Saturday, 8 July 2017

Music Interflow - Hong Kong Music Series SJSS

Starting the Hong Kong Music Series in London, Music Interflow- a Dialogue of Two Cultures at St John's Smith Square. Presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council,  the series shows what Hong Kong has achieved, in a city with a thriving creative community.  This concert, organized by  Professor Lo King-man, demonstrated the varied influences which have gone into making Hong Kong a uniquely vibrant artistic force.  Hong Kong has a lot to be proud of! In Britain, people's ideas about Hong Kong are shaped by western media, so this Hong Kong Music Series is important. The two major highlights are yet to come - Beyond the Senses,Chinese chamber music as music theatre (Read preview HERE) and Datong : the Chinese Utopia, an opera that examines the modernization of China through the lives of 19th century reformer Kang Yu-wei and his feminist daughter.  British audiences owe it to themselves to pay attention.

Professor Lo King-man (pictured in the middle above) has been one of the great figures in the Hong Kong arts scene for five decades.  He was Director of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts,  the equivalent of the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School put together.  Under his leadership, the Academy introduced degree programmes, and specialist schools including one for Film and Television, a major industry in Hong Kong and source of the New Wave in modern Chinese cinema.  He also set up the Centre for Chinese Traditional Theatre Studies  In Hong Kong, music education is part of the school system, and standards are extremely high.   Thus the Academy for Performing Arts is built on strong foundations.  Now retired from the Academy, Professor Lo is Artistic Director of Musica Viva, an organization supporting performance.

Music Interflow began with six pieces by Hong Kong composers written for Chinese instruments. Tradition adapted for concert hall, capturing the sense of personal imagination that is so much a part of Chinese chamber music. Some pieces were for ensemble, some for soloists, Xu Lingzi's Guzheng particularly impressive. Clarence Mak's Meditation on Mount Jingling inspired a dizzying virtuoso display showing the potential traditional instruments can provide in terms of colour and expressiveness.  A strikingly original piece. Doming Lam is another great figure in Hong Kong music, his place in Hong Kong music represented by his Three Night Songs of Li Bai, an early work, where the piano line is western, but the vocal line is Chinese.  Read more about Doming Lam and Clarence Mak HERE.  Appositely, three Britten Songs, followed, arranged for two voices and piano. Britten was fascinated by non-western music while still in his thirties. Perhaps his awareness of norms beyond the western canon animated him as a composer: he represents a new. and highly individual thread in British Music.  Britten and Pears did spend time in Hong Kong but weren't able to experience Chinese music in the community it came from. Things didn't happen that way in 1956. Significantly, Doming Lam Three Night Songs of Li Bao dates from almost the same time, in 1957. Imagine the Music Interflow if society had been different.  Read my article Britten and Pears in Hong Kong. Also see Britten : The Prince of the Pagodas.

Equally eclectic was the second part of the programme. Six Miniatures of Yin and Yang (Meilina Tsui):  Western music but with a distinctive Chinese personality.  Yet more unusual perspectives: Holst's Venus and Jupiter, from the The Planets, transcribed for two pianos.  "Yin" and "Yang" in an entirely western context! Just as the concert had begun with Chinese chamber ensemble, it ended with western chamber ensemble with Frank Bridge's Three Idylls for String Quartet and Ottorino Respighi's Il tramonto, with a setting of Shelley's The Sunset in Italian.  Superb singing from Carol Lin (in sparkling gown in photo above). The piece is dramatic, like a miniature opera, where multiple moods are portrayed in the space of roughly 15 minutes. A tour de force. Lin floated the word "O" so it felt eternal, as it should, but even better was the elegant richness of her singing in the tender, lyrical passages that make this piece so moving.   

Performers featured : Mary Wu (piano), Nancy Loo (piano) Alexander Wong (piano), Xu Lingzi (guzheng), Carol Lin (mezzo), Colette Lam (soprano), Ho Siu-cheong (dizi), Chan Pik-sum (erhu), Zheng Yang (violin), Wei Ningyi (violin),  Chris Choi (viola) and Xu Ting (cello)

Composers featured: Tsui Wai-lam, Lui Man-shing, Chan Man-tat, Meilina Tsui, Doming Lam and Clarence Mak, Holst, Britten, Frank Bridge and Respighi

Please see my other pievces on Chinese music, Chinese movies, Chinese historyand on Hong Kong. This is one of the very few sites which covers Chinese culture and arts in English.  And I cover a lot on British music, especially Britten.


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