Sounds of the saxophone by Huating Lake brings new life

Almost every morning, people walking along the bank of Huating Lake in Songjiang District can hear the beautiful tones of the saxophone wafting above the waters and the trees.

Yue Cheng / Ti Gong

Some members of the band plays saxophone along the Huating Lake shorefront.

ALMOST every morning, people walking along the bank of Huating Lake in Songjiang District can hear the beautiful tones of the saxophone wafting above the waters and the trees.

Many local saxophone lovers gather on the corner of the east bank to practise — some are semi-professional.

Some are just beginners. Most are retirees.

After years of development, Saxophone Corner is gaining a strong reputation. It even gave birth to a 12-person group, made up of amateurs who play there.

Now, the Huating Lake Saxophone Band is invited to give performances around the district. This March, the band even performed on stage at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, a leading professional art stage in downtown Shanghai.

“At first, we just gathered at the lake to play by ourselves,” says Yao Zhongguang, 61. “From 2012 I was thinking that we could play ensemble and try some more challenging songs.”

However, while they had each played on their own for years, they were amateurs of vastly differing skill levels.

“But from about one-and-a-half years ago, we found many of us had improved greatly, which means quartet or even an ensemble with more people could happen,” says Yao.

So, they formed their band. In addition to daily individual practise, they gather at the lake to play together every Sunday morning.

Seventy-year-old Fang Tianbao is not only one of the key players of the band, but is also responsible for putting performances online.

Some elderly people did not know how to read music using staves — the traditional form of showing music and notes.

“Even for those who can read ... with us getting old and our eyes getting worse, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to read the narrow lines clearly,” says Fang. “One line misread will ruin the tune.”

Whenever the band practises a new song, Fang converts it into a numbered notation first.

Then Wen Qi, 73, wife of player Xi Deshun, 78, enlarges it so everyone can read.

Wen does not play saxophone herself, but she loves music. When her husband began playing by Huating Lake, she came to support him by preparing the sheet music and tea.

“When they play saxophone, I do tai chi nearby,” says Wen.

Near the lake, with a light breeze and the music around you. The whole world reinvigorates you.

“We met a lot of new friends here and everyone brings our best tea to share. We have so much fun here. When you are occupied, you feel energized.”

Yue Cheng / Ti Gong

Some members of the band play saxophone along the Huating Lake shorefront.

With the band’s skills improving, invitations are pouring in — from local sub-districts and community centers.

Younger saxophone lovers including an entrepreneur and a music teacher from a local high school are now coming to the lake to join the “oldies.”

“We are getting busier — but also happier,” says Yao with a smile.

Last year, Tang Yin, chief saxophone with the Shanghai Light Music Orchestra, heard about the group and volunteered to coach them every Sunday.

“Almost none of us have ever received any professional training, “ Fang says. “Thanks to Tang, we improved so much during the past year.”

The band members are also passing their experience and knowledge on to more saxophone beginners by the lake, to spread the joy and beauty of the instrument.

The band was invited by the Shanghai Saxophone Association to perform in Wujiaochang in northeast Shanghai’s Yangpu District last Friday.

Lake Huating’s saxophone lovers are moving on from the quiet banks of the lake to larger stages.



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