Hong Kong's junior voices may be soaring high right now, with several local schools coming out top in the recent World Choir Games held on the mainland, but few of these young talents are expected to pursue a career in choral singing once they reach adult life. Both Diocesan Girls' and Boys' schools held off stiff competition from more than 400 groups to claim first prize in their own categories, plus the top award, Musica Sacra, in the mixed choir event. The SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School, too, walked away with Hong Kong's fourth gold at the world's largest choral competition. But according to veterans of the local music scene, the current success, though impressive, is all but ephemeral and has little, if any, impact on the chorus scene. 'School choirs are trained to aim for trophies, which bring honour and recognition to the school, but usually disperse afterwards,' says Barbara Fei Ming-yee, founding artistic director of the Allegro Singers since 1964. The soprano says it's a pity not to keep these ensembles together for long-term development. Richard Tsang Yip-fat, a music professor at the Institute of Education, points to the city's lack of a choral tradition, such as church-going and community participation, for the loss of interest among youngsters in this art. 'In order for a good tradition of amateur choral practice to take root in Hong Kong, it has to start with the community developing a way of life that favours people coming together for activities other than dining, shopping, movies and other passive entertainment,' Tsang says. 'Promoting an 'active' life is key. Other Asian communities such as Taiwan and Japan have seen a revival of choral singing among housewives and factory workers. But there is nothing similar in Hong Kong,' the composer says. Which is a shame. The Hong Kong Children's Choir and Yip's Children's Choir have been garnering international acclaim for years. 'We have talent here, but we need a choral conductor-specialist and long-term training to draw the best from the community and church choirs,' Fei says. 'This is where the government can play a role as it is impossible for any private person or group to succeed in such a formidable task.' Unfortunately, nurturing choral singers is not a priority on the official agenda. 'We have been going around soliciting like a beggar from day one,' the veteran singer says. Edo de Waart, artistic director and chief conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, has more than once complained publicly of the lack of a competent local chorus, forcing him to either import a full chorus or avoiding works that require one. The Dutch conductor had not been able to perform Beethoven's celebrated Symphony No 9 since his appointment in 2004. It was only in May this year that he was able to conduct the work by bringing in the 60-strong Shanghai Opera chorus. His performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No 2 in 2006, too, was only possible after he acquired the opulent voices of the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus. The government should map out a strategy and allocate resources to groom hopefuls into a professional chorus, says Fei. This may happen when a new arts funding mechanism is in place, says Darwin Chen Tat-man, chairman of the Committee on Performing Arts under the Home Affairs Bureau. 'We are currently undertaking a major review of the funding mode of subsidised arts bodies, and the study will look into what Hong Kong needs and how the existing professional companies meet those needs.' The much-delayed and long-overdue study is expected to be completed by the end of this year and will be made public next year. 'The report will recommend a mechanism on adding or dropping a funded arts company. The government's strategy would not change in scope and beneficiaries until the study is completed,' Chen says. 'The review will look in all directions and I'm optimistic about the chorus because of its low costs. But there will be a lot of hard work in building an audience as well as repertory.'