Creation & Recreation

Author: Prof. Adrian Walter

Published in Ming Pao on 9 July 2014


Having just completed my second year as Director of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts my initial impression of Hong Kong as a dynamic and creative space with a rich cultural life has been well and truly confirmed.


Let me share with you some of the innovative performances I’ve enjoyed over the last month. Last Saturday evening I attended a performance by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra with English percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Her performance, with its sharp edged rhythms combining so effectively with a deeply felt lyricism was extraordinary.  What really captured my attention though was that every work on the programme was a new work, or at least a work composed in the last decade or so – and they were all incredibly well received by the audience.  There was no shying away from the new and challenging for the HKCO and its audience. I am not sure where else you would see such courage and conviction in programming.


This is an approach that the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts also embraces with gusto – original creativity continually drives us in our work with the young emerging artist studying at the Academy. I am sure this contributes significantly to creating a highly receptive environment for new and innovative work. The Academy now has 7637 graduates many of whom are deeply embedded in the cultural life of this city and have undoubtedly done much to shape its development since it opened its doors in 1984.


As part of the Academy’s 30th Anniversary Year Celebration we presented a performance of the The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare.  On the surface this would not seem unexpected for a performing arts academy, but let me tell you more. The play was presented in Cantonese with the ‘play within the play’ set as a Cantonese Opera, all in all involving 178 Academy students, alumni and faculty staff.  Where else but Hong Kong could such an original, innovative reimaging of this work occur, capatilising on Hong Kong’s position as a unique point of intersection between Eastern and Western cultural practice.  As one enthusiastic audience member noted, it could easily have been taken to the West End for a season and would have proudly showcased the unique creativity of this city.


Nurturing talented and creative young performers is a critical part of achieving the outcomes that we all strive for in building Hong Kong as a dynamic cultural hub. This was wonderfully demonstrated last week in a concert presented by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. This concert featured a rising star of the Hong Kong piano world, Johnson Li, an eleven year old student of the Academy’s junior music programme and student of Eleanor Wong. The young pianist looked relaxed and in control from the very opening tutti. The orchestra sensitively accompanied him giving him every opportunity to shine. The conductor Jun Märkl was outstanding in the way he worked with this young performer – a fine musical mentor in action. The whole audience was entranced by the rapport that clearly existed between conductor and soloist.


The need to nurture young performers has also been a vital part of the preservation and reinvigoration of Cantonese Opera in Hong Kong. Last month I was fortunate to attend the opening performance of the Cantonese Opera Young Talent Showcase presented by Ba Wah (香港八和會館) which presented the work of some of the emerging stars of this most engaging of arts forms.


If you look through an average weeks performance calendar for Hong Kong you soon realise that this is only a small sample of the rich array of offerings  that are presented week on week in Hong Kong across so many art forms.


I couldn’t close however without mentioning the performance I attended by the Hong Kong Dance Company ‘The Butterfly Lovers’. Celebrating the 55th anniversary of this well-loved work it was presented in a new version interwoven with a newly created choreography by Yang Yuntao.
This takes be back full circle to my reflections on the HKCO performance – what an extraordinary creative space Hong Kong is – something we need to celebrate and most importantly safeguard and nurture for future generations.


Where have all the composers gone?

Author: Prof. Adrian Walter
Published in Ming Pao on 2 July 2014

While we still celebrate those outstanding creative individuals who can compose music for the concert hall the industry now offers a broader range of opportunities for those skilled in the craft of composition. Someone with such skills is able to ‘craft’ music for a particular end use, be that for a music library, adverts, computer games or one of the many of areas of demand within the creative industries –the musical equivalent of a graphic artist.

The later part of the nineteenth century saw the rise of the artist as ‘hero’– the performer who could transcend physical limitations and whose god like prowess became the source of legends. As the twentieth century progressed so too did the demand to specialize and define yourself by that specialization.

We now celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach as a ‘star’ composer but in his own time he was equally respected as an organist and improviser, as a manager – a jobbing muso! The same story can be repeated for Mozart, Rossini, Mahler, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. These were highly versatile creative artists and performers, who were also adept business people, entrepreneurs and arts managers.

While we celebrate the genius of Mozart he also spoke the common musical language of his day. There are many little known names who were contemporaries of Mozart who created large amounts of new work for an ever demanding market place. Who has heard of Johann Christian Cannabich composer, director and creator of hundreds of works including symphonies, concerti and occasional music? Much of which indeed influenced the work of Mozart. By taking the ‘star’ out of their temporal and social context we loose the true sense of a thriving creative industry in which many versatile creative artists are involved.

Two great impediments to the 21st century creative mind are the concept of the ‘star’ and the concept of specialization. Two attributes deeply embedded in the modern psyche. The idea of the ‘star’, the competition winner, have more to do with contemporary celebrity culture and business imperatives than creativity and artistic excellence or broader industry demands.

How do children learn to use language? They write stories about the family holiday, their sister’s wedding, the trip to the beach. Are we imagining by asking our children to do such activities that they will become Nobel prize winning authors? What more natural way for a child to use their newly acquired language and communication skills than to use them creatively as a way to express themselves and to explore and understand their worlds.

We need to reclaim the creative space within our educational programmes. We need to see composition again as a creative process for all young music students to explore. The time for specialization and the market to support such specialization has passed. As well as ‘composers’ we need those skilled in the ‘craft’ of composition – versatile, adaptable and creative young artists who are highly skilled but not limited by the specialized nature of that skill.

