image image

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

Theatre review: ingenious script blends Chinese medicine, Chinese music

Yat Po Singers and Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in unusual collaboration

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 May, 2015, 6:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 2:53pm

Herbal, Vocal or Motional?
HK Chinese Orchestra
May 8
Cultural Centre concert hall

The art of a cappella broke new ground on Friday in its first ever collaboration with a full orchestra of traditional Chinese instruments.

Through an ingenious script, the world premiere blended Chinese medicine into Chinese music, showcasing local creativity at its best.

Audiences were treated to the versatility of the Yat Po Singers quartet, whose vocals produced, exquisite singing aside, varied sounds from percussion to the neighing of horses.

The singers' theatrical moves, choreographed by Yuri Ng, maximised the space in the hall, taking them from pipe organ to the rows of seats - an effective way to engage the audience.

But what stood out most was the music they synchronised with the 85-strong orchestra, thanks to the superb scores of composer Ng Cheuk-yin performed under the baton of the orchestra's principal conductor, Yan Huichang.

The orchestra played a Chinese parallel of Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. In just seven minutes, the new work showcased all sections of instruments in the orchestra and their distinctive sounds.

Dubbed The Herbalist's Cabinet, it set the stage for Yan, the "herbal doctor", to lead the concert through three musical "consultation" sessions.

Each session comprised some of the best-known Chinese classics, delivered in their orchestra and vocal versions.

In Meditation during Sickness, the voice mimicking a solo erhu sounded almost like the real thing, while in Horse Race, the imitation of the horses' whinny was alternated between the erhu, suona and human voice to amazing effects.

The delightful interaction between the orchestra and the voices lifted the spirits of the audience, whose rhythmic claps in the coda and encores brought the concert to a smiling end.