Classical music

Hong Kong Children’s Orchestra players pack a powerful punch in captivating anniversary concert

Musicians past and present join forces to mark orchestra's first 20 years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 January, 2016, 7:04am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 January, 2016, 10:29am

There is no better way to celebrate the first two decades of the city’s top youth orchestra than by inviting former youngsters to perform with the current crop of musicians. The result here was an extraordinary show of talent, and it was difficult to tell who was most impressed with whom.

The gala started with a speech by venerable music director Dr Yip Wai-hong, who founded the orchestra in 1996 after years of success with the children’s choir.

His daughter Yip Wing-sie, a co-founder and music director of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, kicked off the concert with an exhilarating performance of Bernstein’s Candide Overture. The combined force of the alumni orchestra with the “Beethoven Orchestra”, the name for the slightly older members of the two bands under the Children’s Orchestra, displayed power and finesse. The final dash was breathtaking.

Next came Gabriel Leung, a former member of Yip’s boy choir, percussionist and now dean of HKU’s medical school, who led the alumni along with the “Mozart Orchestra”, featuring players as young as seven, in a thrilling performance of Finlandia by Jean Sibelius. They showed amazing richness in the climaxes and sombreness in the mid-section hymn.

The rapturous applause was exceeded only in the response to Leung’s call to his former government colleague Florence Hui Hiu-fai of the Home Affairs Bureau, who was in the audience, for “more support to struggling local musicians”.

In Vivaldi’s concerto for four violins, a quartet of former concertmasters played the solo part under the baton of the 84-year old founder. Gary Ngan, the first soloist and now an associate leader of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, had much to display in his solid technique. Kiann Chow of the Sinfonietta, Doris Lee of the Pan Asia orchestra and Agnes Tse, a Juilliard alumni, also had their moment to shine.

The second half began with Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody, an orchestral showpiece famous for its varying rhythms. But it became a fun ride under the baton of Johnny Ng, Yip’s deputy. And more musical meandering came with Jimmy Chiang, a former Yip chorister and now choirmaster with the renowned Vienna Boys, conducting the Blue Danube.

Two more former concertmasters took the limelight in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. Sinfonietta associate leader Kitty Cheung and Hong Kong Philharmonic principal viola Andrew Ling, played the violin-viola duo in exquisite style with the young players in the absence of a conductor.

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture provided the final fireworks under Perry So, its former resident conductor, who garnered enormous power from tender hands and lips to produce a big sound for all to behold and feel proud of.

20th Anniversary Celebration Concert, Hong Kong Children’s Orchestra, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. Reviewed: January 2