Over the past 40 years, Music Office has nurtured generations of musicians and music lovers. To commemorate this moment, Music Office has invited some outstanding alumni and former Music Administrators to share their precious moments at Music Office.
Elizabeth Wong, JP (Former Music Administrator of the Music Office)
Elizabeth Wong took over from Gordon Siu and became the second Music Administrator of the Music Office in 1979. She witnessed the ample support given to young people from the Government of the time. “The Government prescribed two major targets for us: first, to nurture our next generation of musicians and to provide Western and Chinese instrumental training; second, to build up an audience, for music needs an audience to appreciate. More importantly, we were to pave the way for young musicians. How could they survive in a society without an audience? Audience was crucial.”
The then Hong Kong Governor Sir Murray MacLehose paid particular attention to the city’s cultural and social development. “Previous Governors did not attach much importance to music, but Sir MacLehose was different. He loved music, and he was also quite popular among youngsters. He was a frequent concertgoer and often received applause from young audience as a sign of welcome.” Mrs Wong also recalled an interesting conversation with the Governor. “My immediate supervisor at the time was the Commissioner for Recreation and Culture. One day, the Governor bypassed my supervisor and called me directly. I took the call as a joke from my supervisor, and the Governor politely confirmed, ‘I am your Governor!’” The Governor knew that a famous musician would be en route via Hong Kong, so he called Mrs Wong directly and asked her to organise a masterclass out of it. It was by this chance that Mrs Wong got acquainted with violinist Isaac Stern.
To achieve the two major targets, the Music Office began to organise instrumental training classes to nurture performers and to promote music to the public through the “Music for the Millions” concerts. During Mrs Wong’s tenure, one of her strategies was to showcase the talents of Hong Kong musicians around the world. “It’s not just to say how good our students are, but to let the audience hear and see how good they are. Music is a universal language. The best way to understand music is to bring it with you to the world.” Stern later set up a music institute in Cyprus. Through different channels, the Music Office provided subsidies for young people in Hong Kong to receive coaching from great masters in Cyprus and to perform along the way. Some trainees even went to London for exchange activities. That was how the local music talent started their overseas exchanges.
“Hong Kong musicians often had an edge in overseas performances.” Mrs Wong recalled that Chinese music was always on the programme when their trainees went on overseas concert tours, and Chinese music was popular in many parts of the world. “The audience was very passionate about and deeply impressed by the excellent performance of both Chinese and Western music staged by Hong Kong young musicians. There were repeated requests for encores, keeping us from leaving.” Such exchanges not only enabled musicians to make friends with one another, but also introduced Hong Kong’s Chinese and Western music to overseas audiences.
Having chaired many meetings on strategy for music development in Hong Kong, Mrs Wong’s experience was unparalleled in the Government at that time. “During the days when I was in the Music Office, I certainly had meetings with Administrative Officers of different departments and got in touch with a lot of musicians. Their backgrounds were so diverse, say Thomas Wang was from Shanghai and Tong Leung-tak was from Beijing. They all spoke different dialects.” However, according to Mrs Wong, exchanges were always smooth despite the fact that they spoke different dialects. “Chinese music experts speaking Shanghainese and Putonghua met with English-speaking officials, working together in the Government.” The discussions, with Mrs Wong’s endorsement, became official minutes written in English, and are now archived in the Government Records Service.
Mrs Wong witnessed the early music development in Hong Kong. Being an Administrative Officer mainly responsible for administrative work did not preclude her love for music. As an outstanding pianist, she was a frequent award winner during her earlier years. “Music lovers easily radiate their passion for music. After all, music is an art of communication,” Mrs Wong said.
