Sunday August 19, 2012
A stirring performance from the Taihua Angel Arts Troupe
By SETO KIT YAN
Members of the Angel Glory Performing Arts Troupe do not let being disabled get in the way of life.
A CHEERFUL fellow who loves music and cars, Mao Di is like any young man his age.
The 31-year-old Chinese native enjoys surfing the Internet and chatting with friends in online car forums. His impressive knowledge of cars even got him invited to speak about it. He, however, had to respectfully decline the invitation, as unlike other car-loving young men, Mao cannot see the things he loves most.
Making his third trip to Malaysia a week ago (he performed here in 2005 and 2007), Mao now performs as an integral part of the Angel Glory Performing Arts Troupe, also known as Taihua Angel Arts. He was accompanied by troupe leader Wang Zhihua, 31, at an interview in Kuala Lumpur last week.
“He is our most illustrious member. Mao Di has already performed in more than 40 countries and he has even met Chinese President Hu Jintao and been pictured shaking hands with the premier,” Wang shared about flautist Mao, who along with fellow troupe members, pianist Jin Yuanhui and vocalist Yang Haitao, are considered the most outstanding handicapped artists in China.
Mao has even participated in both the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games and the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. His performance at the latter won him much praise and was hailed by the media as “another gold medal outside of the Olympics”.
“About half of our members are either university graduates or undergraduates of the China Conservatory of Music, which is the best traditional Chinese folk music school in China,” offered Mao, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music from the said institution, where he was the only blind student. He was mentored by two of China’s most prominent flute players and educationists, Lu Jinshan and Professor Zhang Weiliang.
Wang and Jin, on the other hand, are graduates of the Central Conservatory of Music, which is more focused on Western music.
Formerly part of the prestigious China Disabled People’s Performing Arts Troupe, which was established in 1987, the group broke up due to disputes about scheduling and workload.
The Angel Glory Performing Arts Troupe was officially formed in December 2010 (the founder is China Red Cross Foundation Bright Angel Fund chairperson, Yang Fumei) and includes members with visual and hearing impairments as well as other physical disabilities. The youngest member of their troupe is a six-year-old boy who does stand-up comedy. Yet, they are anything but handicapped.
Having collectively travelled to more than 50 countries and staged more than 1,000 performances, they are an inspiration to all.
Working together towards a common dream, they don’t seek sympathy. They ably contribute towards the community and help brighten up the lives of the less privileged with charitable activities.
The Beijing-based troupe was in Kuala Lumpur to stage two performances, the main one was a 90-minute show at HGH Convention Centre for the Rotary Club of Seri Petaling Charity Dinner in aid of the Chinese Braille Project, and the other was a private charity event for a local Freemason fraternity.
Xinjiang-born Mao lost his sight when he was two years old and the Hebei-born Wang became blind when he was in his tweens. Their passion for music has taken them to places and their wish is to help others achieve their dreams too.
“We are here to help our disabled friends and Malaysian Chinese blind people find a new lease on life (with the on-going Chinese Braille Project).
“We are very happy to be on this stage which gives our members an opportunity to showcase their talent and participate in a cultural exchange,” said Wang, who started off the show with an impassioned recital of a poem titled Angel On Earth.
Their 25-member entourage here comprised 14 sight-impaired musicians and one hearing-impaired dancer along with 10 able-bodied crew members.
“We’ve brought half of our troupe here this time. They are the best performers in our group,” enthused Mao, who performed in several items during the show, including a flute solo, duet and ensemble pieces followed by a cappella and group vocals.
The only hearing-impaired member of the entourage, Cao Di, entertained with a lovely solo folk dance piece titled Spirit Of The Peacock. The pretty 24-year-old Henan native was formerly part of the group that took part in the famed Thousand-Armed Goddess Of Mercy performance.
The youngest members of the entourage were two 15-year-old girls, one of whom was Lin Yuning, who performed a piano duet with the troupe’s music director Jin.
The troupe even impressed the audience with Rasa Sayang and Daniel Lee’s Mimpi, which took them a little more than two hours to learn and rearrange using traditional Chinese instruments.
While Wang was trained in classical music in university, and remains partial to the likes of Pavarotti and classical musicals, Mao has a more varied taste.
“Apart from the classics, I like the blues and jazz as well as new musical arrangements from China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia,” said Mao, who also enjoys listening to Malaysian pop musicians like Eric Moo, Mindy Quah, Aniu and Fish Leong.
After their show in Malaysia, the troupe will be preparing for upcoming projects, including the staging of musicals and comedy shows in China, Japan, Taiwan and the United States.