OBITUARY: Hui Kwang-yin 1934-2015

Hong Kong's master of piano tuning, Hui Kwang-yin, dies at age 80

Hui Kwang-yin's care of grand pianos played large part in the growth of music in the city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 March, 2015, 12:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 March, 2015, 12:38am

Hong Kong's top piano craftsman, who fine-tuned grand pianos at all major halls in the city for almost half a century, has died.

Hui Kwang-yin, affably known as Master Hui in the local piano community, passed away on Tuesday, aged 80. He had been suffering from cancer.

"He did many things the general public did not know about, but we in piano circles knew well that when something needed to be fixed, go to Master Hui," recalled Gabriel Kwok, head of keyboard studies at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts.

He added that Hui was his colleague as "piano technologist" when the academy opened in 1985 and taught piano tuning until he retired in 2001.

"He had a special way of tuning that left the piano in tune for a long time. The human touch in his fine-tuning could never be matched by machine-tuning, however precise it may be," he added.

Cheng Kwok-kuen, Hui's student in the 1980s and his successor at the academy, said his teacher did try to pass the special technique to him.

"But only he knew how to tune it with the delicate touch he applied on the strings, which is beyond us," he said.

Hui's nephew, Kevin, had studied with his uncle since his teenage years, but even then did not master the full secret.

"My uncle played the erhu but he turned to study piano-tuning with an old master at Tsang Fook Piano Company, where he worked out his own technique," he recalled.

"I looked up to him as my hero but he told me I had to learn it on my own, and I respect that," the 32-year-old piano technician said.

He recalled the piano was everything to his uncle, who went to fix a friend's piano instead of attending a doctor's appointment for his terminal illness last year.

Carrie Lo, a senior manager with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department who had worked with Hui since 1994, was most impressed with Hui's deep affection for the pianos at City Hall.

"I remember vividly the way he cleaned the keyboard and the piano after tuning. He did it with genuine love for the instrument," she said.

Cheng added: "Hong Kong's international reputation was at stake because the top pianists of the world would not have come if the pianos were out of tune."

The master also came to the rescue out of town. "When we performed in Macau, he came and tuned the pianos there," said Margaret Yang, CEO of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.

"He is the one and only piano tuner in Hong Kong who everyone respects and trusts, and his contribution to the growth of the city's music and arts is huge. He will be deeply missed," she said.

Hui is survived by his wife and two daughters.