Arts preview: play it for all it's worth

Sam Olluver

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 10:53pm

Hong Kong New Music Ensemble


Keeping a business up and running for five years may not seem like a big deal. But when it's a fledgling arts organisation dealing exclusively in contemporary classical music, it's a moment for a pat on the back.

Founded in 2008, the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble has filled a gap in the local arts scene. It has won acclaim for its inventive programming of more than 70 concerts, many of which have toured Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Macau and the mainland. It's the city's only resident enterprise that exists solely to present modern works year-round. While its bigger cousins dip an occasional toe into the world of cutting-edge sound, the ensemble swims in it full time.

A combined pre-season launch and annual benefit concert takes place on May 11 to raise funds to build on the organisation's past achievements and consolidate its future.

Violist William Lane, the ensemble's founding director, expresses a modest confidence about where his brainchild stands.

"I try not to focus too much on the past, although I am proud of it," he says. "Since receiving our one-year grant from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in 2012, we have been able to plan much further ahead. We have been able to programme more of our bigger concerts that have greater impact."

The May 11 programme involves 12 performers in a typically eclectic mix of chamber compositions. It includes works by two young composers: Hong Kong's Joyce Tang Wai-chung, whose works have been performed by the city's major orchestras, and Eli Marshall, an American.

Marshall co-founded the Beijing New Music Ensemble in 2005, and is composer-in-residence at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His Trio is scored for soprano (Jasmine Law), viola (Lane) and harp (Amy Tam), while Tang's Aurora features an octet of wind, strings and piano.

Tan Dun's Lament - Autumn Wind is also on the bill. It was written in 1993 for "any six instruments and any voice", so you'll have to attend to find out exactly what the line-up will be.

The event takes place at Southsite, the group's base in Tin Wan. "We operate on a shoestring budget in one of the most expensive cities on the planet," Lane says.

He is thankful for items donated by arts organisations such as Osage Art Consultancy, Absolute Black Design and Naxos Far East that will be on sale as part of the fundraising exercise.

The Tin Wan venue occupies a flexible area of 5,000 sq ft, allowing the ensemble to tailor its multifaceted presentations to the space.

As the finale at the May 11 concert, for example, the audience will find itself immersed in Samson Young's Sound Cloud II, a site-specific installation involving multi-channelled, unmanned laptops, boom boxes, smoke machines and live performers.


Southsite, 3/F Blue Box Factory Building, 25 Hing Wo Street, Tin Wan. May 11, 7.30pm. HK$500 suggested donation. Register at