Swing both ways: HK Chinese Orchestra takes a jazzy journey

Kylie Knott

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 10:51pm

Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra


"It really is a cultural collision, a fusion of two very different musical genres that somehow works," says Chew Hee-chiat, resident conductor with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) of the upcoming Chinese Music With All That Jazz concerts.

"Combining Chinese music with jazz is quite a challenge - it's all in the arranging and the mixing. It's very interesting to compare the contrasting sounds," says Chew.

Joining Chew at the Kwai Tsing Theatre Auditorium is an impressive line-up that includes US-born, Hong Kong-based jazz singer and songwriter Howard McCrary.

McCrary's pedigree speaks for itself. He co-produced his gospel record, So Good, which was nominated for a Grammy in 1986; was a background vocalist on Quincy Jones' 1989 set Back on the Block; arranged the vocals for Michael Jackson's song Keep the Faith; and was keyboardist and music director for Chaka Khan.

Adding to the mix is local jazz pianist Ted Lo and sanxian virtuoso Zhao Taisheng, who has thrilled audiences around the world playing traditional Chinese instruments. They are backed by an 85-piece orchestra.

Composer Ng King-pan has the challenging task of arranging the contrasting musical styles.

"I've worked and jammed with Howard before. Having the jazz piano with the orchestra is a great experience for all involved," says Chew.

McCrary will be delivering standards such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, as well as the theme tunes from the Mission: Impossible and James Bond films.

The programme also includes two of McCrary's own works, Water is Life, which he wrote for the HKCO in 2008, and his latest, Black Butterfly. Zhao will perform Song of the Black Earth.

"Jazz developed from soul and blues and there's a folk connection. To see it combined with the orchestra shows how Chinese music is redefining itself," says Chew.


Kwai Tsing Theatre Auditorium, 12 Hing Ning Road, Kwai Chung, March 21 and 22, 8pm, HK$150-HK$260 Urbtix. Inquiries: 2734 9009