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Mother's Day in Mandarin: Featuring Lang Lang & Mom

There is an expression in Yiddish: A heavy heart talks a lot. I was reminded of that when I sat down with the great pianist, Lang Lang, and his mom, for an episode of Wavemaker Conversations: A Podcast for the Insanely Curious.
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There is an expression in Yiddish: A heavy heart talks a lot.

I was reminded of that when I sat down with the great pianist, Lang Lang, and his mom, for an episode of Wavemaker Conversations: A Podcast for the Insanely Curious.

The following brief video excerpt is mostly in Mandarin. And while Lang Lang translates for his mother -- no translation is necessary to appreciate the depth of feeling.

In order to fully appreciate the moment, some background is useful.

When Lang Lang was only nine-years-old, he was encouraged by his beloved piano teacher in his home town of Shenyang to move to Beijing. In China's capital, he would aim to earn a ticket to the top - a coveted spot in the Central Conservatory.

Only one of his parents could afford to move with him. It was decided his father would go and his mother would stay back home and work to support them.

Lang Lang's mother knew that, for a long time to come, she would hardly ever see her son.

And so, I asked her, in the video excerpt above, how she felt when she said goodbye to her only child when he was only nine.

If the story ended there it would be a terribly sad one - about a permanently heavy heart.

What Lang Lang endured -- to ensure it would not end there -- is revealed in our Wavemaker Conversation.

Lang Lang and his father rented what they could afford -- an unheated apartment -- in a slum that reeked of animal urine.

7 minutes, 55 seconds into the our podcast, Lang Lang describes how, only six months after arriving in Beijing, before the auditions for the Conservatory, he was fired by his influential new teacher - a woman he called Professor Angry. He describes his father's extreme reaction, and how he, Lang Lang, bounced back from that devastating setback.

In the final few minutes I ask Lang Lang's mother, Zhou Xiulan, how often she sees her son now - now that he is recognized as, perhaps, "the hottest classical artist on the planet" -- now that they cannot be separated by poverty.

Her answer is a mere three words. She finds the words in English.

And she demonstrates that, sometimes, for a mother - for any parent -- a light heart can be virtually silent.

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MICHAEL SCHULDER is the host of Wavemaker Conversations: A Podcast for the Insanely Curious. You can subscribe for free here on iTunes.