I love Charles Ives’ Variations on America (arranged by William Schuman for orchestra). As an immigrant, I know this country has brought me a lot of happiness and freedom. Today I’m paying respect to the heroes who have sacrificed their lives. I feel that I must do something for every occasion. Today is a beautiful day, I took Gigi walking in the neighborhood. Our neighbor Tony has done a great job to decorate his house. It is so inspiring!
To commemorate the soldiers who died during the war, the last Monday of May is the “Memorial Day” and is a national holiday in the United States. This day is a day for the American people to show their patriotism. To pay homage to those martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the country’s military service, people will visit cemeteries and monuments to lay flowers and plant an American flag.
This year’s “Memorial Day” will be a time to reunite with our friends. The difference between this year’s gregarious celebration and last year’s isolation is like heaven and earth. Last year, for us, the Memorial BBQ was just for ourselves. I remember that we felt like being wrapped by the poisonous thorn-headed “Covid-19 New Crown Flower” barbed wire. Looking up at the sky, We were silently “praying” to the stars and the moon and hoped that the worst would be over soon; and the traditional American band parade, entertainment, singing and dancing, and family reunions would resume soon. Those of us who love socializing could only be doing everything alone in the quiet garden.
at the moment the barbecue was turned on, I was eager to see the hope of resurgence in the flames. Finally, there is no “Waiting for Godot” in vain, almost all of our friends and family members got fully vaccinated. Restaurants, museums, and cinemas have opened one after another. People can’t wait any longer to travel. I heard from the radio, for this long weekend, Los Angeles alone, there will be 2,600,000 people traveling. The traffic is going to be a nightmare.
The beginning scene of the film of La La Land renders the joy of the celebration of a “new day” ……
The American writer Minot Judson Savage (1841-1918) said:
“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men..”
Here is what the American poet Daniel Turner wrote:
For Americans, tomorrow is Memorial Day
Religious or not, we should all stop and pray
For all the people, who gave their lives
At home and abroad, for their sacrifice
Fighting and dying, for the time that we waste
Ask God to love them and show them His grace
Pray for their families, for the love they lost
Paying the price, with the ultimate cost
Think of the fallen, lost in their prime
Be thankful for them and keep them in mind
Today, in addition to paying tribute and condolences to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country, we also express our deep condolences to the medical staff who lost their lives to save Covid-19 patients.
On the “Memorial Day” day, the major American symphony orchestras usually played the famous Festival of Decoration by the American composer Ives. Up to now, the orchestras have not resumed to perform, I would like to share it with everyone from a long distance.
Decoration Day was completed in 1912. Ives arranged the piece for full orchestra, and it lasts about nine to ten minutes.
Ives was inspired to write Decoration Day after listening to his father’s marching band play on Decoration Day. The marching band would march from the Soldiers’ Monument at the center of Danbury to Wooster Cemetery, and there Ives would play “Taps“. The band would leave often playing Reeves’s “Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March”.
“‘Decoration Day’ begins with an extended meditative section, mostly for strings,” symbolizing morning and “the awakening of memory”. Ives has a player or two separated from the orchestra play as if he is alone, called “shadow lines”. The music slowly unfolds, yielding an eerie mix of major and minor keys. Ives begins to incorporate his memories of Decoration Day into his piece by transforming “Marching Through Georgia” into the mournful “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground“. At this point, we are back in the cemetery where his father’s marching band stops, and just as Ives played “Taps” as a boy, he writes “Taps” into Decoration Day. “Taps” is coupled with “Nearer, My God, to Thee” played by the strings. Ives uses “Taps” to pave a way from the despairing section to the elated section. “On the last note of ‘Taps’ the music begins to surge into a drumbeat that crescendos until with a sudden cut we are in the middle of the march back to town, and the pealing melody of ‘Second Regiment'”. Ives follows this jubilation with the music from the beginning of the piece.
The score of Decoration Day was published for the first time in 1989.
(The above is quoted from Wikipedia)
“Memorial Day” is the beginning of the annual barbecue season and the prelude to the summer outdoor party. Following the crowing of the neighbor’s rooster, I immediately got up and took Gigi down the hill, walking through the winding and colorful streets of our neighbors, watching the American flags flapping in the wind, and the festive atmosphere immediately caught my eye.
Here is the Song I made entitled “Altadena the Beautiful” based on “America the Beautiful”
Oh we are alone to commemorate this year’s Memorial Day, Through rays of sunshine, flags sway, We makes a rose bouquet. Altadena*, Altadena, The social distancing we obey, We decorate house, settle the table, The barbecue is underway.
(Note: Altadena is the town where we live, 30 minutes drive from downtown Los Angeles.)
After walking the dog and returning home, I will begin to decorate the house both indoors and outdoors. This is a patriotic day, and all the decorations are all set by the primary colors of the American flag: red, blue, and white. I will pick up red and white roses and blue agapanthus from the garden and place them in a large transparent vase. Wind chimes, tablecloths, napkins, plates, wine glasses, utensils are all these 3 primary colors.