Doris Ho, JP (Former Music Administrator of the Music Office)
Doris Ho assumed the position of Music Administrator of the Music Office in 1984. “I thought that the Government did a very good job in providing so many students with the opportunities to learn musical instruments. Other than sports activities and school lessons, there were not many activities and interests for students at that time. For this reason, music was a good option for them.” Mrs Ho recalled that a ceiling of 5 000 trainees was set for the Instrumental Music Training Scheme. At its early stage of implementation, learning musical instruments was not commonplace. “We had to devote substantial efforts in promotion. It was not until some years later that the number of trainees getting close to the target of 5 000.” One of the important supporting strategies adopted at that time was the Musical Instruments Hire Scheme. “Musical instruments were rather expensive. From parents’ point of view, buying a musical instrument was something more than affordability. As they could not tell if their children would stay interested in learning a musical instrument, it was hard to decide whether to buy the instrument or not. In this regard, we implemented the Musical Instruments Hire Scheme, under which students were only required to pay a modest monthly rent for using the musical instruments. Upon completion of the course, the instruments would belong to the trainees. However, a trainee had to return the instrument at the moment he dropped out from the course.”
Social resources in the 1980s were not as abundant as they are now. As such, the activities organised by the Music Office were particularly valuable. “Each year the music camp attracted a lot of new participants. It was indeed exciting for those who went camping without their family members for the first time. I was also there to join their rehearsals and activities.” In addition to music training, there were a range of recreational activities in the music camp appealing to young children. She said, “They could play ball games and roller-skate in the camp as they liked. However, if they got carried away and forgot to attend a rehearsal on time, they would have kept other trainees waiting. Therefore, we emphasised the importance of discipline in the camp, and we hoped that campers would learn the skills of self-control in games. The two-week training was a good learning opportunity for them.” What made it unforgettable to Mrs Ho was the strong atmosphere of music everywhere. “After dinner, every trainee seized the time to practise, making tuneful music in every corner of the camp site. To them, this was not possible at home. I was so delighted to see their dedication to practice.”
External music exchanges were a brand new experience for many young musicians. “Apart from travelling by plane for the first time with the ensemble’s delegation, they were also ambassadors to showcase their music talents on stage in other places for exchanges. This gave them a greater sense of fulfilment.” Mrs Ho recalled that shortly after the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration (the Declaration) in 1984, she led a delegation from the Music Office to Beijing and Shanghai for performances. It was particularly meaningful for them because they were the first batch of Hong Kong students taking part in music exchanges in the Mainland after the signing of the Declaration.
Mrs Ho commented that at that time students faced great pressure and experienced different hurdles in life. “They faced great pressure from class promotion in their schools and a heavy load of homework. Students came to our centres after school to learn music and did their homework right after class. Very often, I saw them discuss how to do the homework together and help one another with their homework. Sometimes even the instructors offered them help. Everyone worked together to solve problems like a big family.” She considered music a good medicine for relaxation. “Music is very important to everyone’s life. It has a soothing effect on our emotion nowadays when people are so often overwhelmed by helplessness.”
Mrs Ho considered that the strength of the Music Office lies in its team spirit. “We do not teach the piano. We do not want to produce individual musicians. We are training a group of musicians to make music together. When learning a musical instrument in the Music Office, you will soon realise that you can play music with your friends once you play your instrument well. The joy of working together is our greatest strength.”
Leung Kin-fung (Former trainee of the Music Office, former member of the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra )
Leung Kin-fung joined the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Music Office in 1978. He had been a member of the orchestra throughout his entire secondary school life. He was like treading on ice when he first joined the orchestra. He said, “There were so many experienced big brothers and sisters in the orchestra, and I was just a green lad.” However, what he enjoyed most was playing in the orchestra. “When I studied at university in the United States, I resolved to be an orchestra musician, but not a soloist like Yo-Yo Ma. One more thing was that I wished I could hold one of the two seats in the front row of the orchestra.” He believed that the guidance of conductors and instructors given to him during his long period of training in the youth orchestra had in some way determined the direction and objectives of his career.
Mr Leung recalled that he was a bit lucky to get admitted into the Music Office orchestra. “I lived in the mainland when I was small, and I moved to Hong Kong later. I had been learning music from my father. In my early days in Hong Kong, my father thought that I should broaden my horizon by learning from others. At that time, we lived in Tung Ping Building, and it happened that one of the music centres of the Music Office was located in the same building.” Owing to the close proximity, coupled with limited choices for learning music in Hong Kong in the late 1970s, Mr Leung applied to join the Music Office orchestra. “Apart from the Music Office, there were actually no other alternatives. I still remember the moment when my father walked me from home to the music centre which was located in a commercial/ residential flat on the other side of the building.”
