Farewell Song


Arthur and Luther Jones

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Since the communist takeover in 1949, China's orchestras have been controlled and funded by the government. But as market economics returned to the Mainland in the 1990s, the arts had to learn to stand on their own and many orchestras closed.

Luo Shoucheng, Tu Weigang, Weng Zhenfa and Chen Dawei are well-known recording artists and performers in the world of Chinese traditional music. In their heyday they played at state banquets and recorded best selling albums. But as their hometown of Shanghai has boomed in recent years, audiences for their gentle art have dwindled. When their orchestra disbanded three years ago, they chose to retire from the state system.

By all rights, they should be fading quietly into Shanghai's cultural backwaters. Instead, they are about to take a leap into the unknown. They are generating new material that will take Chinese music to wider audiences. And they have teamed up with their friend Liu Ying, a virtuoso woodwind performer, to prepare a major new concert outside government control. As the event draws near, a sudden tragedy compels them to reflect on their shared past - five decades of remarkable music that has kept them going through hardship and upheaval.

According to the filmmakers

"We were looking for a story about music - it meant we could say something about China that would take us beyond words. As it turned out we already knew some of the musicians who ended up in the film. Their stories about life before China's opening and reforms in the 1980s had been our introduction to modern Chinese history. And when we finally got to hear their music live, we realised that our film idea had been just under our noses all along."