After finishing the holiday decorations, I will get the barbecue grill ready in the backyard: make sure there is enough gas, small chips of firewood, and various tools. Friends will arrive at 5pm. I will make various cocktails for the guests: Martini, Manhattan, Margarita, Pina Colada, etc., of course beers from all over the world bought from “Cost Plus World Market” are also refreshing. During the “happy hour”, we will carry on various subjects of conversations while enjoying the warm sunset, the fragrance of birds and flowers, and the soothing zephyr in the early summer.
Here’s 5 years ago Memorial BBQ with friends in our garden:
Typical American traditional barbecue menu is generally: hamburger, barbecue chicken, barbecue short ribs, salad, boiled corn, homemade ice cream and colorful desserts etc. For many years, I have been particularly fond of Sheila Liukins’ cook book Celebrate! The recipe includes: 1) Grilled Clams and Oysters Atop Orzo Salad; 2) The Perfect Grilled Porterhouse; 3) Boiled corns; 4) Grilled Seasonal Fresh Vegetables from the Garden; and 5) Blueberry pie.
The 14-month epidemic period was the best time for me to practice new recipes. Cooking is a calming agent for soul soothing, a stimulant for innovative creation, and a nutrient that breeds positive energy. Sharing recipes and experiences with relatives and friends also made me happy, At this moment, all our pots, pans and appliances are all in place, and under my “direction”, they perform marvelous wonderful “concerts”.
1) Grilled Clams and Oysters Atop Orzo Salad:
In this recipe, I just put the clams and oysters on the grill, crackling, sound like the firecrackers, and the shells will open naturally with a rhythm. When the “firecrackers” stop making sound, then it tells you: it’s cooked! Then add olive oil, red wine vinegar, French mustard and other spices, mix with pre-cooked Italian orzo, diced red sweet pepper, diced green zucchini, etc. It is the colorful, absolutely eye-catching starter.
2) The Perfect Grilled Porterhouse:
The method is so simple: Sprinkle the steak with salt and cracked black pepper, and cook them on the grill for 5 minutes on each side. It tastes so good and feels heavenly!
3) Boiled corn:
Corn in the United States is world-famous, and it is almost a daily staple food during the summer for our household because we grow them in my vegetable garden. Just cook them for 5 minutes in the boiling water. They’re so sweet, tender, and refreshing!
4) Homegrown Organic Vegetable Medley
At present, the vegetables in my vegetable garden include broad beans, celery, string beans, kale, Swiss chard and tomatoes and . Stir-frying them with olive oil and garlic is a good way to go.
5) Blueberry Pie:
This is a symbolic in terms of the color of the American flag. I have made many many times. All my friends who have eaten this blueberry pie in the past have asked me for the recipe. It is so intimate for kneading dough, boiling down blueberries for a thick syrup, and decorating with cut “noodles” crosswise is a kind of psychologically medicating act.
After the blueberry pie coming out of the oven, I will cut into triangles with a scoop of milky colored vanilla ice cream, s bright red strawberry jam, it is simply a delicious red, blue and white dessert .
By now, all of our friends and family members have successfully completed the 2 shots of vaccination. We can gather with them in the garden to celebrate the festival and share food.
Here is a piece of multimedia work I composed last year to express my inner feeling during on the epidemic in quarantine at home: Soliloquy in the Epidemic Spring (2020)
On the occasion of the “Memorial Day”, our guests will look at the starry sky, eat “red, blue, and white” dessert while drinking Espressos, under the “red, blue, and white” candlelight. We will send our condolences to the people who sacrifice their lives!
Here, I’m also offering my grief to all the people who died of Covid-19 and hope the worst will be over soon!
American Heroes, thank you for your service! God bless America!
A year ago today, May 25th 2020, the scene of the George Floyd being crushed to death by the white policeman Derek Chauvin on his knees came to my eyes again. For the terrifying and wrenching tortures of 9 minutes and 29 seconds, Freud repeatedly pleaded desperately: “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!! I can’t breathe!!!”, until Freud stopped breathing… It was so hard to watch! A whole year has passed, and George Freud’s case finally has a fair verdict: Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter on April 20, 2021 in front of the global watching wait-and-see case.
The most eye-catching scene of President Biden’s inauguration 4 months ago in front of White House was Amanda Gorman (a 22-year-old African American poet) ‘s reciting her poem The Hill We Climb . She was sending a cordial, clear, loud and profound message the entire country and the world.
The Hill We Climb
(By Amanda Gorman)
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
From this young woman’s powerful message, I see the. future of America.
After the death of George Floyd last year, I wrote a blog entitled The Story of the Talented African-American Conductor Anthony Parnther, published on the Chinese social media platform “WeChat”. It resonated with many Chinese readers. On this anniversary of George Floyd’s death, I feel the urge to share my emotions once again here.