Though the auditions of the orchestra were stringent, Mr Leung was brilliant enough to be recruited into the string orchestra. Soon after he got used to making music with others, he was recommended to join the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra (B). Mr Leung said that it was an orchestra at elementary level for trainees to familiarise with playing in an orchestra. “One day, I received a letter notifying me that I would become a member of Orchestra (A) of the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra. It was the most encouraging moment in my life. I had been happy for a whole month. At that time, I did not know how to react, but later I came to know that it was very important to me. My dream to perform in an orchestra came true. The letter was framed and is still in good shape.” In retrospect, Mr Leung considered the satisfaction and confidence he gained in music was originated from the training in the orchestra.
In Mr Leung’s view, apart from outstanding performing technique, a principal violinist is also required to communicate with others. “I can tell you that the time I spend on communication with conductors and musicians is much more than that on performance and practice. I’m sure that these communication skills were somehow acquired from my training in the Music Office.” He believed that the growing up environment is crucial to the mastery of communication skills. “I often tell my children and students not to confine themselves to room practice. Instead, they should go out to engage in chamber music or small orchestral performance. Through human interaction, music conveys ideas. It is no longer a series of notes.” Mr Leung is currently the First Associate Concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Performing Arts Director of the Diocesan Girls’ School. In leading a school orchestra, he keeps encouraging his students to interact with others. “School orchestral training is more than an extra-curricular activity. The exchange of ideas and reaching out, be they beyond school campus or outside Hong Kong, are all vital to music. In all circumstances, we have to seize the opportunities to exchange with others through which music learning becomes much easier.”
To date, Mr Leung has realised his dream with wide recognition. In 2015, he received the Hong Kong Arts Development Award - Artist of the Year (Music) from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. To him, music is closely related to thinking. He said, “One has to pay attention to both the pitch and rhythm of music at the same time, and to strike a balance between the quality of timbres and preservation of the style of the composer. This requires a lot of thinking as well as physical coordination. Music certainly gives our brains a good workout.”
Dr Lung Heung-wing (Former Principal Percussionist of the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra)
Dr Lung Heung-wing started his musical journey at the age of six. He began to receive his piano lessons from his aunt, while his uncle, renowned music educator cum conductor Dr Yip Wai-hong, invited him to join the then newly formed Hong Kong Children’s Choir. “My voice was just so hoarse! Dr Yip then asked me to try the xylophone. There was no percussion teacher at that time, and playing xylophone was just my hobby. I still focused on the piano.” In 1977, Dr Lung was admitted to the Hong Kong Baptist College, which is now a university, to pursue music study. It so happened that the Music Office was set up in the same year. “After the establishment of the Music Office, six Hong Kong young musicians were awarded scholarship to pursue further studies in a music conservatory in the United Kingdom. I was so lucky to be one of them, and I was the only percussionist among them.”
When the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra was to go on overseas concert tour in 1979, Dr Lung flew back to Hong Kong to join the Orchestra for performances. “I was so honoured to be the Principal Percussionist, playing Darius Milhaud’s Concerto for Percussion & Small Orchestra, and to go on concert tour to the United Kingdom and France with the Orchestra.” He later completed his studies in the United Kingdom and the United States, and obtained the postgraduate and doctoral degrees before returning to Hong Kong. He had been the Principal Percussionist of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra until 2003, when he founded the Hong Kong Percussion Centre. He established the centre because he saw the big world for percussion. “The world of music is vast; it is particularly true for the world of percussion. The more you learn, the more you realise how deficient you are. Therefore, we have to stay humble and keep learning.” Dr Lung is a soloist, an educator, and recently a musical instrument maker, who has been invited by the renowned Taiwanese artist Ju Ming to participate in a plastic installation exhibition. Dr Lung’s works were put on exhibition for six months between 2013 and 2014. “Suddenly I became a visual artist,” exclaimed Dr Lung. What music brings him is a journey of life-long learning.
