Masking their true talent, volunteer musicians get to work

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An online show by a string quartet from the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra attracts over 1 million viewers on March 14. [

China Daily]

Guo Zhongbao is used to playing for a full house in concert halls. The melodies usually linger on in his head even after the music ends.

But Guo, the principal French horn player of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, recently had a special night when he volunteered to work at a local face mask factory in Shanghai.

After he ended his shift on the production line-from 9 pm on March 24 to 3 am on March 25, Guo arrived at home with the sound of the machine still ringing in his head.

"It was the first time that I had worked in a factory, and the machines generated noise, which bounced back and forth in the space for the whole night. The sounds even appeared in my dreams over the next few nights," says Guo, 40, who has been playing with the Shanghai orchestra since he graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music with a master's degree in 2003.

"As a musician, I am very sensitive to sounds. When working on the production line, I tried to follow the beat of the machine, which gave my work a rhythm."

Guo had two main jobs as a volunteer at the mask factory: fixing the ear loops to the masks and trimming the edges of the face covering.

"I stayed focused on placing the face masks on the machine one by one and the tempo had to be accurate," he says.

Guo was among 15 volunteers from the orchestra to work at the factory on March 25.

They worked the night shift and made a total of 44,000 face masks on that day.

According to Zhou Ping, president of the orchestra, who also put in a shift on the production line that night, all of the volunteers had their temperature checked and were disinfected before entering the factory.

Since the entire production process was mechanized, volunteers were divided into groups and were given different tasks, from checking the quality to the final packaging.

"Because of the viral outbreak, the country faced a severe shortage of face masks. In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, we want to offer our help. Volunteering at the face mask factory is one of the most direct and efficient ways of helping," Zhou says.

Like Guo, Zhou was also responsible for trimming the edges of the masks.

"It's quite a difference between watching workers making face masks on TV and making face masks by ourselves. The workers trained us before we actually started to work on the production line. After two hours of working, my muscles were stiff and I was sweating because I was so nervous and focused," Zhou says.

"The factory staff work day and night and they deserve respect from everyone."

She says members of the orchestra will continue to volunteer to work at Shanghai's mask factories.

The 140-year-old Shanghai Symphony Orchestra has been trying to connect with audiences through online programs, such as shows and music courses, since all of its planned concerts and public events were canceled due to the outbreak.

The first online show, performed by a string quartet from the orchestra on March 14, attracted over 1 million viewers.

The second online show, marking the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the most renowned composers of all time, was held on March 26, featuring a theme of spring.

"The pandemic will end, and we look forward to the day when audiences return to the concert halls and share music with us again. The experience of fighting against the virus makes us treasure what we have more than ever," Zhou says.

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