Academy helps Hong Kong musical talent take to wider stage

Ensemble enables graduates to continue performing at a high level and learn there is more to the arts than meets the eye

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 5:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 10:36pm

An ensemble is giving those with surplus musical talent in the city a chance to also show their skills in other directions.

Seventeen members of Philharmonia APA (Papa), formed by alumni of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, held their inaugural concert on Friday to raise funds for a three-year plan, which will include a tour to Vienna in April.

“Our graduates are excellent but the music industry cannot absorb all of them. So they go teaching and after a few years they can’t play anymore. Their talent is wasted,” Sharon Choa, dean of music at the academy since 2014, said.

“With Papa, there’s hope our graduates will have a guaranteed platform to continue performing at a high level and do things they have fuller control over, because we want them to manage themselves as we trust their artistic integrity,” she added, referring to the group’s self-governing committee.

One of the four committee members, clarinettist Stephanie Ng Lai-man, said her job to “bridge” the musicians with the academy opened her to a deeper side of the performing arts.

“I would not have known all those operational issues if I had just performed,” said the 2011 graduate, who is now a doctoral candidate at the Manhattan School of Music, New York.

The Soldier’s Tale by Igor Stravinsky, the major work at the inaugural concert, was a case in point.

“There are many versions of the masterpiece, but we tried to produce it in our own way to highlight the multidisciplinary strength of the academy aside from music,” she said.

The committee tapped artists from other faculties and there were many to choose from, such as Lan Chun-chun from the School of Drama, who translated and narrated. The technical department also assisted with lighting effects.

To embrace non-performing talents, a composer graduate was commissioned to write a new work for the concert under the theme “overseas adventure”, which applied to many alumni.

“I wrote my piece, A Chinese in London based on An American in Paris by George Gershwin that opened the concert,” said Austin Leung Hin-yan, a 2016 graduate and now a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

“I wrote passages to show off the virtuosity of the alumni, including a cadenza for pianist Colleen Lee Ka-ling, whose portrait I placed on the piano during composing to help me focus,” he laughed.

The work of Leung, which featured a superb interweaving of Chinese melodies with those of Edward Elgar, received a rapturous applause and may tour with Papa to Austria in April if funding targets are met.

“The tour would send an important message that music in Hong Kong is at an international level and our young musicians are coming up and may well be the next generation of top artists,” Choa said.