My blog started like this: “Two weeks ago, I came across a passionate statement from the young 38-year-old African-American conductor and Bassoonist Anthony Parnther on Facebook and a video clip of performance Strange Fruit conducted by him.
Mr. Parnther began his natural statement in this way:
A couple things.
Like many of you, I haven’t slept in days. I’ve always felt a certain degree of powerlessness in this country, but the last four years have been especially rough. The last four weeks… four days… I don’t really have words.
I’m a well educated, well meaning, kind, reasonably successful and productive black man living in Los Angeles. I have never…never… gone a day in my life without a white woman clutching her purse when I walk by, without being closely monitored and followed in a department store, without having families overtly lock their doors if I pass by their car. How many of these can I list for you?
When I lived in Hollywood Hills, I was stopped by the police 17…SEVENTEEN times in 3 years for driving to my own home. When I was in grad school, I was arrested for leaving a practice room at 12:30 am because they didn’t believe it was possible that ***I*** could possibly be a student at their school. They assumed I might be stealing something. When I taught in Tennessee, I was arrested in the middle of traffic for no plausible reason, deeply humiliating, as I was with my colleagues Nathan and Brian, who had to bail me out of jail.
This is the absolute tip of the iceberg in regard to my day to day as a black man in this country. I have a books worth of experiences. This is why I get anxious when my friends drive over the speed limit with me in the car. This is why I drive slowly on the highway, it’s why I make sure to come to a *complete* stop at stop signs. Every single damn one. This is small part of why I am deeply paranoid at all times when out in public. This is why I sometimes sleep very little. This is a small speckle of what it is like to be me or to look like me at any given time. There is *literally* nothing I fear more than seeing blue and red lights behind me.
The America I live in and the America some of you live in are Two. Different. Places.
Exactly eight years to the day after 14-year old Emmett Till’s barbaric murder (which was the direct end effect of the lies of a white woman, a woman who still draws breath to this very day), Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, proclaiming his “Dream” for the equitable United States we still struggle to achieve today.
Strange Fruit was given voice in 1939 by one of the most affecting singers in music history, Billy Holiday, and this startling musical statement dared shine a light on a subject of unimaginable, but all too common darkness in the human soul, then and now. The lynching and murder of blacks in the South. Have we changed? Yes. A little. We’re capturing it on camera. In Minnesota. New York City. Falcon Heights.Tulsa. Baton Rouge. North Charleston. Cleveland. Where next? Will it be you? Me?
I want to shout out to Jacob Lusk who is truly one of the great voices currently walking the earth. He has complete control of his instrument and the ability to express complex feelings with such clarity, depth of emotion, and lack of inhibition. His rendition of “Strange Fruit” has not been surpassed as far as I’m concerned.
And no song is more relevant for the week we’ve had.
“I want to talk about a few things.
Like all of you, I have been awake at night these days. In this country, I have always felt a certain degree of powerlessness. Especially in the past four, four weeks, and four days, I really can’t express it in words. My feelings.
I am a black man living in Los Angeles, highly educated, full of sincerity and kindness, with considerable ability and certain achievements. But I never… never… lead a normal life: when I walk by a white woman, they will hold her wallet tightly: when I walk into a department store, the monitor will closely follow me ; When I pass by a car parked on the side of the road, people will consciously lock their doors. Would you still let me list a few examples?
When I lived in the Hollywood Hills, I was stopped by the police 17 … 17 times in 3 years on my drive home. When I was a graduate student at Yale University, because I practiced until 12:30 in the morning, I was arrested in the piano room because they didn’t believe that I was a student in their school. They thought I might be stealing something. When I was teaching at the University of Tennessee, I was with my colleagues Nathan and Bryan. I was arrested in a traffic jam for no reason, deeply humiliated, and Nathan and Bryan had to bail me out of prison.
As a black American, the above examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I can write a book to talk about these experiences. This is why if I sit in my friends’ cars as a passenger, they will feel anxious when driving over the speed limit. This is the reason why I am driving slowly on the highway. This is why I must make sure that I am not sloppy and “stop all” at the Stop Sign at the intersection. Because of these damn reasons, I am in public. In social situations, I almost got into a state of neuroticism. This is why I have long-term insomnia. These small solidified spots have caused my insecurity. To be honest, what I fear most is that from the back of my car, the blue and red lights of a police car alternately.
The United States where I live and the United States where you live are two very different places.
Eight days after the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till (the tragedy caused by the false accusation of a white woman who is still alive), Martin Luther King Jr. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the doctor proclaimed his “dream”, but to this day it is still difficult for us to realize the fair American “dream”.
