Saturday, 21 January 2012

In Conversation with Zi Lan (Musician)

  © Bryn Davies

We (Mr Campbell & Ms Kenny) are sitting here in the Pagoda with Zi Lan where the Youth Orchestra rehearses. Can you tell me how the Youth Orchestra started?
The Youth Orchestra started in 1982 or 83 what happened was The Pagoda Building was built in 1981, it was used for a facility to promote Chinese culture to Chinese people and the local communities so and the local communities. Mr Liu was appointed by the city council and the Youth Service to become a Chinese cultural worker,o with his job his family came with him in in 1982–83. We started with mainly adult musicians Mr Liu taught them and then in 1983 summer, we started the Summer Scheme and lots of Chinese people came to learn Chinese music from various Chinese cultures.

At that time there was no internet, no games and people when they see Chinese people in the street would still smile and say hello to them but now when you see
another Chinese person you just think ‘Oh another Chinese and you just keep walking’ so that kind of culture has changed. Also children at that time had less games to play and really enjoyed mixing with all the Chinese and learning about their heritage. Even at that time racism was still quite strong and we
still have a lot of young children who came to us back then who refused to speak Chinese in school and they would only speak English. We have cases where people say ‘We don’t speak Chinese’ even though they do speak Chinese with their parents so the parents feel that by bringing them here they feel proud to be Chinese and actually at home start to speak Chinese more to their parents, so that was almost thirty years ago and now times are changing. With the internet everything is so wide now we find it really hard to try to track down people to come and learn an instrument so we can see the changes.

Have the orchestra got plans for the new Year celebrations?

Yes the Orchestra is planning to do the normal Chinese New Year performance in January on the 22nd but the main thing that they are working on at the moment is the National Youth Festival in March. In 1989 the Youth Orchestra entered the Regional Youth Festival and then they performed in the National Festival in a group prom in the Albert Hall in London! So this is our plan now, thirty years on they want to celebrate so we are going to try to train our new members to go to the National Music Festival.