30th anniversary musical – Curtains drawn



The musical New Kids on the Block, celebrating the Academy’s 30th anniversary, has drawn its curtains after staging six performances on 31 July to 4 August 2014.  Students were reluctant to accept the fact that the programme was over, and they would have to wait for another year to meet again as a big musical family.

Special thanks go to tutors and crew, and those who bought tickets to support us.  We’ll let the dream live on!  See you again at 2015 SMS!

Alice van Kapel

Producer, 2014 SMS ~  New Kids on the Block

30th Anniversary musical – New Kids on the Block – Opening tonight!

The days of rehearsing in dance studios were over.  Since this Monday, students have taken up residence at the Drama Theatre and have been experiencing the life of a professional theatre practitioner, including the 0900 – 2300 work schedule.  All props are done, dust settling.

Opening tonight! Buy tickets and support us!  Check out our facebook and feel the camaraderie throughout the past two and a half weeks 

See you all at the Drama Theatre! (31 July – 3 August ~ via Hong Kong Ticketing)

Alice van Kapel

Producer, New Kids on the Block

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30th Anniversary musical – New Kids on the Block – Band!

I’ve yet to tell you that we will have live music for our 30th Anniversary musical, New Kids on the Block.  Can you believe musicians as young as these can support a musical live after two and a half weeks’ training? All is possible under the direction and guidance of our Band Leader, Amuer!  Amuer says after this, he needs a 10-year break!!! 🙂  Performances are on from 31 July – 3 August at Drama Theatre.  Tickets are available at Hong Kong Ticketing.  Please buy tickets and support us.

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Music student Tin-Wai Lai in Rome Chamber Music Festival


I am Tin-Wai Lai from Hong Kong, currently a second year student in the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, majoring in Viola. This June, it was my great honour to be sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels to participate in the prestigious Rome Chamber Music Festival, where students had the opportunities to rehearse and perform together with famous coaches from all around the world in the Palace Barberini.

In this festival, I played the Dvorak Sextet along with three other students coached by Ms. Rebecca Albers and Ms. Julie Albers. Since we only had less than a week’s time to prepare the whole piece, we worked very hard every day to play the best out of ourselves. I learnt a lot in every rehearsal, not only the knowledge of music, but also how to communicate with different people, as well as how to come up with an idea that everyone would agree.

In addition, I was chosen to play in the master class conducted by the three viola teachers in this festival, namely Ms. Hsin-Yun Huang who is a teacher from the renowned Curtis Institute of Music, as well as Ms. Rebecca Albers and Mr. Luca Sanzo. I had a chance to play in front of them and other students. They all gave me many valuable comments, which helped me to improve myself even better. It’s really a very rare chance for me to get to know different styles of interpreting a piece.

The performance was really a huge success, and I enjoyed it very much. This was truly a fascinating and unforgettable experience, because I had the chance to work with international students from Italy, Brazil, Poland and America, and we exchanged our views about music and different cultures.

Lastly, I would like to give huge thanks to the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels which helped me a lot in arranging everything, made my trip an extremely smooth and enjoyable one and most importantly, marked a difference in my journey to professional musicianship.

Tin-Wai Lai

30th Anniversary musical – New Kids on the Block – Director’s visit

We were all so excited when the Director of the Academy, Prof Adrian Walter came and watched our first run-through.  After training and rehearsing for 5 days, our talented students couldn’t wait to show Prof Walter what they have achieved so far.  They shared with the Prof why they love engaging in our summer musical so much, and made him promise to come and see them at the performance.

Performance starts on 31 July to 3 August.  Tickets are for sales at Hong Kong Ticketing or 31 288 288.  Packaged discount tickets are also available.  Come support our musical production in celebration of the Academy’s 30th anniversary.1 2 3 4

Alice van Kapel

Producer, 2014 SMS – New Kids on the Block



30th Anniversary SMS – Day Three

166 STUDENT-STRONG New Kids on the Block!  It is pretty amazing that after three days’ training, they have already nailed seven major songs, including Let it Go from Frozen, I Want You to be My Baby, and Seven Lonely Days.  Students are also going totally “footloose” with all dance items, and the first run-through is scheduled for this Friday!  Yes! Five days’ training and rehearsals and  there will be a run-through!!!  After all, the entire training only takes two and a half weeks!  Keep it up, peeps!  We’re gonna rock the Drama Theatre!!!

7 group  photo 6

Alice van Kapel

Producer, 2014 SMS – New Kids on the Block

30th Anniversary SMS ~ Day One

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Academy, EXCEL’s SMS (Summer Musical School) is presenting a jukebox musical, New Kids on the Block.

135 students selected through auditions as performers, 15 student musicians and 16 backstage students all gathered together in Dance Studio 1 today to start Day One of their journey.

2014 SMS   3 boy    SMS student

In two and a half weeks’ time, their performance will be staged, with live music, at the Academy’s Drama Theatre.  Tickets sales will be open to the public.

Teachers in the programme are passionate and dedicated performing arts practitioners.

5 tutors     6 tutors   SMS tutor

More exciting news on this celebratory event will follow.  Stay tuned!  Do visit us on  For information of EXCEL summer programme, see

Alice van Kapel

Producer, 2104 Summer Musical School, New Kids on the Block


我坐在台上一小時, 就是要等你們在台上走過. 要看著你們快樂滿足的步伐, 見證你們achieve了絶不簡單的MFA旅程. 你們當中有些在台上望著我, 眼睛裡向我發放著潛台詞 — 我都收到了. 我回給你們的, 你們都收到了嗎? 那一刻心很甜, 謝謝你們. 你們每一位的旅程, 我都不會忘記. 祝願你們繼續追夢尋理想.