Concert with Sigmund Groven
"When East Meets West"

Date: 12 September 1998

Location: Concert Hall, Hong Kong City Hall

Following the success of our tenth anniversary concert in December 1997, we were contemplating about our next concert. Having organized a number of concerts all of which featuring the quintet itself, we think that our audience have recognized our music and style, which does not easily appeal to the more general public. We want to promote fine harmonica music to more people while bringing some new experience to our existing audience (and ourselves as well). We thus contacted Mr. Sigmund Groven whom we first met in Yokohama in the 1995 World Harmonica Festival when we were deeply impressed by his musicianship. With a little bit of luck and great honour, Mr. Sigmund Groven promised to come a long way from Norway to play in our concert.

And so, we have the world's first ever performance of Gordon Jacob's Five Pieces using all harmonicas - harmonica solo by Mr. Groven and harmonica quintet in place of the string ensemble. Please click here to hear our performance of the fourth piece Threnody. We also played two more pieces together which are originally written for harmonica and string ensemble - Mr. Groven's own composition Aria and James Moody's Bulgarian Wedding Dance which was written for Mr. Groven's mentor - Tommy Reilly. The rehearsal between Mr. Groven and us went surprisingly well, lasting for only an hour or so and then we made history!

Before the joint performance which opened the second half of the concert, Mr. Groven demonstrated his charisma, versatility and musicality through a number of solo pieces in the first half - the serene Motlys (Against The Light) composed by himself which is inspired by the scenic midnight sun of Norway; Toledo, one of the most famous showpieces for harmonica for which Mr. Groven has made the best recording; Handel's Siciliana and Giga and Grieg's Norwegian Dance which are in the regular repertoire of classical harmonica players; Water Lily, another beautiful Norwegian composition; and finally the Hava Nagila, which is famous all over the world. The audience were pleasantly surprised when Mr. Groven played Danny Chan's Devotedly Yours as an encore, but their attention were soon drawn to the beautiful sound and deep passion projected from Mr. Groven's performance. Two more encores followed in response to the great applause, which were two nicely contrasting pieces: Ave Maria and Begin the Beguine.

In addition to the new experience brought by Mr. Groven, the Quintet also made some new attempts. The Ragtime Suite which opened the concert and the Gershwin Selection are recent arrangements which nicely extend our classical reportoire to include music that is easy-listening while interesting to play. In the Gershwin Selection, the arrangement of An American In Paris deserves special mention - it has the highest 'density of notes' among the pieces that we have played! The other pieces in the concert - Five Greek Dances and the Butterfly Lovers Concerto - are no strangers to audience who have attended our previous concerts. Only that they sound even better this time!

Just as Sigmund did three encores, the Quintet did three encores as well due to overwhelming support from the audience, despite an overrun in concert time! We first played another Chinese piece - Summer Night (not Summertime!) by Yang Shan-le, to fulfil the audience's appetite for Chinese music after the Butterfly Lovers Concerto. It was followed by the exciting Galloping Comedians and the humorous Polka from Shostakovich's Golden Age Ballet Suite.

We would like to thank:

    • Mr. Sigmund Groven who, besides giving an excellent performance, teaches and inspires harmonica players in Hong Kong through the pre-concert talk and visits to YMCA Harmonica Orchestra and King's College Harmonica Band;

    • Mr. Ivar Anton Waagaard, the pianist of Mr. Groven who contributes to the almost magical sound heard by the audience;

    • Miss Kitty Lee, Assistant Manager (Cultural Presentations) of the Urban Council, the crew of Urban Council Cultural Presentations Section and City Hall Concert Hall who have helped us make two successful concerts in a row;

    • and every one of the 1000 supporters who were present at that evening in the Concert Hall and gave us so much fond memory.

Biography of Sigmund Groven

Recognized as one of the world's leading exponents of the chromatic harmonica, Sigmund Groven appears regularly in concert, on radio and television, and at music festivals throughout the world.

Groven was born in Heddal, Telemark, Norway, into a musical family; his uncle, Eivind Groven was a famous composer. His interest in the harmonica was aroused at the age of nine upon hearing a record of the legendary Tommy Reilly - one of the pioneers of serious harmonica-playing who became his source of inspiration as a musician. Later they joined with members of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields to record original work's written for them by such composers as Robert Farnon, Gordon Jacob, and James Moody. Apart from being a harmonist, Groven is also a composer. Twice he received the award "Composition of the Year" from the Norwegian Society of Composers.

In 1990 Groven made musical history by becoming one of the very few harmonica players to be featured at the Carnegie Hall in New York with a classical recital of his own. He plays a custom-made silver concert harmonica, and his repertoire ranges from folk music to his own compositions, from Bach to original works for harmonica and orchestra by such composers as Villa-Lobos. Groven scored a tremendous success at EXPO '92 in Sevilla, Spain, and during the 1993 Edvard Grieg celebrations he performed for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Paris and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. During the 1994 Winter Olympics Arts Festival at Lillehammer, he was featured in four different concerts. His 1998 - 99 schedule includes tours with a symphony orchestra in Sweden, a master-class and concert together with his teacher and mentor Tommy Reilly at the Dartington International Festival of Music in England, the American premiere of Michael Spivakovsky's Harmonica Concerto, concerts with the famous Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble, a concert in the City Hall, Hong Kong, as well as a return visit to Japan following his 1995 Japanese tour.