Bringing joy to the world

Bringing joy to the world

The Hong Kong Festival Orchestra's musicians are on a mission

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(Front row, from left)  Wong KaJeng, Samuel Pang, Aristo Sham ching-tao and Sean Li Shing-him
(Front row, from left) Wong KaJeng, Samuel Pang, Aristo Sham ching-tao and Sean Li Shing-him
Photo: HKFO
Most students only take music lessons early on in life because their parents force them. Then the lessons become a series of exams and music is a source of stress, and somehow the sheer joy that should be a part of art becomes lost in a maze of 'do better' or 'you must practise'. It becomes a chore.

But worse, even if teens do happen to beat those odds and actually want a career in music, their parents will tell them it's just a waste of time. Music in Hong Kong, it seems, is doomed to fail - but not if the Hong Kong Festival Orchestra has anything to do with it. They feel that a musician's main mission is to spread music to the heart of every soul.

Artistic director Samuel Pang explains: 'HKFO believes that a musician is not someone who holds a Bachelor of Music degree, but someone who is part of the everlasting pursuit for better music.

'It is one's passion that makes someone a musician, not one's social status.'

The Hong Kong Festival Orchestra was set up last year. It made its debut last month with two shows, one featuring piano prodigy Aristo Sham Ching-tao and the other, teenage heartthrob pianist Wong Kajeng. Wong was featured in the documentary KJ.

Sham played Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 11 and Wong played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 58.

The orchestra played Dvorak's Symphony 9, From the New World on both nights. The reviews were extremely encouraging. RTHK's Chou Fan-fu said on Arts News that even though the orchestra was new, they had done very well and were clearly striving to provide a standard of excellence.

Violinist Sean Li Shing-him, who is also the orchestra's music director, is one of those lucky Hongkongers whose parents didn't think music was a waste of time.

'I was actually encouraged,' he told reporters.

Li said in a radio interview that although teenagers get to hear a lot of music, there are few opportunities for them to enjoy playing it. 'And that's why we formed this orchestra.'

The orchestra has about 80 members, many of whom study overseas and only return during the holidays. There are students from the University of Hong Kong to The Julliard School in New York.

'We do not have an age limit on our orchestra,' says Pang, 20. 'What we do look for are music lovers who have a professional attitude towards music and a decent level of instrumental playing.'

He says musicians in the orchestra need to be able to play to the level of a Licentiate of Trinity College London (LTCL) certificate holder.

But he is quick to make the point - unless any would-be members think their parents might have been right and they should buckle down to finger-numbing practices - players need not hold any certificates, all they need to do is audition.

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