Classic case of a burgeoning career

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2012, 12:00am

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Making it big on the contemporary classical music scene is one of the toughest challenges for any aspiring composer. So Lam Fung (pictured) has plenty to celebrate.

Named last night as one of the recipients of this year's Hong Kong Arts Development Awards, he bagged the Award for Young Artist (Music) and a grant of HK$22,000, adding to the doctorate in composition recently conferred on him by Britain's Sussex University. The jewel in the crown will sparkle on July 18 when audiences worldwide will be able to tune into the BBC's celebrated Proms concert series and hear the premiere of his latest orchestral work, Endless Forms, commissioned and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under chief conductor, Jiri Belohlavek.

It is the third commission Lam has received from the BBC. 'The BBC have looked after me well,' the 32 year-old said modestly. Born in Hong Kong - his father is Lam Chiu-ying, the former director of the Hong Kong Observatory - Lam was nominated for the Arts Development award by Ray Wang, his cello teacher at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts' junior department.

Lam completed his education in Britain before landing a job with Boosey & Hawkes in London, purportedly the world's largest classic music publishing company. His job was to sift through the mountain of works sent in by composing hopefuls.

'I filtered out the most obvious ones, which was 95 per cent of them because there were some really young composers who were obviously inexperienced,' he said. But the job wasn't without its advantages. 'It was interesting to note how the established composers worked and to see their manuscripts. For any responsible artist, you should be influenced by what you see.'

The Hong Kong Sinfonietta was the first local ensemble to air Lam's work - a 2007 performance of Illumination.

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra then featured two of his pieces in the same season: Rong, the orchestra's commission for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, followed a few months later by Unlocking, his first BBC commission dating from 2007.

Lam has a growing international profile; his works have been performed in New Zealand, the US, Australia, Israel, Britain and Japan. In 2010 he was invited to conduct the Tokyo Philharmonic in a performance of Yong, which he wrote for the London Symphony Orchestra.

Lam confesses to having one worry with regard to the Proms premiere in London's vast Royal Albert Hall: he's terrified of tripping down the stairs when he takes to the stage to acknowledge the applause.

'I used to work at the Royal Albert Hall as an usher in 2003,' he said. 'So, it will be amazing for me, having seen all those other people walking on like that, to be doing it myself.'

Veteran stage actor and educator Chung King-fai was also honoured at last night's ceremony with a 'life achievement award'.