In Dr Lung’s view, learning music does not necessarily mean that one has to be a musician. Music gives people pleasure. Everyone can find the music they enjoy in everyday life. “You have to learn to read the scores if you learn to play the piano, and go through certain procedures. For percussion, students can enjoy the striking and hitting of the musical instruments at the start without reading the scores. We do have some mnemonics to help the children in memorising the music and let them enjoy the fun of percussion before moving on to complex rhythms that need memorisation of the scores.” Dr Lung thinks that theory is not necessarily a starting point for learning music; rather, we should, first of all, enjoy music with our body and ears. “This method is applicable to foundation classes for both children and adults.”
Another attraction of music is that you can share the joy with others. “Music career is the most rewarding job in the world. The pleasure of sharing music with student audience is tremendous. What music brings has nothing to do with money but spiritual satisfaction. Happiness is not something for his own self; it is the fun of sharing with others. The happiness of enjoying music with others is simply irreplaceable.”
James Leung (Former trainee and instructor of the Music Office, former member of the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra)
James Leung began his instrumental training in the Music Office in 1979. Before that, he was an active member in a school band. “When I was in Form 4, the school identified some students who loved music and pooled some instrumental instructors to organise instrumental training classes in school. I learnt to play the bassoon at first, but my training came to a halt after I completed Form 5. As recommended by my instructor, I later continued my training in the Music Office.” Afterwards, Mr Leung joined various district orchestras under the Music Office and subsequently joined the Hong Kong Youth Symphonic Band. He was then employed by the Music Office as an instructor to give instrumental training and to manage music scores.
Working in the Music Office laid a good foundation of musicianship for Mr Leung. “I had to copy the part for each instrument from the full scores before distributing it to members for practice. I could not simply copy the parts mechanically, but had to think if the range was right and to transpose the notes where necessary. More importantly, the job had to be done within a very short time. A newly arranged piece would be used for rehearsal in just three days’ time! I was trained to read and write the music scores quickly, and to be well familiar with the characteristics of Chinese and Western musical instruments.”
This experience was very beneficial to Mr Leung’s subsequent career. He has been the Director of Music of the Hong Kong Police Band for years, and has led the band in marches and performances. He has witnessed almost all the historic occasions of Hong Kong, and has led the band to overseas performances and exchanges. To him, the state of mind for working as the Director of Music of the Hong Kong Police Band is more or less the same as that for a musician in other orchestras. “Undoubtedly, the police band is unit of a disciplinary force. Due to operational needs, its mode of operation is quite different from that of an ordinary orchestra. We have to strictly abide by discipline. There are also differences in methods and sections of rehearsals and mode of management. Yet, in terms of musical performances, we are the same as other orchestras. Of course, we have certain limitations on repertoire; we cannot play whatever music we like during ceremonies. However, when the time comes, we may still perform something we like.” He said with a smile that it was not particularly difficult to be a disciplinary officer. Like other Superintendents, Mr Leung went through tough training in the Police College, including physical training, legal knowledge, police rules and use of firearms. He was no exception and he had to pass the assessments before joining the police force formally. “Being tormented by the elements was common to us. We have to look vigorous and energetic in ceremonies. Fortunately, members of my band are physically fit.” Being a music director in a police band is not easy.
On the day of the interview, Mr Leung was rehearsing the passing-out parade for the Police College in Wong Chuk Hang. Although it was a rehearsal, the supervising officers held stringent requirements on band members and passing-out members as well as every detail of the march. “They will wear neat ceremonial uniform during the real parade!” Marching on the searing parade ground requires powers of endurance.
Mr Leung reckons that music is beneficial to personal development. “Music training is an ideal discipline training for children. To make good music, you must make effort in practice. Working hard makes good music, and your effort produces results. The satisfaction from a successful performance is irreplaceable.” The Music Office not only laid the foundation for Mr Leung, but also connected him with a lot of friends who love music. “Music requires co-operation and understanding. In my opinion, all music learners should join ensembles.” Many of his band mates in the old days are now his good friends, and he treasures their friendship dearly.