One of the most influential singers in music history, Billy Holiday, dubbed Strange Fruit in 1939. This moving and shocking music expresses a “From Darkness to Light” She bravely sends a signal to the human soul: it is unimaginable that she reveals the universal theme of darkness and the theme that also shines. But just now, have we changed a series of lynchings and murders of southern blacks? Yes, maybe a little bit, but not enough. We are capturing real and reliable information on the iPhone every moment. In Minnesota, New York City. Baton Rouge. North Charleston. Cleveland. Who is waiting next? Is it you or me?
I commend Jacob Lusk loudly. He is indeed one of the most beautiful voices in the world. He knows how to balance the band, and can accurately and clearly express with touching emotions. Call from the heart. For me, his interpretation of Strange Fruit is the best, no one can surpass him.
In the past week, no song has more historical significance than Strange Fruit.
Anthony’s remarks posted on Facebook with 15,000 followers, that was very influential!
Black Lives Matter! I had my first lesson 35 years ago. As a foreign student, I flew from Shanghai to the US’s second largest city Los Angeles. When I walked on the campus of UCLA, I had never seen that so many different ethnicities of students in a university. China was homogeneous, I had a cultural shock. Students of all skin colors could gather in a same classroom with joy and laughter. And we ate in a same cafeteria side by side. In our “Analysis of 20th Century Opera” class, the students were from different countries and racial backgrounds, my professor asked us to take out our own musical instruments and create the collective project “From the Micro World to the Macro world”. It was an eye-opening experience it benefited each students a lot. Almost within a week, I immediately eliminated racial barriers and made friends with my white, black and latino friends. After so many years, I am purely “color-blind”, and friends in my social circle do not wear “tinted glasses”. Four years ago, I composed a nonet entitled Coalescence to express my understanding of the United States as a multi-ethnic country. US is a polyglot country, I’ve benefited from other cultural heritages through my own various experiences in this “Melting Pot”. The five movements in “Fusion” are: 1. Peking Opera (Asian); 2. Jungle Songs (African); 3. Greensleeves (European) ; 4. Cockroach Blue (Latino); 5. Dancing with sheep (Australian).
Here is the sound track of the 4th movement of my Coalescence (recorded by New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble, conducted by Frank Epstein): “The slow movement is a melancholy Passacaglia based on the popular Mexican folk song La Cucaracha. However, I set it in minor keys instead of the original major key, until it develops into the middle section, when it becomes more hopeful where I switched it to a major key along with tempo changes. Then it becomes dark again towards the end.
My friendship with Anthony was purely coincidental. I sent a PDF score to him several years ago. One day, my alma mater UCLA Phiharmonia’s conductor notified me that Anthony (as a guest conductor) would like to premier my Tujia Dance, I was really happy to have a chance to work with this talented African-American conductor.
He is a prolific conductor of scoring sessions for motion picture, television, album, and video game scores with the Hollywood Studio Symphony.
During the movement of “Black Lives Matter” last year, I made this two-minute short film to introduce this talented African American musician to my Chinese readers.
As a composer, I naturally have made many musicians from all over the world. The following is our good friend Raynor Carroll, who was the principal percussionist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for several decades and the percussion professor of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.
The following video is about Raynor Carroll during the “Black History Month” as an African-American musician.
As a Chinese immigrant , I feel that now is the time to build bridges between Asians Americans and African Americans and other ethnic groups. The mistrust that has lingered between us for too long should be eliminated. If all ethnic groups are united together, the “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Asians Hate” movements would become more meaningful, because our ultimate goal is the same, that is: “Everyone is equal before the Constitution! “
For the past year or so, Asian Americans have suffered greatly from the physical attacks and mental abuses. Asians have become scapegoats. They were killed, beaten, humiliated, and spitted.
“President Biden signed the “Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act” on May 20th. He stated that the United States [leaves no room for hatred.]The bill passed by both houses of Congress proves that the United States is gradually united. Be proud of the United States; the new law will guide law enforcement agencies at all levels to better identify hate crimes, remove language and cultural barriers of all ethnic groups, and protect all ethnic groups, including Asians.
Biden said that the United States must unite. In the past year or so, facing the double blow of the epidemic and hatred, too many Asian families live in fear and worry. Even if the new Covid vaccination is completed, travel will still be subject to unprovoked attacks. Worried, students are worried about the new Covid virus, and at the same time they have to guard against campus bullying and physical and psychological harm.
Biden stated that the partisan consensus obtained by the [Covid Hate Crimes Act] has not been seen in Washington for a long time. This is extremely important to Washington and the United States as a whole. It also makes him proud of the United States. The United States “will not leave any room for hatred.” (give hate no safe harbor); Prior to this, local law enforcement agencies lacked the ability to distinguish hate crimes and did not have sufficient clear guidance on handling cases. In addition, many people were delayed in reporting or seeking law enforcement due to cultural differences and language barriers, which lost the opportunities for institutional assistance.
