KEN LAM, the artistic director of local choir Hong Kong Voices, also conducts the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra and the University of Hong Kong's choir. 'This is one of those unique positions,' he says. 'Not many conductors can boast that they have an orchestra and a choir at their disposal.' But what's really impressive is that he also works full-time as a financial lawyer in one of the world's biggest legal firms, Clifford Chance. Anyone who has ever been involved in a non-professional arts organisation can attest to the financial and logistical difficulties, but Lam says he copes by focusing in on the creative side. 'I'm proud to say that the people involved are here for music rather than anything else,' he says of Hong Kong Voices. 'I've seen a lot of groups where the original purpose has become secondary, where people turn up and play their music, but look forward more to the dinner afterwards. It becomes just a social event. With this choir, people are pretty keen to keep it focused on music.' Still, as the leader of these groups, Lam has to deal with practicalities, too. 'The main problem isn't funding,' he says. 'It's finding a decent, proper venue. 'With the Hong Kong Chamber, we have 60 musicians, so we need a stage of a certain size. The sound doesn't travel in the City Hall Theatre. The APA [Academy for Performing Arts] is really expensive, and it's impossible to book the Cultural Centre. But even if we can get these venues, the nature of our budget means we don't have the means to fill them.' Lam says he's been contacted by land developers eager to get support for their tendering bids for the proposed West Kowloon Cultural Development. Whether his input would be properly heard is another matter. 'My view is they're probably going to build another 3,000-seat concert hall. Will it help us? No. But we have to at least voice ourselves. The classical community is crying out for something suitable: a hall with good sound and a platform big enough for a symphony, but with slightly smaller scale seating. 'Of course, I understand classical music has to compete with other forms of entertainment. But the arts - like other good things in life - are difficult to maintain if you just let market forces dictate. It's like, 'What's the price of good air?' It's up to [Home Affairs secretary] Patrick Ho [Chi-ping] and our government to decide that arts and culture is a merit, and that it deserves help to be developed.' As well as going to law school, Lam studied music at London's Guildhall School. He played the violin with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and dabbled in composing. Before taking up the baton at Hong Kong Voices and the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra, he worked for local-based international classical label Naxos as its legal and business manager. 'What I learned most at Naxos was how much I really wanted to do music,' he says. 'At a record company you get to deal with some wonderful artists, but it's from an administrative side. You're involved in music, but not involved. In the end, you're still running a business.' Since becoming the artistic director of Hong Kong Voices in 2001, Lam has been steadily raising the bar for his group. 'We have a lot of young voices and are getting better everyday,' he says. 'We don't want to compare ourselves with just local groups. We want to be able to compare ourselves with the best choirs in the world, and say we hold our own. It's not there yet, though.' Lam is also trying to raise his own musical standards. For the past three years, he has attended conducting workshops in Europe, and will do so again this summer to sharpen his skill with Gustav Meier. His latest project is rehearsing the Hong Kong Voices' 20 singers for their season finale, a charity concert for Sowers Action tonight, with the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra and guest soloists. 'For this concert, we're going to do two Bach Cantatas,' Lam says. 'There are more than 200, and each is a great work. Some are regulated church music for Sunday services, and one of the pieces, Ich Hatte Viel Bekummernis, was written specially for the third Sunday after Trinity. This year, the third Sunday falls precisely on the performance date, June 27, so people are going to get the unique chance to hear it on the specific day it was written for.' Lam says the profile of western classical choral music has improved tremendously in Hong Kong over the years, helped along by the likes of the Hong Kong Bach choir, which is run by another Naxos alumnus, Jerome Hoberman. The next step, he says, is to start nurturing more local talent. 'We have a fantastic orchestra here called the Hong Kong Philharmonic,' he says. 'We import most of it from abroad - the conductor, many musicians - and that's fine. We do need to import talent. But we also need to work on a local level. 'We're encouraging local composers to write for us. Hopefully, with funding, we can commission some works. That's something I'm keen to do and I feel an obligation to do service for our own composers. There's a community of passionate artists and musicians in Hong Kong. The scene is very active.' 2004 Sowers Action Charity Concert, featuring Hong Kong Voices, Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra and guest soloists, tonight, 7.30pm, APA Concert Hall, $20 minimum donation. Inquiries: 2293 2121, email@example.com .