Magic Flute Lu Chunling dead at 97

CHINESE bamboo flute master and music professor Lu Chunling died of disease at 8:53 on May 22 at the age of 97. 
Imaginechina

Magic Flute Lu Chunling is seen playing last year in this file photo.

Chinese bamboo flute master and music professor Lu Chunling died of heart failure yesterday morning at the age of 97 — days before he was due to perform at a charity concert.

Announcing Lu’s death, the Shanghai Conservatory of Music said the performance may now be turned into a memorial concert. His funeral will be held at the Longhua Funeral Parlor at 9:30am on Saturday.

“It surprised me that he would leave us so soon, since he was always very passionate about the flute and always looked happy and carefree,” said fellow bamboo flute musician Tang Junqiao, who had been due to perform with Lu and his students on Saturday.

Lu’s career was long and varied. Before becoming a professional musician in 1949, the Shanghai native worked as an army, ambulance and taxi driver and as a turner at the Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard.

Known as the “Chinese Magic Flute”, Lu was an influential performer, composer and educator who nurtured several bamboo flute artists, including Kong Qingbao, Yu Sunfa and Chen Huilong.

As a master of the Southern School, Lu first introduced the school’s traditional stringed and woodwind music in Jiangnan — or south of the Yangtze River — on stage as a solo. He also adroitly fused skills of the Northern School.

He received a Chinese Golden Bell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Music in 2009 and was a Shanghai Literature and Awards Lifetime Honor Award in 2010.

He served as a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and as president of the Shanghai Association of Traditional Stringed and Woodwind Instruments.

Bamboo flute musician Lu Chunling (right) carefully kept the photo of him and Chairman Mao Zedong. 

Born to a poor family in Shanghai in 1921, Lu was considered a legend in his field.

He began learning the bamboo flute from a neighborhood tanner at the age of 7 and worked at the shipyards and as a driver for several years.

After becoming a professional musician, Lu was one of the five founding members of the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra in 1952.

Lu took his flute and his magic to more than 70 countries, showcasing the beauty of traditional Chinese music.

He also worked to collect the folk music of different nations, which he adapted for the Chinese bamboo flute to enrich his repertoire.

Chairman Mao Zedong received him eight times and Mao’s declaration that “art is for serving the people” had a great influence on him.

Apart from radio and stage, Lu was an active performer at factories, rural villages, military camps and even underground mines — wherever he was needed.

He kept various mineral samples at home, which were all gifts from the mine workers he had played for, because he always refused payment.

His adaptations of traditional Chinese works such as the “Flying Partridge,” “Little Cowboy” and “Song of Joy” have become part of the classic repertoires for the bamboo flute.

Lu also created a series of original works, including “The Present and the Past” and “Happy News,” telling the stories of the lives of ordinary people in the new era.

Not one to fade away, Lu and his students performed on stage last May to mark the 90th anniversary of his career.

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