Biden stated that the ” Covid Hate Crimes Act” will remove these barriers, requiring the Department of Justice to appoint commissioners to accelerate the review of hate crimes related to the epidemic, and instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to cooperate with local governments. Community organizations cooperate in combating hate crimes, assisting state and local law enforcement agencies in providing multilingual online reporting systems, raising public awareness of hate crimes and knowing how to defend against them. In addition, the bill also requires localities to strengthen the training of law enforcement personnel to understand how to recognize hatred Crime, improve the efficiency of censoring hate crimes.
Biden said that in the face of hatred, it is important to speak up. Silence is complicity. Now that the “Covid Hate Crimes Act” has become a reality, we need to continue and unite to promote the implementation of the Act. Hope and love are contagious.
(The above is taken from Chinese Language Newspaper “World Journal”, May 20, 2021)
Here I would also like to introduce another family of black musicians. I’m a big fan of Kanneh-Masons family:
What makes the Kanneh-Mason siblings so remarkable? Is it the fact that all seven of them seem equally obsessed with music? They are, by order of age, Isata (24), Braimah (23), Sheku (22), Konya (20), Jeneba (18), Aminata (15) and Mariatu (11), and all play either piano, violin or cello or a combination. Or is it the fact that their parents Stuart and Kadiatu – neither of them musicians but both musical – didn’t go down the more obvious hot-housing route with specialist music schools but instead opted for state education in Nottingham at a school that truly integrated music into the curriculum? Or is it the fact that they are equally at home playing Bob Marley, Mozart or medleys from the musicals?
One of the most striking things about the family is the way that music is music – they are as comfortable in their trio arrangement of the African-American spiritual Deep River as performing the classical greats. They grew up listening to all varieties of music – reggae, rap, rock, country & western, as well as classical. That was undoubtedly the secret to their semi-final success in Britain’s Got Talent in 2015, where, after their medley of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Clean Bandit, even the famously prickly Simon Cowell waxed lyrical, commenting that the six of them (Mariatu was too young to participate at the time) were ‘probably the most talented family in the world’. Fellow-judge Amanda Holden hit the nail on the head when she summed up their performance with the observation: ‘So many younger people might think this music is stuffy and you give it personality and character and fun: I think you could probably introduce it to a whole new audience of people who have never really appreciated that kind of music before.’
How right she was, and in the five years since then the siblings have made their mark both individually and as a family. In 2016 cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was the first-ever black musician to win the coveted BBC Young Musician, a competition that has been running since 1978. But he’s not the only one in the family to have made his mark there, with pianist sisters Isata and Jeneba reaching the keyboard finals in 2014 and 2018 respectively. The family have also performed at the BAFTAs and in 2018 Sheku reached an audience of two billion worldwide when he played at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Sheku and Isata have both made best-selling recordings and in 2020 all seven released an album built around Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals with new poems by Michael Morpurgo, of War Horse fame, read by Morpurgo and Olivia Colman, together with irresistible illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark. In May, the family were awarded the Global Award for Best Classical Artist 2021.
But before we get carried away by the fairy-tale aspect of the Kanneh-Masons, let’s not forget that this has come about through a mix of talent, hard work and a certain amount of sacrifice too, as Kadiatu relates in her recently published book House of Music. She doesn’t like the word ‘talent’ very much though. ‘I think all children actually have genius … and it’s all about championing that. What we saw in Isata, our eldest, was incredible facility and we decided to channel it in music, and absolutely encourage it.’ She explains: ‘Genius is something you really, really want to do, which is probably more important than something called “talent”. It’s loving something, wanting to do it, having the thirst to do it, and then channelling that hard work. It’s not something you are born with, because if you do nothing about it, it goes nowhere.
So clearly she’s of the nurture rather than nature way of thinking. What impresses, whether watching the siblings perform together or as individuals, is a down-to-earth quality that is immensely engaging, which comes across very vibrantly in Alan Yentob’s documentary about the Kanneh-Masons as part of BBC1’s Imagine series created over Zoom during lockdown.
This period was clearly as intense an experience for the Kanneh-Masons as for any other family in the country (though with better music!). The siblings proceeded to stream concerts, as well as sharing, as restrictions eased, impromptu outdoor socially distanced busking sessions. As Isata explained to Alan Yentob: ‘We’ve been kept sane by playing music together.’ And it proved a time of opportunity as well as limitation, with pianists Isata and Jeneba learning all the Chopin studies between them. The arrangement from Fiddler on the Roof, for instance, with which today’s concert ends, was also created during that time. It was a musical they watched a lot when growing up and, Konya says, ‘we were thinking about new medleys that all of us could play so we didn’t have to play Monti’s Czardas for ever, so this one came to mind.’ Perhaps the last word should go to Braimah: ‘Music teaches you so much – listening, hard work, perseverance – whether you want to pursue music as a career or just for fun’. You can’t say fairer than that. (updated May 2021)
(The above is quoted from their website)
I’m ending my blog with one of the contest clips from the Kanneh-Masons siblings performed in the “Britain’s Got Talent” show in 2015.
