Sars remembered at Majestic Drums show
Majestic Drums XVII
Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra
Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Reviewed on Friday
Three generations of drummers took to the stage to strike up memories of the recent past through a captivating performance on a wide range of percussion instruments.
Now in its 10th year, the Majestic Drums series was launched to boost the city's morale in the wake of a deadly outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars, in the summer of 2003.
The moving scene at Victoria Park, with performers and audiences gathered amid scorching heat, was a spectacle to remember. The mass drum rally ended up being a Guinness World Record.
Since that difficult time, it has become one of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra's branded events.
There is hardly any better way to serve the collective memory than inviting children born in that fateful year to come on stage to drum.
When 23 boys and girls, all turning 10 next year, stood at the drum sets, the audience murmured words to the effect of: "See how big they have grown".
Without a score or a conductor, the youngsters performed the world premiere of Forever Young at Heart - A Drumming Tribute, arranged by the orchestra's percussionist Luk Kin-pun, with great discipline and in unison beat on a variety of drums and cymbals, and chanted as well. The children did a great job on the instruments as the heartfelt applause showed, despite the youngsters being hurried backstage without taking a bow, perhaps out of nervousness.
Another memorable spectacle came during the opening piece, A Poem on the Drum, when a record 42 drummers paid tribute to their teacher, the orchestra's principal percussionist Yim Hok-man.
The students, including members of the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Sinfonietta as well as mainland and Taiwanese musicians, followed the master's lead during some of the tricky passages that featured erratic rhythms and volumes. The deference shown to Yim was heartwarming to behold.
Another pleasant instance came during The Romping Golden Pheasants when the quartet, Four Gig Heads, teased the audience by imitating the sounds of fighting roosters to great effect. Another group, the 30-strong The Refiner Drums, awed the audience with magnificent rendition of Prince Qin Takes His Roll Call. But none exceeded the encore volume when conductor Yan Huichang invited the audience to play the little hand-held drums they were given upon entry during, Let the Thunder of Drums Roll.