Ng Cheuk-yin (Former Sheng Principal of the Hong Kong Youth Chinese Orchestra)
Ng Cheuk-yin is a composer, the founder of a fusion band SIU2 and the Co-Artistic Director of the a cappella group “Yat Po Singers”. He has studied both Chinese and Western music. He composes music of different genres ranging from Chinese and Western orchestral music, a cappella theatre, Cantopop to crossover music. As a sheng performer and a keyboard player, Mr Ng often works with different orchestras. His musical journey began with the Music Office.
“I joined the Music Office at the age of nine, playing Chinese music and learning Western music as well. I was a sheng player. When I later formed a band with my friends and served as a keyboard player, I came up with the idea of bringing these two musical instruments together. It gave birth to SIU2.”
SIU2 is unique in its use of various Chinese and Western musical instruments. Mr Ng has devoted great efforts to include these musical instruments in the band. “When writing music, I hope that Chinese music players will feel comfortable with the music, while Western music players will know what I am trying to achieve. Each musical instrument has its uniqueness and tone colours. How to bring them together in a less awkward way requires a lot of efforts.”
“If I did not study sheng in the Music Office, my career development would definitely be different.” Mr Ng’s knowledge of music and creation dates back to the days when he received training from the Music Office. “The ensemble experience in the Music Office is crucial to me. Learning Chinese music and playing music with friends here has changed my views on Chinese music.” The music camp organised by the Music Office every year was one of his most favourite activities. “I met a lot of friends who studied Chinese music when I joined the Chinese orchestra in the music camp. As there were choirs, symphonic bands and string orchestras in the camp, I made friends with other musicians too. Apart from making new friends, I was also given the opportunity to have a thorough understanding of and access to large scale ensembles of different genres.”
His rich and diversified portfolio of compositions has been recognised with numerous awards, including the Hong Kong Arts Development Award 2011 - Award for Best Artist (Music) by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council; and the Best Serious Composition in CASH Golden Sail Music Awards by the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong for his theatrical choral work Rock Hard and his double sheng concerto Before the City Collapses in 2009 and 2013 respectively. Music not only realises his current achievements, but also gives impetus to his life. “More importantly, it drove me to move on along the musical path. This is not only for fulfilling my parents’ dream, but also for sharing the fun of learning with a group of friends who love music,” he concluded.
Kenny Koo (Former Concertmaster of the Hong Kong Youth Chinese Orchestra)
Kenny Koo excels in various types of huqins (Chinese bowed-string instruments, mainly of two strings). He came to know the Chinese bowed-string instruments in the Music Office. “I checked my assessment results in the Music Office, and then I realised that the first type of huqins that I learnt was gaohu. That was probably when I was in junior secondary school. I later learnt erhu and banhu as well. After joining the orchestra, I had access to different types of huqins.” Mr Koo is affectionate with huqins because of their closeness to human voice, like singing. “They are simply songs without lyrics, but are capable of expressing delicate emotions. Different types of huqins represent different cultural styles, and that is very interesting.”
Mr Koo modestly said that his achievements in music can hardly be described as outstanding at all. “To date, I am still in the ‘music playing’ state of mind.” Recalling his days in the Music Office, he pointed out that there were many fringe activities apart from learning musical instruments. “Theory classes, aural classes, grade examinations, music camps, Chinese Music Days, music festivals and so on are some examples. As I became more affectionate with music, I tended to be more proactive. I studied other materials which were out of syllabus in secret. If I was only to meet the requirements of the classes and examinations, it would suffice to confine to the assigned pieces contained in the syllabus. But as we were so eager for further improvements, we spent extra time on practice and explore extra learning materials as well.”
