Hong Kong father-and-son erhu players put new spin on classics

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 11:29pm

Popular father-and-son erhu duo Wang Guotong and Ray Wong are teaming up for a concert that promises to put a new spin on well-known Chinese folk songs and pop tunes. They also hope to change impressions of the Chinese stringed instrument.

"Many people may think the erhu is for playing either very old songs or songs so new and adventurous that nobody can understand [them]. I hope people can see it as a romantic, warm and charming musical instrument," Wong said ahead of the event this weekend.

One highlight will be Wang's original take on one of the best-loved works in the Cantonese opera repertoire — Princess Chang Ping. Titled The Fantasia of Princess Chang Ping, it is a new piece by Wang, who is regarded as one of Hong Kong's best erhu players and composers.

"The most special thing about this piece is it is performed by two erhus — it's a double erhu ensemble," says Wong. "Many people have heard of the song Dai Nui Fa and may think what we'll perform is the Chinese opera version but it isn't — my father has composed a new version."

Before they give the  piece its premiere, Wong will perform a series of tunes mostly written by him, including Because of Love, City of Life and the classic Rose, Rose I Love You. He'll be accompanied on piano and electric piano.

"Some might be surprised to see a collaboration between the erhu and electric piano, but this combination can actually produce some great effects," says Wong. "We hope the pieces we perform can reflect the fusion of Chinese and Western cultures."

Wong says that repertoire for the erhu remains limited, partly because there are few players who also compose. "This is what's so special about my father," says Wong.

Wang introduced a new approach to erhu playing in the 1960s, using the instrument to play more upbeat, as opposed to melancholic, tunes. He has performed internationally and played with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.

"I hope that the audience, after seeing our performance and hearing our music, will like the erhu and see it from a new perspective," says Wong.

The Fantasia of Princess Chang Ping, Hong Kong Erhu Arts Centre, Cultural Centre Concert Hall, 10 Salisbury Road, TST, May 31, 7.45pm. Tickets HK$160-HK$380 via Urbtix. Inquiries: 2891 2899 or 3761 6661