Orchestra honours its benefactors in season's finale

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 July, 2005, 12:00am

Donors help bridge the gap between artistic ambitions and financial reality - and to reach out to young audiences

BENEFACTORS OF the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HKPO) and government officials will gather tonight at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre to attend the Donors' Concert, the orchestra's final performance in the 2004/2005 season.

An annual event, the concert is an opportunity for the orchestra to acknowledge its sponsors and donors by presenting a programme highlight from one of the season's concerts. The chosen work this year is Mahler's Symphony No 5.

Artistic director and chief conductor Edo de Waart, who is in his first season with the orchestra, said he and the musicians had worked at getting to know each other.

'Once we got into our stride, for example in January with the concert-opera Salome, I think the orchestra flexed its muscles and showed what it is capable of,' he said. 'That made me very excited. It was the first time I really tried to rev the engine, and we were ready to take off.'

The season saw a number of firsts for the orchestra, including a Viennese-style New Year Gala concert and the opera-in-concert performance of Salome. Stripped of costumes and stage sets to bare its musical soul, the opera was one of the highlights of the season 'not only because the orchestra rose to the occasion but also because we had a superb cast, and I think Hong Kong really sat up and listened', De Waart said.

'This is what opera should sound like, and I hope we can outdo ourselves with Elektra next season.'

Other highlights in the maestro's first season with the orchestra included a performance of Mahler's Symphony No 1 at the Shanghai concert hall, and a collaboration with top students of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in a concert devoted to the music of leading contemporary American composer John Adams.

Government funding cuts halfway through the season forced the orchestra to tighten its purse strings. De Waart said corporate and private donors had come to the rescue, by helping the orchestra bridge the gap between artistic goals and financial reality.

The orchestra has different levels of sponsors or donors, from concert sponsor to Club Maestro. Club Maestro is a corporate community that plays a key role in helping the orchestra realise its ambitions. The orchestra also has the support of several private donors.

The HKPO is also active in outreach community projects, taking music to young audiences throughout the territory. While such education programmes are a big investment in the future of the Hong Kong cultural scene, they are also central to the orchestra's survival. Backing from Hang Seng Bank enables the orchestra to reach about 70,000 schoolchildren a year.

Conductor de Waart said such support has helped to promote great music and the ideals of artistic excellence and introduced the cultural scene to a large number of children.

'These children will go on to be our future audience, our future musicians and our future community leaders,' he said.

As the current season draws to a close, the conductor said he would like to see more sponsors coming forward to help the orchestra expand its programmes.

'I would love to see some of the big stars of the Hong Kong pop music world join hands with us to promote music and culture to children of all ages,' he said.

'They are seen as idols by thousands of kids, and they have a unique opportunity to use their celebrity status to encourage children to discover the life-enriching value of music.'