Again, Black Lives Matter! Stop Asians Hate! ❤️❤️❤️💪💪💪🤝🤝🤝
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.
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
Lemon-Glazed Angel Food Cake
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:
The above is a very well-known piece Spring Festival Overture by the Chinese composer Li Huanzhi which is always played during the Chinese New Year. This young Chinese traditional orchestra played it fantastically.
February is here, the increasing sunlight is rejuvenating the earth, and various camellias and azaleas bloomed in the garden. The hibernated plants gradually begin to sprout, and the Spring is around the corner. The Covid situation in California has improved, and the government has ordered a slow reopening. Bill and I got the first dosages of the vaccines, 2nd dosages will be next week, and many of our friends are gradually beginning to get vaccinated.
In the past, usually, 2 weeks before the arrival of the Chinese New Year, I began to stock traditional new year’s goods to prepare for the Festival. Shopping in our local Chinese supermarkets is full of holiday festivities: the variety of rice cakes with red stamps, the customary New Year’s couplets, and small auspicious red packets of New Year’s “Ya sui Qian” (money for children) are dizzying. I remember a folk song: “Twenty-three, sugar melon sticks, twenty-four, house sweeping day, twenty-five, make tofu, twenty-six, go to cut meat, twenty-seven, go to slaughter chicken, twenty-eight, white flour , Twenty-nine, full of incense bucket, on the 30th, sit overnight in the dark. The first day of the new year comes out and the heat is hot. “Although I’ve been in US for more than 30 years, the Chinese New Year celebration in at our home is no less than that of my distant hometown in China. On the Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner, relatives and friends gathered around a large round table full of delicious chicken, duck, fish, fruits and vegetables etc. We were talking happily while enjoying the feast, waiting for the moment when firecrackers were lit at the midnight of the New Year’s Eve.
I began to decorate our home 1 week ago with traditional Chinese artifacts and. picked many the seasonal flowers and fruit to add good fortunes boost our energies in the Year of Ox. It was fun!🧧🐅🧧🐅
Here is a chamber piece Variations for Chinese Zodiac Signs (for piano and percussion, premiered by Erik Forrester and Lisa Solvester) that I composed a few years ago, and I’m using it as a “Happy New Year” greeting.
In terms of keeping social distance, I’m more conservative. Despite that Bill and I have already gotten first doses of vaccination, we would still be following the suggestions of government and celebrating the New Year alone. The Gengzi Year (2020) was way too long, and finally the Year of the Ox is ushered in. One of our dear friends wrote in his e-mail: “I was hoping that with the end of the Chinese year of the RAT, the rats would jump off the sinking Trump ship and it would augur the coming of a new year, the year of the OX, a hard working and honest animal.” This is my best wish as well.
(This was the Chinese New Year banquet at our home 2 years ago for the Year of Pig)
We live in Southern California, alway spring-like, it was unexpectedly cold a few days. There was a rare spectacular hail, lasted for a few minutes:
Hails in our garden.
My home grown baby Bok choy and Takecai (broadleaf mustard) are at the peak of growth, they both are so popular at my hometown Shanghai and make me very nostalgic.
After rains, the warm sun reappeared, it cared my vegetables. From the distance, the emerald green leaves seem to have been covered the garden like a “carpet”. I took Gigi to hike in the nearby Eaton Canyon National Park. It was a mesmerizing feeling! California Sunshine in the winter time is especially gorgeous. I have a full confidence in Biden’s new government. A new year, a new beginning. I’m beginning to see the HOPE emerging in the middle of the sun, and we will surely defeat the Covid-19 in the end!
Although I only set a small round table for 2 people for this year’s New Year’s Eve feast. We’ll be holding a Zoom party for sending auspicious messages such as “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (the most popular greetings) to our relatives and friends around the world and waiting for the sound of firecrackers for the arrival of the Year of the Ox.
A few days ago, it was a rare rainy day, I went to Cstco to shop and happily saw many kinds of Chinese New Year goods all over the place. America is great, multi-cultural, all ethnic groups can take turns to celebrate festivals. On shelves, there were auspicious yellow chrysanthemums, lush green water bamboo greeneries, decorative plants with the bright red Chinese character word “Fu” (happy in English), the French Remy Cognac with an Ox etc. I was so inspired by such festival atmosphere, I bought some of these felicitous items, at the cashier, the young blonde cashier said to me in Chinese in a friendly way: “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” We must have a Happy Year of the OX to celebrate the whole world and rejuvenate the earth! 🧧🧧🧧
The menu for our New Year’s Eve dinner of this year are:
1) Spring rolls and Shanghai three fresh wontons
I had already used the time I spent on the phone with my family to harvest my own vegetable garden “nongjiale”, and packaged the “appetizer” with meat and vegetables mixed properly.