Competitions among orchestras were another challenge to Mr Koo. “The Chinese Music Day was an annual event for Chinese orchestras from different districts to come together. There were games, snacks as well as performances. We could also observe how other students perform in the Music Day.” Mr Koo admitted that watching others perform involve healthy competitions. “The performances were so exciting and competitive. Participants might learn from one another through observation while immersing themselves in the performances.”
Mr Koo said that during his days in the Music Office, he came to know many maestros, who broadened his horizons. “Once I saw a musical instrument called zhuihu, with its neck like sanxian, but its body and sound like erhu. It was actually a hybrid of the two. I eventually asked a sanxian instructor to teach me how to press the strings with my left hand and requested my instructor to get me the particular strings. I also learnt how to play the scales at the same time.” Although it was merely a small episode of the music camp, it had a significant bearing on Mr Koo. “Though young at that time, I was able to acquire new knowledge on my own, which was some kind of self-learning.” Mr Koo not only grasped the techniques of music learning, but also found the way to acquire knowledge. “Music is not merely an interest, but a lifelong belief. It is your life companion and the source of happiness.”
Currently, Mr Koo is a huqin player, as well as the Treasurer of the Windpipe Chinese Ensemble and a director of a telecommunication corporation. Music guides him to explore new knowledge and motivates him to acquire knowledge. He said, “The Music Office has laid the foundation for my knowledge acquisition. It is beneficial to my understanding of music and acquisition of new knowledge in future.”
Choy Lap-tak (Former trainee of the Music Office)
“A Music Office Instructors’ Orchestra gave a performance in my school when I was in Primary 4. I took the opportunity to enrol on a course and became a percussion learner in the Music Office since I was in Primary 5.” Like other children, Choy Lap-tak frequently found excuses to skip music classes in his childhood. As a boy playing percussion instruments, he “could never be quiet down and remain attentive”. “I larked around and did not practise and often told my mother that I did not want to attend classes. At the beginning, I did not make much progress in learning.”
However, things were quite different a couple of years later when Mr Choy joined the symphonic band. “I still played not very well at first, but the conductor at the time, Mr Pak Wing-heng, taught us patiently. I began to realise that it was great fun to play music with friends. At that time, I came to know that frequent practice and self-discipline were the keys to improvements.”
Mr Choy admitted that he made slow progress in learning, but with a passion for percussion, he was willing to pay efforts to practise and overcome the difficulties. “When you practise on your own, you do not know much about your status. Playing music together, however, gives you a new horizon: You come to know that this rhythm goes with trumpets; and the rhythm should be different when being struck with strings. Besides, a successful ensemble performance is like playing games with a lot of people. It is great fun.”
To become a professional musician, Mr Choy believes that performance is of utmost importance. “Performing in front of the audience is the only way to learn how to stage performances. The instant response required in performances can only be obtained through repeated performances. The Music Office provides a lot of performance opportunities for trainees at vastly different venues. Each venue has its own acoustics that require adjustments according to circumstances.” Every performance gives Mr Choy a new stimulus, and enables him to make continuous improvements in performance skills. “While I observe students’ problems during the lessons, I also ponder how I can do better in my next performance.”
Regarding his current achievements, Mr Choy is grateful to the Music Office for leading him to the music profession. He has worked with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, the Macao Orchestra and other bands as a percussionist. He is active in percussion performances and teaching. However, Mr Choy still thinks that once a person has chosen the musical path, he has to keep improving. “Percussion is a wide world with evolving techniques. There are so many types of music, and knowledge is boundless. As such, I can only keep learning.” Despite that, he still enjoys playing music. He concluded, “Playing music is fun!”
Joyce Law (Former member of the Music Office Youth Choir)
“Having been a member of the school choir since a very young age, Joyce Law was briefed on the Hong Kong Youth Music Camp of the Music Office by her school teacher when she was in Form 3. She decided to give it a try. Since then, there has been a subtle bond between her and the Music Office. At that time, Ms Law applied to join the Music Camp Choir with a good friend of hers, but only she was admitted. She had once considered giving up the chance. However, the superb performance of the choir members in the pre-camp rehearsals had her wonder struck. “They all had a passion for singing and their standard was so amazing.” She then plucked up the courage to join the music camp, and later joined the Music Office Youth Choir where she met members of different backgrounds. Ms Law found that she loved choral singing even more. “Singing in a choir is not something personal, but a concerted effort to make harmony and to give wonderful singing performances.”
