It's serendipity! Impromptu roadside music enthralls passers-by
Elton John once said music "has the ability to take people out of themselves." It also has the ability to take itself out of its usual trappings of concert halls and big-name artists.
Last Friday evening, 25-year-old violinist Deng Yinying, a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and her cellist boyfriend Wang Jiayan performed an impromptu concert at an empty roadside house on Anhua Road in Changning District.
They played more than 10 pieces, including "Praise of Love," "Canon," "Fly me to the Moon," and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Listeners sat rapt on a curbside across the street.
The video of the concert, uploaded online on WeChat, was viewed 800,000 times.
One netizens described the experience as the "romance of a summer night in Shanghai." Another commented, "Art is everywhere in life." A third said the event reminded him of how locals used to meet outdoors to watch television together in back-alley communities.
"We didn't play the music very loudly," Deng said. "And whenever vehicles passed by, we had to take a brief break."
The event was organized by the Together Social Club, a local creative community group.
Deng, who has been playing violin for 19 years, said she was overjoyed to be asked to perform after seeing a roadside piano performance organized by the same group.
"I had never participated in such concert," she said. "The concept is quite unique and integrates art into life."
The curbside audience was so enthralled by the musical mood that they repeatedly clapped for encores.
The Together Social Club was established three years ago. "We bring together disparate collections of people who have great talent and ideas," club founder Chloe Law told Shanghai Daily.
The Friday night mini-concert was the second held on Anhua Road. The first featured pianist Guo Zhao, a member of the club.
Benjamin Lee, the coowner, said the club wants to share beautiful aspects of life and give something back to people and neighborhoods.
"It's not just about performing but also about sharing," he said. "It's something akin to the overseas concept of placing a piano in a public setting as an invitation to anyone who wants to play."
He added, "When someone plays, passers-by may stop, listen for a while and carry away a good mood and a memorable moment. That's what we are striving for."
The group's performances aren't advertised. They are meant to be serendipity – a happening that people simply come across.
The club is seeking to expand its project, with the assistance of local authorities.
A 75-year-old woman surnamed Li, who lives on Anhua Road, searched out the club's workshop after seeing the video online.
She said she plays piano, accordion and harmonica and is keen to participate.
"It's not just young people who love music, we old people like it, too," she said. "It's such a wonderful idea. If we could make it a standard feature of our road, then our community would have its own artistic signature."
Li did acknowledge that musical tastes may differ between generations. But maybe such performances are one way to bridge the gap.
Anhua isn't the only street blessed with roadside creativity.
On Wukang Road, musical performers often pop up impromptu. During the New Year's holiday, Italian composer Luca Stradivari performed there with his cello.
And people passing near the downtown Jing'an Temple are familiar with the music often provided by buskers in front of Jing'an Park.
Among other outdoor venues for the performing arts, the China Shanghai International Arts Festival stages plays in local parks, and the Shanghai Lawn Concert is holding seven performances at a plaza in Huangpu District between July 8-15.
One netizen dubbed the whole phenomenon Shanghai qiangdiao, or "Shanghai chic."