By Joan Huang, Composer
It’s my great pleasure to announce that “Orphan San Mao” will be premiered at NEC’s Jordan Hall on Nov. 23. Renowned Erhu artist Tao He and conductor Frank Epstein will team up with me to make sure that the premiere will bring you such unique music experience that you will never forget.
During my childhood years in Communist China, the comic strips of San Mao, created by the cartoonist Zhang Leping (1910 – 1992) from 1947 through 1948, was the most popular cartoon series among Chinese children, equivalent to Peanuts by Charles Schultz in the States. Remember that I was four years old and barely read a few characters, but began to understand the meaning of suffering through Zhang Leping’s portrayed San Mao.
I began to vaguely realize the dark side of humanity. San Mao (literally means 3 pieces hair in Chinese) was a cute and mischievous homeless little boy. His personal story reflects the misery of the whole suppressed class exploited by the ruling class in the unjust political system in the old China prior to the Communist Party’s taking over in 1949. Zhang Leping’s vivid drawing, one episode after another, had powerfully demonstrated to us San Mao’s strongly spiced life in cosmopolitan Shanghai. Since then San Mao’s misfortune has had a deep impact on me. For decades I’ve been waiting for the right time and the right medium to voice my sympathy for him.
As a result, Orphan San Mao is my hearty resonance to my childhood’s humorous and heroic figure, San Mao. I try to create a music showcase evocative of this well-known comic strip. Erhu represents San Mao’s lonely voice: naïve, sweet, fearless and humorous. The percussion quartet suggests various environments: boating through the river, cacophony in the noisy restaurant, acrobatic entertainments on bustling streets, etc. Therefore a palette of unorthodox objects is employed, such as waterphone, cloud gongs, porcelain rice bowls, steel bowls, bottle, Klaxon horn and police whistle, etc.