Culture central

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2012, 12:00am


1869 On November 2, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, opens a two-storey City Hall on Queen's Road Central. It houses a library, a museum, a suite of assembly rooms and a 569-seat theatre, all built by private subscriptions.

1933 The government promises to earmark a new site for City Hall after demolishing a large part of the old hall to make way for bank buildings.

1947 Solomon Bard and musicians of the Sino-British Orchestra press the government to honour its promise after the rest of the old hall is cleared to make way for the Bank of China headquarters.

1950 A City Hall committee is formed with more than 70 representatives from the community.

1953 The government agrees to build a new City Hall on reclaimed waterfront that would include the Queen's Pier (1954) and Star Ferry Pier and clock tower (1957). British architects Alan Fitch and Ronald Phillips (right) are appointed to oversee the project.

1960 'City Hall ... for the benefit of all who live in Hong Kong of whatever race' - Governor Robert Black (below centre) at the City Hall foundation stone laying ceremony in February.

1962 City Hall is officially inaugurated on March 2.

Between March 4 and 10, the London Philharmonic Orchestra holds a series of five concerts for the opening of the 1,500-seat Concert Hall. All 8,500 tickets are sold out a week in advance, making it the best-attended classical music event in Hong Kong. The 480-seat theatre is launched with the screening of Richard Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier.

In September, the first official delegation of mainland musicians performs three concerts.

1964 The London Symphony Orchestra under conductor Colin Davis; pianists Arthur Rubinstein, Gary Graffman and Paul Badura-Skoda; and American pop singer Pat Boone all perform in City Hall for the first time.

1965 Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau and Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy (who defected to the West in 1963) visit for the first time.

To celebrate China's National Day, 12 performances of Yellow River Cantata are staged by leftist groups.

On November 20, choral group the Allegro Singers (below), led by founder-soprano Barbara Fei Ming-yee, performs its inaugural concert.

1966 The Concert Hall is flooded after a heavy rainstorm in July (above picture shows City Hall's first Chinese manager, Darwin Chen, on the right).

In November, Lo King-man stages City Hall's first full Western opera, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, with Italian-trained soprano Ella Kiang in the title role.

1967 In July, Hong Kong Music Arts Festival celebrates City Hall's fifth anniversary with 22 programmes by local arts groups.

A confrontation with Cultural Revolution leftists singing political songs propagating the ideology of Mao Zedong results in them being banned from performing here until the 70s.

1969 In August, the Hong Kong Children's Choir performs its inaugural concert.

December sees the government launch the Hong Kong Festival.

Also in December, the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, under Shanghai-born conductor Ling Tung, performs five concerts at the 1969 Music Festival.

1970 The first show featuring a state-of-the-art new sound system is held, to mark the bicentenary of Beethoven's birth.

1971 Murray MacLehose is sworn in as governor at City Hall.

1972 Jazz legend Duke Ellington (below) and his orchestra perform on January 21.

1973 On February 26, the Hong Kong Arts Festival is launched with Seiji Ozawa conducting the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Asian Composers League is founded as top composers from the region meet in the High Block conference room.

1974 On January 11, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra under Indonesian-born conductor Lim Kek-tjiang (above) performs for the first time.

1975 During her May 4-5 visit to Hong Kong, Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prince Philip, gives a speech at a City Hall luncheon.

1976 The Pan Asia Orchestra gives its inaugural performance in June.

The Asian Arts Festival is launched in November.

1977 The inaugural concert of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra is held on October 14.

The Hong Kong International Film Festival is launched.

1979 The Central Philharmonic Society is the first state-level performing arts troupe from the mainland to perform in Hong Kong since the Cultural Revolution.

1981 In March, City Hall hosts the first Asian Composers Festival, bringing together for the first time composers from the mainland and Taiwan.

In September, the first local production of Swan Lake is performed.

1982 Edward Youde is sworn in as governor on May 20.

In March, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra returns to the city to celebrate the 20th anniversary of City Hall after its 1959 Hong Kong debut, at the Lee Theatre.

1987 David Wilson is sworn in as governor on April 9 (below left).

1989 City Hall hosts for the last time the Hong Kong Arts Festival. (The festival relocated to the new Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui the following year.)

1992 Governor Chris Patten holds public forums at the City Hall Theatre.

1993 The Memorial Garden is given a facelift during the 1993 renovation.

1998 On April 18, 16-year-old mainland pianist Lang Lang makes his Hong Kong debut with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.

2002 As City Hall celebrates its 40th anniversary, it undergoes a major renovation, in which carpets and seat fabrics, among other items, are replaced.

2003 On April 27, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta plays despite a suspension of public performances due to Sars, with musicians wearing face masks (below left).

On May 23, fund-raiser Arts Relief for Sars performs to a full house.

2004 Opera Hong Kong debuts with Saint-Saens' Samson and Delilah.

On December 6, the Concert Hall suffers serious water damage after a fire in a mezzanine electrical room is doused after a seven-hour blaze. The hall is closed for three months.

City Hall becomes one of the buildings to be featured in A Symphony of Light show (above) over Victoria Harbour.

2005 The first Hong Kong International Piano Competition takes place in October.

2007 The Queen's Pier and Star Ferry Pier are demolished, changing the surrounding landscape.

2008 Hong Kong Sinfonietta and the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre become venue partners of the City Hall Concert Hall and Theatre, respectively.

2009 City Hall is listed as a grade-one historical building.