Orchestra lights up Sichuan school

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong's flagship ensemble is spreading its influence from the concert hall to the mainland classroom.

In a three-day performing blitz at the weekend, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra debuted in Chengdu with astounding success.

'We were invited as Hong Kong's cultural ambassador to the capital city of Sichuan province to showcase our music and instruments,' the orchestra's chief executive, Celina Chin Man-wah, said.

'As much as we moved them with our performance, they moved us with their genuine appreciation.'

Musicians gave demonstrations and lessons at the Jintang Hong Kong YMCA School, which was badly affected by the May 2008 earthquake that hit the province. The primary school, located in Jintang county on the outskirts of Chengdu, is a beneficiary of a HK$10 million relief fund set up by the Hong Kong government.

The group spent a morning teaching 200 pupils.

'Most of the school's 540 pupils are from poor families in the mountains and quake sites,' artistic director Yan Huichang said. 'We brought them music; we played not just for them, but with them.'

Principal percussionist Yim Hok-man said: 'We demonstrated a range of percussion instruments for some 60 pupils. They followed us rhythmically, and grasped it very fast.'

Other pupils had their first taste of Chinese string and wind instruments. The school will soon receive a set of instruments and organise a small ensemble of its own. 'Those will be the first Chinese instruments for the school, which has two pianos now,' Yan said.

The moving moment of the visit came when the orchestra played A Grateful Heart, a song sung after the quake three years ago. Chin said: 'The pupils sang and performed sign language in unison with the music. The synchronisation moved us all.'

Aside from the school, the 85-member orchestra played at a concert that showed off the cross-border effort. It performed works by composers from both sides, including a world premiere by Sichuan Conservatory's Professor Zou Xiangping that was sung by Sichuanese Xiao Chao, who was first runner-up at the First Hong Kong International Conducting Competition in July. 'That is where Hong Kong and Chengdu are at their closest,' Yan said.