Yāndǔxiān (腌笃鲜) is a Chinese traditional dish from Yangtze River Region. It is very popular in my hometown Shanghai. “Yān” means salted pork; and “dǔ” denotes the sound of the boiling soup, and “xiān” signifies the delicate flavor of the soup. The ingredients basically include spring bamboo shoots, pork (including various parts), bacon, ham, tofu skin knots, bok choy and other ingredients.
For my own “Yanduxian” recipe, I use Hunan bacon, Jinhua ham, and Shanghai bacon. I stew the various delicacies with my own turkey frame broth, simmering it very slowly, the exotic taste of various meats and winter bamboo shoots makes me homesick. After 3 hours simmering, I add tofu knots, baby bok choys and Japanese mustard greens from my own vegetable garden, What a great feeling to be able to eat the old taste of my hometown.
3) Eight Treasure Duck
Eight Treasure Duck is a traditional famous dish in Shanghai and Suzhou region in China. The recipe requires a boned duck open back, stuffed with special 8 kinds of delicacies buckled in a large bowl, sealed with cellophane and steamed for hours. the original flavor is prominent and delicious.
Traditionally, “8” is a Chinese auspicious number, which represents the Chinese people’s love for even numbers, representing the success of career and family. The best example is that the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games started at 8:8:8 PM on August 8, 2008.
4) Steamed Fish
Fish dish is paramountly important in the tradition of Chinese New Year. Fish, pronounced, in Chinese, as “Yu”, phonetically same as wealthy and abundance in Chinese. Fish is a symbol of prosperity and reproduction. Having fish on Chinese New Year brings a lot of fortunes, it is an essential auspicious dish.
5) Pearl meat balls
In the past years, my Huangmei Opera singer cousin always made it to bring to our home because he made the best “Pearl Meat Balls”. In my childhood, I remember my father used to make this dish on New Year’s Eve. He grew up in Wuhan. It is said to be an indispensable dish for Wuhan folks during the New Year. I have to make it myself this year. They are crystal clear, round and plump, pleasing to the eyes, symbolizing “family reunion, happiness and perfection”.
6) Eight Treasures
I remember having New Year’s Eve dinner at my grandmother’s house during my youth in Shanghai. There was always a vegan eight-treasure dish, colorful: orange carrots, green spinach, lemon-colored soybean sprouts, black fungus and so on. After coming to the United States, American vegetarians also like this “Buddha’s Feast” all-vegetarian dish.
7) Eight Treasure Rice
Here is a new blog from “Food & Wine” by Danielle Chang:
“Any variety of dried and candied fruits can decorate this lightly sweet sticky rice dessert, but using a lucky assortment of eight is traditional. The Chinese word for the number eight, ba, sounds similar to fa, which means prosperity and confers fortuitous meaning on the dessert. For her Lunar New Year celebration, Lucky Chowproducer Danielle Chang likes to decorate hers with an opulent assortment that includes candied orange peel, goji berries, amarena cherries, kumquats, lemon peel, edible flowers, mandarins, lychees, red dates (jujube), maraschino cherries, gooseberries, kiwi berries, pomegranate, dragon fruit, and sliced figs. Do not substitute sushi or other short-grain rice here; sweet glutinous rice contains a starch that helps the grains stick together without getting mushy.”
It is just perfect to end our New Year’s Eve dinner tonight with this sweet “Eight Treasure Rice”.
Although the pandemic is cruel and merciless, the festive celebrations make us happy. The Lunar New Year suggests that spring is coming, plants are sprouting, and the flowers will be blooming!
Yesterday I found the good messages all about Ox from the Chinese newspaper “World Journals”, they brought me a lot of positive energies!💪💪💪
In the West, the last month of each year is a carnival month surrounded by festivals: in addition to the well-known Christmas, there are also festivals such as Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve. Google changed its new doodles in December. The word of “Google” are covered with colorful lights.
This year is so unusual with endless pandemic infestation. Our local Government has strongly urged staying home not traveling during this holiday season because of our hospital facility limitations. However, the festive atmosphere of in our neighborhood is still there. I walk with Gigi every morning, I’m so inspired by the feestive scenes: Christmas trees by the windows, colorful lights decorated the house, wreaths at the gates, at our front door, neighbors left their Holliday goodies. At our home, greeting cards flying like snow flakes while I’m baking Christmas cookies. I won’t let the disaster deter my spirit — to keep myself busy. The Mexican poet Octavio Paz (Nobel Prize winner in 1990) wrote: “Our festivals are explosive. Nothing is more interesting than Mexican festivals. … Through festivals, society separates itself from the past. It is liberated from the established norms. It mocks its own divine principles and laws: it denies its own self.”
