About HKCO

Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra


“It was as fascinating to see the Orchestra as it was to hear it.”
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times



Background
  • The Orchestra was founded in 1977 and is the only professional, full-sized Chinese orchestra in Hong Kong. It came under the management of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra Limited on 1st April, 2001 when the latter took over from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of Hong Kong. It has won the accolades as “a leader in Chinese ethnic music” and “a cultural ambassador of Hong Kong”. Under the leadership of the incumbent Artistic Director and Principal Conductor for Life Yan Huichang (1997-date), and former Music Directors - Ng Tai Kong (1977-1986), Kuan Nai-chung (1986-1990) and Henry Shek (1993-1997), the Orchestra has made it its mission to promote Chinese music and see to its continuous development.
  • The Orchestra is deeply rooted in the Chinese cultural heritage. Its performance format and repertoire include both traditional Chinese music and contemporary full-scale works. It also explores new frontiers in music through commissioning about 2,300 new works of various types and styles, whether as original compositions or arrangements, many of which have won awards at home and abroad. The Orchestra currently has an establishment of 91 musicians who perform in the four sections comprising bowed-strings, plucked-strings, wind and percussion instruments. Traditional as well as improved Chinese instruments are incorporated.

Scope of Activities:
  • To bring the colourful world of Chinese music to the people of Hong Kong, the Orchestra organizes more than one hundred regular and outreach concerts every year, as well as mass activities and arts festivals, including Hong Kong Huqin Festival, Hong Kong Drum Festival, Hong Kong Dizi and Xiao Festival, Hong Kong Zheng Festival, Hong Kong Yanqin Festival, Composers’ Festival of Hong Kong and Conductors’ Festival of Hong Kong.
  • As a cultural ambassador of Hong Kong, the Orchestra has been invited to perform at various famous venues in the world and at international festivals. It has performed in Australia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, mainland China, Taiwan, Macao, Canada, the United States, Holland, Austria, Germany, England, France, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Ireland, Russia; Belgium and Norway (Arctic Circle).
  • To promote Chinese music to different sectors of the community and to provide long-term financial support for the development of the Orchestra, the Friends of HKCO was set up in 1998 and the HKCO Development Fund was set up in 2002.
  • To nurture the growth of a new generation of music-makers and audience in Chinese music, the Orchestra gives performances in schools and organizes instrumental classes for different age groups. The Hong Kong Children Chinese Orchestra and the Hong Kong Junior Chinese Orchestra were established in 2003. Educational projects were organized in conjunction with television stations, radios and other institutions, and a CD-ROM entitled The Treasure of Chinese Music: The Huqin was produced and released by the Orchestra.
  • The Orchestra has joined hands with the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, universities and tertiary institutions of Hong Kong in music education projects such as the Artistic Exchange Programme, the Internship Scheme, and The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts/HKCO - Institutions Partnership Programme & Professional Orchestra Internship. Furthermore, in 2009, the Orchestra established the world’s first Chinese orchestral academy - The HKCO Orchestral Academy with the Xi’an Conservatory of Music.
  • The Orchestra continues to develop and conduct research on Chinese traditional and contemporary music, and to strive to achieve the best acoustic effects through reforming instruments by setting up the Folk Music Group, the Chamber Music Group and the Instrument R & D Group.
  • The Orchestra has an extensive discography of over 50, which includes live recordings of its concerts, studio recordings etc. in CD, VCD, DVD and BD (Blu-Ray Disc) formats. It also launched the world’s first ever SACD recording of a live concert by a Chinese orchestra in 2003.
  • The Orchestra performed the soundtrack music for such award-winning films as Warriors of Heaven and Earth and Kung Fu Hustle.
  • Apart from collating and publishing papers presented at the symposia and conferences, the Orchestra also publishes books on Chinese music. The titles published to date are The Enjoyment of Chinese Orchestral Music and A Handbook to Appreciating Chinese Orchestral Music.
  • In carrying out social commitments, the ‘Music for Love’ scheme was set up in September 2005 to bring the beauty of Chinese music to the under-privileged like seniors, orphans and single-parents centres etc.

