Why is it that the local Chinese press are suddenly so interested in classical music news? A welcome situation, of course, but let's be realistic. It is more likely due to a belated feeding frenzy over the internal trials and tribulations of the Hong Kong Philharmonic this year than to any startling insight into music's joys and inspirational qualities. At least all that new attention has at least been gratefully received by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, which has had reporters lining up to hear all about its forthcoming season. Considering that the Sinfonietta is currently carefully repositioning itself and working hard on improvements, the unexpected coverage seems no more than its due. The new season, during which it will celebrate its 10th anniversary, is a good indication of where the orchestra is heading. This is the first season chosen by new music director Tsung Yeh (above) and reflects its now clearly defined desire to promote local conductors and local musicians wherever possible. After its first 'inevitable', although reportedly acrimonious, internal auditions, the Sinfonietta has emerged with only four non-Chinese among its members. Hopefully the enthusiasm of its musicians is also intact. This is an orchestra that has been made up for a long time by part-time, evening players in it purely for the love of the music. The Sinfonietta, though, is now the recipient of a three-year Arts Develop-ment Council grant - which gives it $11 million a year - part of the conditions of which are that it turns professional by 2002. It is too small a budget to free members up from their full-time teaching jobs at the moment, but there are 'hopeful signs' from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department more support may be forthcoming. That possibility makes its new season an important one. As its new chief executive officer, Margaret Yang, explains, the first goal is to be more accessible. 'That doesn't mean we're going to play more pop stuff. Playing lots of movie music won't do the trick. One thing we are definitely not doing is sticking with that traditional programme of overture, concerto, then symphony.' The Sinfonietta is an orchestra that laps up experimentation, so in October it will collaborate with the Chung Ying Theatre Company in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with musicians on stage as part of the performance. Look out for fluorescent lights on the bows of violins, though don't expect orchestra members dressed up as trees. The Sinfonietta also launches a Shortcut To Classical Music series by conductor Wing-sie Yip - 'all you need to know about classical music and were afraid to ask'. Commentary will be in Cantonese. With audience capacity lately regularly up to 80 per cent, Fou Ts'ong's return is expected to be a sell-out. Also during the season Christopher Seaman and Peter Wilson join Chen Zuohuang, Kuan Nai-chung and Wing-sie Yip in conducting, with local artists Nancy Loo, Michael Ma, Colleen Lee (below), Franz Mo, Wendy Law (above) and Leung Oi-ying as soloists. New works have been commissioned from Chan Hing-yan, Chan Ming-chi, Qu Xiao-song and Tung Lai-shing. And there are premieres of works by Chinese composers Kuan Nai-chung, Luo Zhong-rong, He Xun-tian, Wang Ning and Alice Ho. The Sinfonietta is collaborating extensively with RTHK Radio 4, following up on the success of its sell-out Millennium Extravaganza concert earlier this year. That should be good news to the new audience base the orchestra believes it is building up - trendy young locals who seem to appreciate the attempt to tap into what the local scene has to offer.