Tenth Anniversary Concert

Date: 12 December 1997

Location: Concert Hall, Hong Kong City Hall

The official tenth anniversary of the Quintet is on 28 Jun 97. As a result of a number of scheduling factors, our tenth anniversary concert is staged exactly one year after our last concert. We are pleased to have this concert organised by the Urban Council again, and at an even better venue, the City Hall Concert Hall. At the same time, this is a challenge to us due to its much bigger capacity than the City Hall Theatre - we have to demonstrate the appeal of our music. The delay in this concert actually helps because we managed to obtain the title of world champion before the concert. With the propaganda efforts of the organiser, various mass media, and ourselves, we are delighted at the attendence of nearly 1000 people.

When we were planning the programme of this anniversary concert, we established our objectives: first, the form of harmonica quintet, which we advocate, should be fully demonstrated to the audience; second, we wish to get our friends involved. The first must-have combination is to play with Dr Poon Chung-keung, who is a founding member of the Quintet and has returned to Hong Kong after his Ph.D. studies. For that matter, we have a recent arrangement for six people of Grieg's Holberg Suite. We have a number of friends whom we wish to invite. So we have an idea of a harmonica ensemble (much like a string ensemble). We searched our repertoire for pieces that would benefit from a larger group, and we picked Bartok's Rumanian Folk Dances and Rossini's Overture to Barber of Seville and rearranged them for a total of 10 players. We have not forgotton our very best piano accompanist for our solo performances in past concerts. We are all eager to try out the combination of harmonica quintet and piano. We identify a beautiful movement from Dvorak's Piano Quintet. We want to play something commemorative of our tenth anniversary. A natural candidate is our first piece we practised ten years ago. It was Borodin's famous Nocturne. We like Borodin's two quartets very much and we decide to play the best movements from them. Villa-Lobos' Quartet No.1 is a recent addition to our repertoire and quickly captivates our mind. We did it in our recording for RTHK earlier this year, and we want to play it in a concert. Finally, we need an opening work. The first movement of Vivaldi's Spring fits the purpose very well.

This is our first time to play in the Concert Hall of City Hall. Before our rehearsal on 1 Dec 97, we were quite worried about the acoustic effect. How would harmonica sound in this big hall which regularly houses a full orchestra? We hate the sound of harmonica being distorted by amplification. How would we balance the sound of harmonicas and piano? These worries were totally cleared up after the rehearsal. Here, we have to be grateful to the design of the hall, the microphone and amplification system, and Mr. Chan who sets up the sound system.

The concert opened with Vivaldi's Spring. This piece would sound good easily and the effect is further enhanced with a good sound system. The audience was thus treated with a easy-listening and good-sounding "welcome" piece.

Selections from Borodin's Quartets are the highlight of the Quintet in the first half. We select the movements in a way that they really link together to resemble a string quartet piece. The first "movement" is the first movement of Quartet No.2 which has a wonderfully natural spontaneity and buoyancy. It links to the second movement of Quartet No.1 which begins with a singing melody, interrupted by a brief agitation. The central part is fugal in style before recapitulation. To contrast with the celebrated Nocturne which completes the selections, we have the third movement from Quartet No.1, marked Prestissimo.

Towards the end of the first half, we add more players. First, the Holberg's Suite which is a sextet. Then with all our 5 harmonica friends that we have invited, we play Rumanian Folk Dances and Overture to Barber of Seville. They don't need detailed description, as we interpret the music faithfully, with effects enhanced with the richer sound of more instruments and a deepened bass offered by Mr Hui Yau-fong. Please click here to listen to our performance of the opening piece of Rumanian Folk Dances.

After an intermission of 15 minutes, the second half began at 9:25pm. The Dumka from Dvorak's Piano Quintet Op.81 is an elegiac Ukrainian dance form. The principal melody is a very sad one. Interludes of different moods are inserted between re-appearances of this melody. These interludes are generally lighter and more cheerful, at times dream-like, and at one time hysterical.

The last item in the programme is Villa-Lobos' String Quartet No.1 which comprises of 6 colourful movements, alternately slow and quick in tempo. Cantilena is song-like in character. Brincadeira is a Brazilian polka. Canto Lirico features the tenor harmonica playing a moving melody. Canconeta is another song-like movement accompanied by triplets in the bass. Melancholia is a sad movement with a restless interlude. The final movement (jumping like a jumping bean) finally brings some cheers to the music, and is fugal in style.

The audience were obviously hoping for an encore. As to the most appropriate piece to play as an encore, we were obliged to present the winning piece in the World Harmonica Festival - Finale from Dvorak's American Quartet. Please click here to listen to our performance. We were not let go until we played all the pieces that we have prepared - Popular Song and Comedian's Gallop.

We would like to thank:

    • our long time friends who share the same interest in harmonica with us and who accept our invitation to play with us in this concert: Mr Lee Sheung-ching, Mr Hui Yau-fong, Mr Chan Tung-choi, Mr Chan Ngai-kin, and Mr Poon Chung-keung;

    • Miss Nerissa Yeung, who helps us prove that a harmonica quintet is as good as a string quartet, after playing Dvorak's Piano Quintet;

    • Miss Kitty Lee, Assistant Manager (Cultural Presentations) of the Urban Council;

    • the crew of Urban Council Cultural Presentations Section and City Hall Concert Hall;

    • and of course, you who were in the audience and you who care to visit our home page.

Foreward to concert by Ho Pak-cheong (Chinese & English)