Composer who wrote hits for pop stars and China’s first astronaut dies in Hong Kong

Yu Lun composed scores for over 100 films and Teresa Teng’s Canto-pop debut, which became an enduring classic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 6:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 12:23pm

Composer Yu Lun, whose songs were performed by a league of legends from late pop star Teresa Teng to China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, has died aged 92.

Yu, a versatile film music writer from love stories to Cantonese opera since 1953, passed away in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Yau Ma Tei, on Thursday. He is survived by a son and daughter Dennie Wong, a composer, and two granddaughters.

Born Wong Yuk-lun in Nanjing in 1925, Yu relocated to Guangdong during China’s war with Japan in the 1930s and studied music under Professor Hwang Yau-tai at the Guangdong Arts School, where he graduated.

Arriving in Hong Kong in the late 1940s, Yu joined the Great Wall Movie Enterprise in 1953 as a film music writer. Some of his early songs were wrote in partnership with Jin Yong, who later became the guru of Chinese martial novels.

From 1953 to 1973, Yu composed and conducted musical scores for more than a hundred films, both in Cantonese and Putonghua, including the Cantonese opera film The Tragedy of Poet-Emperor Li Yu starring the legendary Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin.

But it was the song A River Apart in the 1966 movie that became Yu’s most beloved hit as it marked the Canto-pop debut of Teresa Teng in 1980.

It also found its way on the albums of other pop stars such as Sam Hui and the late Anita Mui, to name just two, and topped the list of 100 Golden Oldies in the Chinese classics category organised by RTHK in 1996.

Yu turned from the big screen to television in the 1980s and wrote soap opera songs. The Spirit of the Sword, for example, was sung by the late Canto-pop singer Leslie Cheung, who starred in the series.

Yu’s music-making did not slow down in his advance years. In 2003 he and his daughter co-composed Flying to the Space for China’s first astronaut Yang, who sang it when he visited Hong Kong.

Yu enjoyed guest conducting at charities with both professional and amateur groups. He directed the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and played Santa Claus with his signature long white beard.

In 2010 he went with the New Tune Ensemble to Lanzhou to perform a fundraising concert for diaster relief. In the same year Yu was conferred the Hall of Fame Award by the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong.

“Master Yu’s contributions will always be remembered among us who worked with him,” said Yan Huichang, artistic director of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.