It was the encore to end all encores.
After the last notes were played by couple Gongbo Jiang and Wen Wang in a concert at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Gongbo took the audience – and Wen – by surprise by proposing to his childhood sweetheart.
Following their performance together, titled A Couple of Violins, Gongbo went down on one knee and, through tears, asked Wen to be his wife.
The romantic proposal cements a 14-year relationship that began in their homeland of China where their love, for the violin and each other, blossomed.
With help from the Royal Conservatoire’s Artistic Planning team, Gongbo arranged for a slideshow of photographs to be shown as he gave a moving speech about how they met at the Middle School of the Central Conservatory of Music in China. They began dating in 2003 and both moved to Scotland in 2009 to continue their studies at Scotland’s national conservatoire.
“I’ve been smiling every day since it happened,” says Wen, 29.
“I had no idea what Gongbo was planning. We finished the concert and went back for the encore and I saw him put down his violin. I thought, ‘what is he going to do?’. He had already given a talk at the beginning of the concert so I thought, ‘is he going to talk again?’. I didn’t know what was happening until the screen started and I saw the photographs of us together. I was frozen and couldn’t think about anything. Gongbo started talking about our history together and then got down on one knee.
“Of course I said ‘yes’.”
The couple, who began playing the violin at the age of five, have four Masters degrees between them. Gongbo, 30, graduated in violin performance and chamber music and Wen in solo performance and chamber music.
Did Gongbo always plan to propose in such a public way?
“Yes,” he smiles.
“Music is such a huge part of our lives. I’d spoken to both our families in the months leading up to the concert and they were delighted that it was finally happening and wished me all the best.”
And he laughs when asked if he had prepared for an altogether different answer: “People asked me ‘what will you do if she says no?’ but I had a plan B! I would have said, ‘Wen, I still love you’, wave to the audience and say ‘see you next year!’.
“I felt confident about doing it although I didn’t think I would cry. I’d gone through the speech so many times, it was in my heart – but then I saw the tears in Wen’s eyes.
“We grew up together so what we have is quite unique. We met as students at Central Conservatory of Music, I joined when I was 12. In the beginning, we were too young to know what love was but we knew we liked being together. Wen was offered a place at an American music school but we came to RCS because it was the only way we could be together. We were both so far away from home, in an unfamiliar culture, but we had each other.”
Gongbo and Wen haven’t decided on a wedding date but hope to celebrate the big day in Scotland and in China.
Following their graduations in July last year, both now work as lecturers in the Strings department in the Royal Conservatoire’s School of Music.
Gongbo regularly plays with orchestras across the UK, including the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and toured India with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, performing a duet with Nicola Benedetti in the opening concert in Mumbai, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Wen regularly performs with her piano partner Hanna Choi throughout Scotland and plays with orchestras including Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Watch the magical moment here: