Confined to their homes as the coronavirus crisis rolls on, the musicians of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra aren’t about to let the music stop – they’ve taken to social media with a series of videos performing with family members.

Shanghai Symphony OrchestraShanghai Symphony Orchestra violinist Su Ting and Principal Cellist Huang Beixing with their 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.

The virus – now dubbed COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation – has seen the streets of China’s biggest city become uncharacteristically quiet, and authorities announced that schools in Shanghai will remain closed until at least the end of February, and possibly longer. Several countries, including Australia and the USA, have issued bans on Chinese travellers since the crisis began in January.

“There are only a few people on the streets these days, because we are required to stay at home to avoid human-to-human transmission,” Shanghai Symphony Orchestra oboist Zhang Xin told Limelight. “So far, the SSO has cancelled all concerts and rehearsals before the end of February.”

The coronavirus is affecting the lives of everyone in China, he says. “I am thinking what we can do as musicians? What we can do is play music, and music is one of the most powerful things especially in such a hard time.”

The SSO’s video series began with SSO Principal Cellist Huang Beixing and SSO violinist Su Ting performing with their 11-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, while Principal Percussionist Gu Kai’s duet with his six-year-old daughter – their own composition, Salute, paying tribute to the medical staff helping those affected by the virus – is particularly heartwarming.

Zhang’s own performance features his 81-year-old father and 15-year-old daughter. “My father was a professional cellist, and my daughter has been learning cello from him,” he says. “It’s a special experience. My father said, as a retired person, he still hopes he can do something for society with his beloved music.”

The SSO’s Music Director Long Yu announced on social media two days ago that he has now returned to China. “It has been a very hard decision for me, but I am back in China from the US via Japan. I arrived to an almost empty Beijing airport yesterday,” he wrote. “After so much friendly and sincere advice from different people, I finally decided to come back because my family, friends and musicians who have worked with me over the years are here.”

The Chinese maestro is due to conduct the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in July, by which time the travel ban will hopefully have been lifted and the crisis past.

“With this special virus situation in my country, it’s been a hard time for everyone,” he wrote. “I have to do whatever I can to care and to support my family, friends and musicians, and I want to be together with those who I truly love.”

“We hope we can convey something to all the people who are fighting coronavirus,” Zhang said. “Hope, love, faith, and powerfulness.”


You can watch the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s videos on their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

Limelight visited the SSO’s Shanghai Orchestra Academy in January. Find out more here