Hong Kong musical delegation targets London audiences

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2017, 5:48pm

Former piano prodigy Wong Ka-jeng is on a mission: to rebrand an art form that may seem irrelevant. Out went the traditional attire for a concert hall performance and in came the sunglasses and black bomber jacket that he donned for a piano recital last year titled Fast and Difficult. The 26-year-old also set up Music Lab with fellow musicians four years agoto be “a voice onstage and a message offstage”.

“[The group] experimented with genres we could do, and within classical music, how to build a programme in such a way that attracts a wide array of audience,” says Wong, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music at Indiana University in the US in 2013.

His work in promoting classical music to a wider and younger audience, as well as his artistic talent, has not gone unnoticed. Wong is among a large delegation of Hong Kong’s finest musicians (almost 120 in total) to perform in London this month.

Jointly organised by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC) and the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office, the Hong Kong Music Series comprises five programmes, featuring names such as pianists Nancy Loo and Mary Wu, opera singers Carol Lin and Louise Kwong, sheng player Loo Sze-wang, and works by composers Chan Hing-yan, Law Wing-fai and Lam Fung.

Music Lab is a showcase of the creative energy of the new generation of musical talent in Hong Kong, says Winsome Chow, the chief executive of the ADC. “We hope they can cultivate an international following as they now do locally,” she says.

Performing alongside Wong in their “three-in-one” concert, including a chamber concert called Fingerman X Beloved Clara X Smash, will be saxophone player Timothy Sun and harmonica world champion Leo Ho Cheuk-yin. “We will have an exciting programme of pieces arranged that smash the boundaries between classical tunes, pop music and jazz genres,” says Wong, who came into prominence after the release of the popular documentary, KJ – Music & Life.

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Since last year, Music Lab has staged two music festivals. They also invest heavily – up to HK$60,000 for this year’s edition of the festival (between March and April) – to enhance the image of their concerts.

Wong says he has largely accomplished what he set out to do on audience development. The halls were 70 per cent full last year and tickets were almost completely sold out this year .

Wong has explored various themes – seasons of life, tribute to death, freedom in shadows – through his music making. But the upcoming recital, which explores the notion of God, is likely to be his last for a while. His next project is to record all the pieces he’s performed in public concerts during the past five years.

It is going to take some time – “because it has to be perfect”, says Wong.

Music Lab: Fingerman x Beloved Clara x SMASH, July 10, 7.30pm, July 11, 7.30pm, Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, ₤£10 to₤£18 (HK$101 to $182).