Young Hong Kong composer rises to the challenge

Tam Yat-sing lifts three prizes at competition for new Chinese orchestral works

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 12:09pm

A major competition for new Chinese orchestral works produced six world premieres, including a local composition that won three of the eight prizes.

Dubbed “Chinese Music Without Bounds”, the concert on Wednesday featured three composers from mainland China, two from Malaysia and one from Hong Kong, who made it to the finals from an initial 80 entries and 53 in the preliminary round.

An international jury chaired by Yan Huichang, artistic director of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, the event’s organiser, announced HK$270,000 worth of prizes.

The top prizes, for best orchestra work and best solo and orchestra work, went to Chow Yun-yi of Malaysia and Kong Zhixuan of Jiangsu province respectively.

Chow, with his work Kampung and the City, also won the most votes from the orchestra’s musicians, while Kong added the outstanding young composer and best orchestration prizes for his pipa concerto, A Fantasy of Flying Apsaras.

Without pinpointing anyone, I wanted to express the social chaos in recent times
Tam Yat-sing, composer

But the loudest applause went to Tam Yat-sing, the only local composer among the finalists, whose piece, Beating the Petty Person, sent him to the stage three times to pick up the best work on a Hong Kong theme, audience favourite original composition, and media and publishers’ favourite original composition.

“Home crowd factor aside, the media and publishers’ prize came as a surprise,” Tam, 27, the youngest of the six finalists, told the Post.

The master’s degree candidate at Chinese University said his work was completed in two months and inspired by social and personal issues, such as the death of his music mentor, Yau Siu-pun, last July.

“My piece is about the lunar calendar’s date of insects waking up in spring, which is the date for the lady proxy agents in Causeway Bay to perform the ritual of beating petty persons as a Hong Kong tradition,” he explained.

He was referring to a tradition in which old women perform the ritual of “beating the devil”. For HK$50 or so they will curse your enemies by beating paper images of them with a shoe or slipper.

“Without pinpointing anyone, I wanted to express the social chaos in recent times where there were petty persons around like insects, which were depicted by dissonant notes,” Tam said.

“At the end all the woodwinds played together, signalling unity that put things back to order.”

Yan said: “The event is open to all composers around the world regardless of nationality and age to showcase the high degree of freedom we in Hong Kong enjoy.

“We attach great importance to the competition, which enriches the repertory and spearheads Hong Kong as the leader in promoting Chinese orchestral works,” he added, referring to the 2,300 works the group had premiered since its founding four decades ago.