Many of the memorable Cantopop or Cantonese operatic songs with graceful melodies were written by the renowned musician Woo Man-sum (1911-1963), who was known as the "Emperor of Songs". Woo was not only an outstanding lyricist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, accompanist and playwright, but above all was an intellectual.
The Hong Kong Central Library of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has different collections of donated documents including music archival treasures. Following the exhibitions on versatile musicians Chang Wing-sou, Wong Kwong-ching, Chen Ning-chi, Loo Kah-chi and Tung Wah-keung, "The Hong Kong Musicians Series" is presenting the exhibition "The Sacred and the Secular - A Memorial of Woo Man-sum, the 'Emperor of Songs'" from now until February 28, 2014, at the Arts Resource Centre on 10/F of the Hong Kong Central Library. Apart from displaying information on Woo's background, the exhibition also shows several of Woo's valuable manuscripts and photos, as well as some CDs and vinyl records featuring his works, for the public to better understand this talented musician.
Under the influence of his father, who was a traditional Chinese intellectual, Woo developed good Chinese language skills and cultural literacy. As two of his sisters were well-known Cantonese opera artists in the 1930s, he was exposed to traditional Cantonese music and Cantonese operatic songs at a young age. Woo played the violin, the erhu and other musical accompaniments for Cantonese operatic songs. Later, he began to write Cantonese opera songs for singers and record labels. He wrote hundreds of Cantonese operatic songs in his lifetime.
Starting in the late 1930s, Woo composed theme songs and soundtracks for Hong Kong movies, including the soundtrack song of the acclaimed movie "Madame Butterfly" (1948). The original version of this song is tuneful and elegant. The lyrics were later rewritten by others in a sarcastic way and the song became a Cantopop classic sung by film star Cheng Kwun-min.
Woo was also deeply influenced by Western culture. He adapted many Western melodies such as "Waterloo Bridge" with Chinese lyrics. Other adaptations like the theme song of the movie "Three Coins in the Fountain" or Paul Anka's "I Love You Baby" with Chinese lyrics all became Cantonese hit songs.
In addition to writing pop songs, he also wrote many beautiful melodies with delicate and poetic lyrics for Cantonese opera stars like Fong Yim-fun and Siu Meng-sing.
Woo wrote a large number of works on his tailor-made paper. The specially designed paper has his image at the top right corner while his name is found at the bottom right corner. The copyright statement "All rights reserved" appears on the left-hand side. All of these touches show that Woo was serious about his compositions and was very aware of copyright issues.
Admission to the exhibition is free. For enquiries, please call 2921 0259.
Ends/Monday, November 18, 2013
Issued at HKT 11:45