The 51st HK Arts Festival

When Organ Meets Brass

Text / Elaine Ko

Anne Lam is the Music Director of Chung Chi College Chapel at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and an organ virtuoso. Joined by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Quintet, Lam will take the audience on a musical journey through time at the 51st Hong Kong Arts Festival. The Joy of Brass and Organ programme is sure to resonate with music lovers of all ages.

The programme has a wide selection of music from Baroque and Renaissance to modern compositions. How did you come up with such a diverse programme?

Lam: Whenever people think of brass or the organ, people often associate them with something merely solemn, loud or heavy. Therefore, one of the primary goals we want to achieve with this performance is to present the versatility of these instruments by selecting music of different styles and periods. For example, in Handel's The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, you can hear the organ imitating the sound of the cuckoo, or the way the brass quintet replaces the original orchestral accompaniment. We want to thoroughly explore the musical possibilities and introduce these approachable pieces to the audience.

Can you elaborate on your collaboration with Hong Kong Phil Brass Quintet?

Lam: This is a new experience for the performers and the audience alike. It's less common for brass players to collaborate with an organist, as only a few composers write specifically for organ and brass, so watch out for the pieces written by Hampton, Pinkham and Sharpe in the programme.

To best interpret music from its historical period, we have adopted techniques specific to the context of each piece. For example, as early music is more articulated, we stay true to its style and are less legato in our playing. This concert might surprise audience members who expect to be "blasted" by these loud instruments.

Handel's Overture from Music for the Royal Fireworks is arranged by one of your students, Carlos Li. Can you tell us more about this arrangement?

Lam: Carlos was a student of mine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and has a comprehensive background in music. During his studies, he was already a talented student who won numerous competitions, and had a profound interest in composing and transcription. I have always wanted to feature him in local productions. The organ is one of the most complex instruments and is made up of many parts, such as its manual, pedal board and stop controls. Carlos has the advantage of knowing the mechanics of the instrument and, as an organist with experience in transcription, he is the perfect person to rearrange the orchestral accompaniment for Handel's Overture.

What pieces do you enjoy the most? Do you have any personal favourites?

Lam: I like Calvin Hampton's Five Dances for Organ the most, as he is one of my favourite composers who manages to utilise the instrument fully. This piece has a uniquely American style and rhythm, with an explosion of musical elements which reflects his intellectual creativity and the playfulness in his compositions.

I am also satisfied with the arrangement of the programme as the last three pieces—Five Dances for Organ, Morning Music and Flourishes—are all composed by American composers. They remind me of my time in the US, as I listened to organ and brass quintet performances in churches during Christmas and soaked in the festive and merry atmosphere, and they will bring the performance to a powerful end.

The Joy of Brass and Organ—Anne Lam and HK Phil Brass Quintet

Detail: https://www.hk.artsfestival.org/en/programme/anne_lam_and_hk_phil_brass_quintet