45th Orchestral Season

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The Drums of Hong Kong Resound!

Safety Godown Group Proudly Supports

Date and Time
30/10/2021 (Sat) 8:00 pm
31/10/2021 (Sun) 3:00 pm
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Ticket Fee
$420, $320, $250, $200
Chew Hee Chiat
Performed by
Percussion: Refiner Drums
Taiko: GEKKO
Drum Set: Lawrence Tsui
Eco-Bass Gehu: Sylvain Gagnon
The Hong Kong Drum Festival, the highly popular gala event of Hong Kong, is entering its 19th year! Last season’s show was a roaring success. It featured Refiner Drums, the winner of several previous Hong Kong Synergy 24 Drum Competitions, and GEKKO, the taiko drum team from Hong Kong. This year, the two groups will reprise their gripping, action-packed performance in this percussion music feast. In addition, the HKCO has commissioned local composer Ng Cheuk-yin to write a piece for drum set and Chinese orchestra. The pop drummer and percussionist, Lawrence Tsui and bassist, Sylvain Gagnon, will take us all into an exciting world of percussive rhythms and sounds!
Rhythmic Drums of the Yellow River   Wang Baocan   Arr. by Shani Jiangzhou Drum Troupe
The Refiner Drums Chapter II   Leung Ching-kit
Percussion: Refiner Drums

Mori no Shōkan   (Hong Kong Premiere)                                          

The first movement: Uzushio   KODO  Arr. by Kenney Leung
The second movement: Miyake   KODO  Arr. by Fai Hui
The third movement: Mori no Mori hō   GEKKO  Arr. by Toto Tong
Finale: Zoku   Leonard Eto  Arr. by Hubert Leung                                                                                 
Taiko: GEKKO

Don   Compiled and Arranged by Chau Chin-tung, Hubert Leung and Leung Ching-kit   (World Premiere)
Percussion: Refiner Drums
Taiko: GEKKO

Drums in Celebration of a Bumper Harvest   Peng Xiuwen and Cai Huichuan     

Drum Set and Orchestra   Unknown Land   Ng Cheuk-yin   (Commissioned by the HKCO/ World Premiere) 
Drum Set: Lawrence Tsui
Eco-Bass Gehu: Sylvain Gagnon

Percussion and Orchestra    Let the Thunder of Drums Roll VII.1021   Chew Hee Chiat    

Audience perform with the artists and the HKCO
Music Views & Previews

The Traditional and the Modern: drum music in the cultural diversity of Hong Kong 

Wong King Chung

There is a Chinese saying ‘the clamour of gongs and drums fills the air’. It was originally used to describe the battle scenes in ancient times when generals used gongs and drums to direct their troops to charge forward. Today, though we may not encounter any battles, the phrase has become the most suitable description for festive celebrations.

To the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, this saying is also a testimony of a part of their history: they launched the Hong Kong Drum Festival in 2003 after the SARS outbreak, with the purpose of helping the community of Hong Kong to rally round. The Hong Kong Synergy 24 Drum Competition followed, and the Drum Graded Exam is also introduced this year.  The drum music activities of Hong Kong are now entering their 19th year, with concerts on a drum theme presented every year, thus keeping the audience’s interest in traditional Chinese drum music over time while drum music groups from all parts of the world are also invited to come to Hong Kong to participate in the Festival.

Among the Chinese folk music genres, many are categorized as luogu (gongs-and-drums). Not too far away from Hong Kong, we have the sub-genres of ‘Cantonese Opera luogu’ and ‘Chaozhou daluogu’ of Guangdong Province; ‘Fuzhou shifan’, ‘Eastern Zhejiang luogu’ and ‘South of Jiangsu shifan luogu’ of the Yangtze River region; and ‘Peking Opera luogu’ further north. The last was skifully deployed by Peng Xiuwen in his Drums in Celebration of a Bumper Harvest for Chinese orchestra to introduce traditional elements into the modernized Chinese orchestra. Another type of gongs-and-drums music that is winning receptor attention and popularity in recent years is the Shanxi Jiangzhou drum music.

The history of Shanxi Jiangzhou drum music can be traced back to the early Tang dynasty. Legend has it that after Li Shimin, Prince of Qin (later Emperor Taizong of Tang) defeated Liu Wuzhou, generals and soldiers and the Jiangzhou people beat drums and played Prince of Qin Crashing the Battle Line to celebrate the victory. Since then, the piece has been passed on from generation to generation. In 1987, the Shanxi Xinjiang County Peasants Luogu Ensemble created Prince of Qin Takes His Roll Call based on this folklore. Using over 20 drums of various sizes plus various types of brass idiophones, this thundering piece consists of 6 sections with drums as the lead instrument. In 1988, the ensemble was officially renamed the Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe, and has since increased their repertoires of drum pieces, including Rolling Walnuts, Song of the General and the dagu duet The Ox Fighting the Tiger.

The reason why the works of Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe are frequently performed in concerts has to do with the fact that their music is inspired by the everyday life of people. Rhythmic Drums of the Yellow Rivers, composed in 1994, is in 4 sections: Surging Waves, Heroic, Rise Up and Move Forward.  The instrumentation includes different types of drums such as dagu (big drums), huapengu (flowerpot drums), tanggu, xiaotangu, biangu (flat drums), and supplemented with brass idiophones. The varied rhythms of different instrumental combinations depict the close affinity of the people and the Yellow River.  In addition to the illustration of the natural environment, Jiangzhou drum music has been drawing creative energy from the abundant activities in the everyday life of the locals, like zaxi (theatre), shehuo (festival celebrations), guchui (traditional music ensemble), yangge (folk dance to invoke bumper harvest), funerals and celebrations etc. The Troupe’s compositions like Festival, Flower Drum of Southern Shanxi are good examples of such works.

Also known for its imposing momentum and powerfulness is the traditional Japanese taiko drums. There are numerous types of taiko, each of varying sizes, some to be played in an upright position, some in a sitting position, and some, performed with dances. Taiko is performed on a vast variety of occasions including the gagaku music of the court, the traditional noh theatre, kabuki of the Edo period and folk celebrations. It is also used in rituals like Buddhist ceremonies, invocation of deities, sacrifice to heaven, praying for rain and disaster relief, etc. The music of the famous drum group Ondekoza, founded in 1969, originated from drum drills and folk music used for exorcism and praying for blessings.

The characteristic cultural diversity of Hong Kong is often seen in its variety of music. In this concert, Mori no Shōkan composed by KODO, a Japanese drum group well-known for its ascetic rigorous training, will be performed with a new arrangement in four movements for taiko and Chinese orchestra by local drum group GEKKO.  Another world premiere piece in this concert is Don. Combining the Chinese style drum music of Refiner Drums and the Taiko music of GEKKO, Don is a manifestation of the passion sparked by the encounter of two different cultures.

Ng Cheuk-yin, a versatile composer from Hong Kong, has been tirelessly exploring the possibilities of Chinese orchestral music. Using the drum set and the Eco-Bass-Gehu developed by the HKCO as the entry point, his new composition Unknown Land integrates the improvisation elements of jazz with Chinese musical instruments. Just like its title, what the composer looks for is an unknown land.

The Drums of Hong Kong Resound is a feast of Chinese and Western drum music brought together. Let the Thunder of Drums Roll VII.1021, written by Chew Hee Chiat, Resident Conductor of the HKCO, provides an opportunity for interaction between the orchestra and the audience. Where music is concerned, listening is never as good as making it. By taking part in making the music, the audience will appreciate and enjoy it even more.