International Competitions, Conferences and Symposia
  • An international conference on the development of Chinese music, entitled Retrospect and Development of Modern Chinese Orchestra. Experts and scholars attending came from Hong Kong, China and overseas, and many enlightening views were raised on the occasion. (1997)
  • The International Competition for Chinese Orchestral Composition 2000 and the Chinese Orchestra Composition Symposium to promote Chinese orchestral compositions and explore the acoustic effects through different configuration layouts. (2000)
  • A seminar series entitled On the Ecology of Chinese Music in a Modern Environment and Its Future Developments, and also invited music lovers and eight professional orchestras to take part in the worldwide poll for ‘Golden Chinese Classics of the Century’. (2002)
  • The Fourth International Symposium on Chinese Music - Tradition and Evolution. (2007)
  • The first ever International Conducting Competition for Chinese Music, followed by the Hong Kong Symposium for Conducting. Local and overseas experts in the field, academics as well as representatives at senior executive or artistic level from orchestral groups in Asia were invited to participate. (2011)
  • The International Composition Prize 2013 with The Luxembourg Society for Contemporary Music. (2013)
  • The 2nd International Conducting Competition for Chinese Music with the Xi’an Conservatory of Music. (2014)
  • The Chinese Music Without Bounds - International Composers’ Summit. (2016)
  • The Third International Conducting Competition for Chinese Music with the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan. (2017)
  • The Chinese Music Without Bounds - International Composition Competition. (2017)

Achieving Guinness World Records
  • A new Guinness World Record was set by the Orchestra when about a thousand Hong Kong citizens played at a mass performance entitled Music from a Thousand Strings. The official entry was made as the largest number of people performing the erhu at the same time. (2001)
  • The Orchestra held the Opening Rally of the Hong Kong Drum Festival at an unprecedented mass performance witnessed by all Hong Kong citizens, when three thousand Hong Kong citizens played a drum piece, The Earth Shall Move . The event marked another Guinness World Records entry for the Orchestra and served to boost the morale of the people of Hong Kong after the ravages of SARS. (2003)
  • More than 500 Hong Kong citizens joined the HKCO in a mass performance at the Opening Ceremony of the Hong Kong Dizi and Xiao Festival 2005 - another world record for having the largest number of people playing the dizi together. (2005)

Honours and Awards
  • The Orchestra was awarded for ‘The Most Outstanding Achievement in Advancing Contemporary Chinese Music’ by the ISCM World Music Days 2002 Hong Kong. (2002)
  • The Orchestra was the first performing arts group to be awarded ‘Directors of the Year - Statutory / Non-profit-distributing Organisation Board’ by The Hong Kong Institute of Directors for achievement in corporate governance. (2004)
  • The Orchestra was the first performing arts group to be awarded ‘2004 Best Corporate Governance Disclosure Awards - Gold Award of Public Sector / Not-for-profit Category’ by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. (2004)
  • The Orchestra was the first performing arts group to be awarded for ‘The 28th Top Ten Chinese Gold Songs Award - The Golden Needle Award’ by Radio Television Hong Kong. (2005)
  • The Orchestra was the first performing arts group to be awarded the ‘10 Plus Caring Organisation’ logo by The Hong Kong Council of Social Services. (2005 - 2015)
  • The Orchestra was awarded the ‘Most Outstanding Achievement in Advancing Asian Contemporary Music’ by the Asian Composers League. (2007)
  • Roots of the Chinese, a recording that featured the Orchestra, won two awards in the ‘Instrumental Music - Album’ category and the ‘Instrumental Music - Performance’ category at the 6th China Gold Record Awards. (2008)
  • The Orchestra was the first performing arts group to be awarded the Judging Panel’s Grand Prize in The 2nd Hong Kong Corporate Branding Award. (2008)
  • The Eco-Huqin Series developed by the Orchestra was awarded the ‘Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence - “Class of Good” Productwi$e Label’. (2008)
  • The Chinese Music Alive Scheme of the Orchestra was awarded the Certificate of Merit - Award for Arts Education by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. (2011)
  • ‘The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra presents the world’s first Hong Kong International Conducting Competition for Chinese Music’ was voted as one of the Top 10 Music Headlines by the related industries and Hong Kong citizens in two consecutive years. (2011, 2012)
  • The Hong Kong International Conducting Competition for Chinese Music of the Orchestra was awarded the 2011 Bronze Award for Arts Promotion (Group/Organisation Category) by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. (2012)
  • The Eco-Huqin Series developed by the Orchestra was on the honours list of the ‘4th Ministry of Culture Innovation Award’ of the People’s Republic of China. (2012)
  • The Eco-Huqin Series won the ‘Green Innovations Award’ presented by the ‘2013 Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence’. (2014)
  • The Eco-Huqin Series won the ‘Distinguished Innovative Environmental Concept Award’ at the 4th ‘Green China - 2014 Environmental Achievement Awards’. (2014)
  • The Eco-Huqin Series won the U Green Awards for ‘Excellence of Environmental Contributions - Culture and Art’. (2015, 2016)
  • The Orchestra was awarded for ‘Outstanding Corporate Strategy Awards 2017’. (2017)
  • The Orchestra was awarded for ‘Asia Excellence Brand Award 2017’. (2018)
  • The Orchestra was awarded for ‘Eco-brand Awards 2018’. (2018)