Bill and I got our 2nd shots on February 17th. From early March on, we began to host a weekly luncheon in our garden with our fully vaccinated friends. It has been going really well to reunite them after a long isolated year. The spring has sprung, the green light is here at a long tunnel ride!

On Mother’s Day, we had friends from Santa Monica and Venice Beach came for our weekly luncheon. We talked various subjects over the meal. It lasted about 4 and half hours, It was such stimulating afternoon!

And the at the same time I was writing this “Mother’s Day” blog to dedicate it to my mother in UK.

There are 3 composers in our family: my husband, my mother and myself. There are no competitions among us, only love exists, we support each other’s career. My husband is an avant-garde composer, I am a composer focusing on combining Chinese musical language and Western compositional techniques, and my mother is a well known children’s song writer in China. Despite our styles are distinguishably different, we respect each other and have a lot in common in terms of politics, arts, and many other subjects.

The above video is a a popular song entitled The Mother is the Best Person in the World

In my Reflections After a Rainbow, the 6th “paragraph” (VI. Indigo: Mother’s Kiss), I adopted this famous tune: “Indigo is reminiscent of the dark blue ocean, ———calm and deep.  To me, it implies faithful loyalty and deep love.  Therefore I employed a tune called Mother is the Best Person in the World as this episode’s theme to express the feeling of love.

My mother is a good mother with a childlike heart, who sets a great example for me. She and I both graduated from the prestigeous Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and were fortunate to be taught by the same professor – Sang Tong. She graduated in the late 1950s and I graduated in the early 1980s.

During the special circumstance of the China’s political bickering period, after the graduation, my mother was assigned by the government to work at the Shanghai Music Publishing House in 1958. She was appointed to be in charge of “Children’s Music” field as a music editor. In spite of the guidelines set by the government, my mother has established a rich career both as a music editor and a composer of songs for children. Fully dedicated and hardworking for decades, she has contributed an important body of work in the world of music for China’s children.

Amazingly, I found this video clip Li Xiaoduo Passes Apples on YouTube, which my mother composed in the 1960s, I still memorize it inside out. It was about the Communist’s altruistic ideology: to share.

My mother’s work as an editor can be found in numerous influential publications. She has composed hundreds of popular children’s songs. Several of her songs have won awards and many of her songs have been selected and compiled into various music textbooks, as wee ell as appearing in various television and stage events.

During our childhood (my brother, my sister and myself), my mother always sang her songs for us. She often chose songs whose lyrics had a nurturing effect: good habits, hard work, a passion for studying, and a desire to be kind and loving. This early nurturing encouraged us to follow in our mother’s footsteps in launching our own music careers.

The majority of my mother’s songs were written for kindergarten and elementary school children. Her songs were well liked not only by children but also by their parents and school music teachers.

My mother was the one in the center with a black skirt.

Years ago during a trip to visit my parents in the United Kingdom, I wrote daily travel logs, I adopted my mother’s songs as background music. I sent them to our friends all over thee world. In one of the travel logs I chose my mother’s well-known song entitled Talking on the Phone. One of our friends wrote back from Italy. She was amazed: ” I sang a song to my children all the time 20 years ago, I didn’t know it was composed by your mother.” Yes, when my mother was composing this song, it was because my father bought a set of pink telephone toys for my brother and me, so that we could talk to each other from a short distance. From that, my mother got the inspiration.

Here’s what I found on YouTube: Talking on the Phone (by my mother Ling Wang)

As a mentor, my mother has taught many students over 6 decades. One of my mother’s former students, the Canadian music educator Yingying Guo gave the following comments:

“Mrs. Wang possesses a great originality when writing children’s songs. The time she spent observing children’s likes and dislikes was the source of her inspiration. She blended the essence of Chinese folk music with elements of contemporary Western music to create works with flavors from Sichuan, Sananxi, Jiangnan, Hainan, as well as Han, Uighur, Yao and Yi ethnic groups, Her works include ancient opera as we’ll as modern styles, incorporating lyrics with a young audience in mind, voice range within an octave, and simple rhythms and chords. Some of her works are written to allow parents and teachers to sing along with children. Vibrant and full of life, her works and her name Wang Ling flew across China as if they had wings.”

(My parents came to UCLA in 1991 to attend my Ph.D graduation ceremony. They were very proud of me!)

The most admirable thing about my mother was: after my father had a stroke in 1999, my mother was at the peak of her career, she was quite well-known in China in the field of Children’s music. Nevertheless, my mother gave up her full-fledged career without any hesitations and immigrated to the UK with my father to live with my sister’s family so that my father would enjoy spending time with his family. That was her deep love for my father. Since 2000, she had been taking care of my father for 17 years until he passed away 4 years ago. She is a real role model for us!

After her immigration to the UK, my mother was still composing music whenever she could. In 2010 Shanghai Music Publishing House published a new collection of songs by my mother. We’re very proud of her!👍👍👍

My mother’s reputation is popular among her friends and is very generous to help people. Nowadays, her former students around the world frequently call her through “WeChat” . At the age of 88, she is still composing as much as she can because she loves what she has been doing for her entire life. 👍🌹❤️

My mother is my soul mate, we talk every day of all subjects. After the epidemic is over, I will fly to UK to visit my mother and my sister’s family. On this Mother’s Day, I would like to present a large bouquet of roses from our garden to my mother – “Thank you so much for your unconditional love! Enjoy your longevity!”

With hundreds of lemons hanging on the tree, I was cooking a lemon collation based on the “Mother’s Day Luncheon” (from Sheila Lukins’ cooking book Celebrate!

Fresh Raspberry Lemonade

Cucumber Soup with a Crunch

Festive Tuna

Lemon-Mint Couscous

Lemon-Glazed Angel Food Cake

Raspberry Sorbet

This luncheon I had made many times. In my opinion, it is elegant, healthy and light. With a cool pink fresh raspberry lemonade to start with, wandering along the rose garden to enjoy a riot of colors in the mid spring is a great feeling. Then a smooth and delicious bowl of cucumber yogurt soup served as a prelude to the luncheon; the center course is brightly colored “Festival Tuna” and the lemon mint couscous which has a hint of Middle Eastern flavor.

We ended the luncheon with “Lemon-glazed Angel Food Cake” and bright, tart, sweet and cool Raspberry Sorbet. They bring us a sense of gentle sweetness. I found that most of the dishes in this recipe can be prepared in advance. In this case, I didn’t’t have to be panic in the kitchen, and I could enjoy the conversations with our friends.

In terms of table setting, after nearly 30 years, I still love to use our multi-colored tablewares I bought from “Pier 1 Imports”. This set of rainbow-colored dishes symbolizes America’s multi-cultures ! I love shopping at “Pier 1 Imports” and “Cost Plus-World Market”!

The roses in the garden were vying for beauty. They were the flowers I “sent” to my mother:

Happy Mother’s Day! 祝母亲节快乐!🌹🌹🌹

Published by Joan Huang

I'm a freelance composer living in bucolic Altadena, the suburb of Los Angeles. Besides music making, I love cooking, drinking wines with friends, gardening, hiking and traveling.

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