Lin and Her Chaoshan Opera Orchestra

    Like lightning in the quiet sky,a sharp bamboo flute sounded. Lin Miaoqing raised the black microphone in her right hand, straightened her back and stared at the music sheet on the rusty iron stand. Hearing the music, she smiled and began to sing Chaoshan opera.

    Lin wore a red coat with some big flowers on it. She had pink rouge on her face and red lipstick on her mouth. A gold necklace on her neck was shining under the sunshine.A black mobile phone and a pair of fashion sunglasses were hung in front of her chest.

    Lin is almost sixty-seven years old but she loves fashion as much as the young people. And her biggest hobby is to sing Chaoshan songs. She began her love affair with Chaoshan opera when she was a nine-year-old girl.

    Lin runs a group for elderly people that practice traditional folk arts in Shantou City.The musical group for which Lin sings gathers daily and plays the Chaoshan drum,cymbal,and erhu, a kind of Chinese lute.

    A microphone and music stand complete the set up.The orchestra plays Chaoshan music on the middle of the Haibin Road,opposite to the People Square of Shantou, a road that runs along Shantou bay.

    While a group of regulars are often present, the get together is open to anyone. Most are from a crowd of retired people who are interested in Chaoshan music, and most of them began to learn how to play the instruments after they retired.

    Chaoshan opera is a kind of opera that combines Chaozhou music and the other kinds of Chaoshan folk art. It is similar in style and sound to Beijing opera, immortalized in such films as “Farewell My Concubine.” This local opera has its roots in the Ming Dynasty and is sung in Chaozhou dialect. Chaoshan opera is mainly found in eastern Guangdong, southern Fujian, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

    Lin said there was about forty people in her group now,because of Chaoshan music they came together and enjoy the fun that music brought to them.

    Lin used to be a teacher. After she retired, she became active in the group for the elderly. Lin’s children have grown up so she has a lot of time to spend in this group. She comes to Haibin Road at seven o’clock almost every morning(except the very bad weather and Spring Festival),then hires two people to deliver the group’s instruments and some chairs to the middle of Haibin Road from a fixed place.

    The group’s singing always attracts the passers to stop and listen,no matter they are young or old.They have become a beautiful scenic of Haibin Road.

    “Drink tea,drink tea,please,”Lin enthusiastically invited the people who listened to their songs to have Kung Fu Tea.

    “I am eighty years old now. I enjoy drinking tea and playing instruments here,we are like a big family,”Zheng Qiu said.

    Lin said they are a legitimate group which was allowed by the government. They have to spend one thousand RMB a month on the group’s electricity,gas,food, rent instruments. “We just get the funding from the kind-hearted peole’s donation,but most of the time,I need to bring some money to make up the difference,”Lin said.

    Members of the audience were taking in both the music and the scenery, as the spot Lin and her group perform is a stone’s throw from the sea.

    “I can’t sing the Chanzhou opera,but I like to stay here to listen them and feel the wind,it is comfortable, “ said Lin He, a passerby who had stopped to watch the group.

    The sea wind blew in turning sheets of music. Lin set down the microphone, took a clamp from her handbag,and clipped the music sheet to the iron stand.As the music started again, she began to sing the next song.

    Vicki Wong