Making friends with people who share the same interests helps Ms Law understand herself more. “When I was in the music camp, I always practiced singing until my throat was sore and my voice hoarse. Thus, I often brought lozenges with me. But I noticed that my fellow choir members did not need lozenges at all. This made me understand the importance of daily training and practice.” Ms Law specifically mentioned the conductor Jing Li at that time, who had a longlasting influence on her. Ms Li made her realise that choral singing was not only an art that brought choir members together for a common goal, but also represented the spirit of perseverance. “I studied speech therapy in university and had started a career in the profession. Then, I realised that I still had a passion for choral singing. So I pondered if I should turn music into my profession. I eventually returned to university to study vocal music.”
Conductor Jing Li also taught Ms Law the ways to learn. “Ms Li sets clear targets for choir members in each training session. When targets were reached, the session would end with joy. I later discovered that setting clear targets for choir members to achieve together was also a norm for many other conductors. It shed light on me, thus I set my own targets whenever I practise or provide coaching to others too.” Another conductor who had inspired Ms Law was the Senior Music Officer of the Music Office, Dr Angelina Au. “Dr Au was very patient with choir members. Music is, in fact, an art that requires dedication to excellence. She taught us patiently and led us to reach the targets instead of forcing us to achieve the standard. That was totally different from my past learning experience.” Ms Law realised that musicians are not only going after artistic skills, but also the character and manner that inspire others.
Ms Law considers that vocal music is the use of one’s voice to sincerely express one’s own thoughts. “At first, our voices may need to be refined, but after learning vocal music, our voices will become more beautiful, which enable us to express ourselves and, in turn, to move the audience.” As a choir conductor and a vocalist, Ms Law is working toward this goal.
Ho Pui-kei (Former member of the Music Office choirs)
Ho Pui-kei joined the Music Office Children’s Choir in 1992 and, later, the Music Office Youth Choir. While he had experience in singing in a choir at a very young age, it was not until he joined the Music Office choirs that he realised he had to learn music seriously. “There was regular practice every week, when choir members from different places gathered together. Members practised together, heading towards the same goal, thus bearing a sense of responsibility in accomplishing the goal together,” he said.
He thinks that the Music Office provides a favourable environment to nurture people’s passion for music. He first received choir training at the age of 11. “When I went into the Mong Kok Music Centre of the Music Office, it seemed to me that it was another world. Everyone there was dedicated to give their best for music, and paid no attention to other things.” Every choir member was determined to perform his best. His being selected as the Most Outstanding Member of the Choir was impressive. “The conductor publicly stated that she witnessed my growth in the choir with continuous improvement; not only in music, but also in all getting along with people,” Mr Ho recalled one of his most memorable moments.
At first, Mr Ho received his music training out of interest and fondness. As time went on, his passion for music grew stronger, thus motivating him to pursue further improvement. The people he came to know in the choir became his best friends. “Singing in a choir is not something by oneself. Everyone must make a concerted effort to give great performances.” Although Mr Ho is not working in the music profession, he performs in the Music Office Annual Gala with a group of former members every year. “We, a group of alumni, gather together to give performance every year. It’s a treasured experience, and it brings us memories of how we worked hard together in those years.”
Mr Ho is working in the fashion industry. The current uniforms of the Music Office Youth Choir are his works. “For the past uniforms, both the male and female wore the same bow ties. In the eyes of the boys, however, the design of the bow tie was a bit feminine. I then suggested designing a bow tie for the boys’ uniforms. That was quite a daring suggestion, but my design was accepted by the Music Office, and has been used up to now. I think it looks better.”
Music has brought Mr Ho a lot of insight. “Although I am not a practising musician, music has integrated into my profession. I think choosing the music path is rewarding.” More importantly, music always moves him. “Sometimes I weep when I sing, for music is so touching!”