The holiday season in December of this year is atypical. Unlike in previous years, we are isolated from the world and celebrated alone behind closed doors. Here, I would like to present our annual “Holiday Wishes” greeting card to our families and friends:
Dear Families and Friends,
There’s a Chinese superstitious saying that Gengzi Year (every 60 years in a circle) is a disastrous year. It is indeed precise. For everyone, this unprecedented pandemic year, we’ve lost nearly one normal year. During this quiet and quarantined time, I realized 2020 is near the end. Our 5-year-old golden retriever Gigi is the best companion to us. She jumps to our bed every morning to give us a morning kiss, which brightens our day instantaneously!
January: When Covid-19 broke out in Wuhan, America was still a “pure land”. We celebrated the Chinese New Year’s eve with my Chinese relatives and friends at our home. I specially cooked Wuhan “Re Gan Mian” (Hot Dry Noodles) in dedication to the victims in China. Then I headed towards San Francisco for the premier of my chamber opera Eighteen Melodies for Hujia by the West Edge Opera. Vivian Yao (the marvelous young soprano), Mary Chun (the versatile conductor) and Earplay Ensemble did a fantastic job!
February: While I was in the Bay Area for my opera, I also visited many museums in the Bay Area. I love the Bay Area! Staying at Louise, Mike, John, Nancy and Jean’s homes was so much fun. Their hospitalities were very heartwarming!
March: We had the last party just before the lockdown. Somehow we already started avoid hugging, elbow touching and hands washing. I made Cornish game hens (Bill’s recipe). Then on March 19th, Governor Newsom declared lockdown due to Covid-19. Like all the citizens, unprepared and panicked. I started stocking up with necessities. Streets looked like ghost towns. It was so shocking.
April:Finally I adjusted to the quarantined life. I did a big spring cleaning and got rid of a lot of stuff. Then one day I heard Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise from the radio in the morning, I was very inspired by this piece of such a beautiful melody. In 2 weeks, I wrote a multiple-media composition Soliloquy in the Epidemic Spring (for String Quartet, Electronic Sound and Visual Effects).
May: Planting vegetables, cooking with my own produce, walking Gigi kept me so occupied. It’s not too bad we fully enjoyed our home. Bill also got used to the pastoral life at home. We “zoomed” a lot. Bill calls them “computer parties”. We kept in touch with families and friends from all over the world.
June: Solitary life is the best time to be creative. I began to develop an interest in writing blogs on “WeChat” (in Chinese)
My Blog in Chinese (Chinese Dragon Boat Festival)
and “Wordpress” (in English). I shared my cooking experiences and other life observations with my readers all over the world. I’m absolutely galvanized by their comments and supports. I also started teaching composition online, which refresh my own compositional skills.
July: It’s purely our “staycation” accompanied by a soothing pool, relaxing jacuzzi and an abundant organic vegetable garden. I cooked a lot. During this pandemic, the positive side what I got is that I’ve been polishing my cooking skills and experimenting new recipes. I began a composition entitled Episodes During the Plagued Summer: 7 movements of all festivals and cooking involved with festivals of various ethnicities. On July 4th we had a traditional barbecue and on Bastille Day, I made Coq au Vin and ratatouille to remember our dear late French friend Charlotte.
August:I did a lot of gardening under the scorching sun, then jumped into the pool. Doing this routine was a really paradisal feeling. The highlight of the month was to celebrate the Chinese Valentines Day – Qixi Festival: looking at the starry milky way from our garden.
September: The major event was Bill’s birthday. Although we were unable to hold a big party in person, we had 2 family zoom parties. It’s so nice to see families and friends. Due to the extreme heat, “Bobcat” wild fire broke out in nearby Mount Wilson and was very threatening. I packed 13 suitcases ready to evacuate. My neighbors were so wonderful, we supported each other emotionally during this difficult time.
October: Chinese Moon Festival and Halloween were the main occasions.
November: For the first time since we got married 29 years ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving alone at home. We miss the bountiful feasts at Bill’s niece Linda’s home, then recent years moved to Bill’s grand niece Kim and Jason’s home. Making a turkey dinner was a novelty for me, I was very proud that I made it with flying colors. We celebrated our 29th anniversary by cooking a delicious Danish dinner following a Martha Stewart’s cooking book.
December: The first day of the month, the marvelous Gloria Cheng gave a spectacular concert entitled “My Windows” online. My A Flowing Brook in Yunnanwas elegantly performed.
On December 16th, it is Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, my little piano piece was inspired by Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. We celebrate every holiday of all cultures, that’s what America is about. I love this country because it gives me the freedom of speech and I love the diversity. California is a perfect place for us!
The year of 2020 is about to end, Covid-19 is still vicious, but we see the light of at the end of the tunnel — the vaccines are here. At this difficult time, we cherish you for your love and friendship. We wish this holiday season will sparkle and shine. We hope pleasures will accompany you, environmentally conscious, Peace on earth!