Ren Guang

Ren Guang  
and "Fishermen's Song"

Ren Guang is the first composer of China to have made a film famous because of the film's title song. "Fishermen's Song" remains today one of the best loved and most memorable songs of the Chinese people. "Fishermen's Song" was composed one third of a century into the 20th Century. Another third of a century later, Shen Xing-yang (Shen Sin-yan) first recorded "Fishermen's Song" in the United States.
Shao Ying

This November (2000) marks the Centenary of composer Ren Guang's birth. Ren Guang was born November 9, 1900. In Chinese music history, Ren Guang's name would forever be bonded with "Fishermen's Song".

It was June of 1934. The title song of a new film "Fishermen's Song" took Shanghai by storm. It was the very first time in China's history when any movie became known best to its audience by its musical sound track. It started the movie boom. This famous sound track was issued by the Baidai Record Company as Baidai 34442. The composition was by Ren Guang. The famed actress Wang Renmei sang "Yu Guang Qu (Fishermen's Song)". The Lyrics was by the female writer An E. Composer Ren Guang himself played the piano accompaniment.

It was 1971 in Columbus Ohio. "Fishermen's Song" was first sung in the U.S. It took the United States by storm. The Ohio State Chinese Choir under the direction of Shen Sin-yan recorded this classic under the Coronet label. Tan Tianyuan was the tenor soloist. This U.S. version was for tenor and choir, with piano accompaniment. In 1973 the erhu and piano version of "Fishermen's Song" was first recorded by Shen Sin-yan and Lee Yuan-Yuan.

Ren Guang was born a hundred years ago in November. Ren Guang was exposed to folk music and became a musician at very young age. In 1917, upon graduation from Chengxian High School in Zhejiang Province, Ren Guang enrolled in Shanghai's Zhendan University.

In 1919 Ren Guang travelled to Paris. He studied composition and piano tuning, while working odd jobs to make a living. Between 1924 and 1927 Ren Guang worked for a French piano company in Saigon, Vietnam. Ren Guang returned to Shanghai in 1928. Beginning in 1932 Ren Guang was employed as Director of Music at the French owned Baidai Record Company. While at Baidai, he organized a small Chinese instrumental ensemble, of which Huang Yijun was a member. This ensemble recorded quite a few arrangements and compositions by Ren Guang. While serving as Director of Music, Ren Guang composed the popular instrumental piece "Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon". Today this classic instrumental composition is popular both on the Mainland and on Taiwan, and all over the world. Another popular composition the group under Ren Guang recorded was "The Flowers are Blooming and the Moon is Full". "The Flowers are Blooming and the Moon is Full" is today the favorite encore of the Chinese Classical Orchestra of the Chinese Music Society of North America in concerts throughout North America and Europe. Ren Guang also recorded a large number of the compositions by Nie Er while at the Baidai record Company. The classic "Spring at the Emerald lake" was recorded during this time.

Ren Guang and An E were a fabulous team. Together they wrote "Fishermen's Song" and a full opera "Hong Bo Quota. In "Hong Bo Quota, which commemorates the battle of Tai-er Zhuang, An E wrote the story and Iyrics, and Ren Guang wrote the music. In "Fishermen's Song" An E rote the Iyrics which glued to the melody and the accompaniment. Their artistic liaison is among the best musical teams in 20th Century China.

In 1937 Japan invaded China. In the same year Ren Guang returned to parts to study music. In October 1938 Ren Guang came back to Asia, organizing choral activities in China and Singapore (Beginning in the spring of 1939), raising money for the resistance movement. In Singapore he founded the Tongluo Choir. In the spring of 1940 Ren Guang started teaching at the Yucai School in Chongqing. In Chongqing he conducted the performance of "The Yellow River Cantata" and "Hong Bo Quota. In November of 1940 Ren Guang left Chongqing to join the Xing Si Jun army. In January of 1941 Ren Guang was murdered during the Wannan (southern Anhui) Incident. Young composer Ren Guang gave his life in Jinhua, Jiangxi Province.

While we think of Ren Guang and An E, we cannot forget the incredible melody of "Fishermen's Song" would appear. "Fishermen's Song" had such impact that composer Nie Er wrote a musical analysis of the composition. In the history of Chinese instrumental music in the 20th Century, Ren Guang's leadership in composing, performing, and recording at Baidai in Shanghai had served to truly popularize ensemble and orchestral music, two thirds of a century ago. When we think of the early days of Chinese instrumental music recorded in Shanghai, the refreshing sound of Ren Guang's "Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon", "Spring at the Emerald Lake" and "Flowers Are Blooming and the Moon is Full" would appear. It will soon be a century later, but the emotional excitements are instantaneous.§

Famous Works of Ren Guang
"Fishermen's Song" (Lyrics by An E)
"Yue Guang Guang (Bright Bright Moon)"
"Farewell to Wannan"
"The Sorghum is Red"
"The New Lianhualao"
"Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon"
"Flowers Are Blooming and the Moon is Full"
"Hong Bo Qu - Remembering the Battle of Tai-er Zhuang" (Opera - with An E)

This article is featured in the Chinese Music International Journal (CM) Volume 23 No. 3


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