The 52nd HK Arts Festival

A Repose in a Garden of Music

Text / Rebecca Lee

Imagine that you've had a long, exhausting day and it's finally time to relax. By chance, you step into a mysterious garden, intrigued, and hear the sounds of a beautiful chorus.

Scattered across the iridescent garden is a 16-piece chorus singing in various languages and swaying along with a conductor. Your eye is caught by various art installations around the garden and, as you wander around the atmospheric venue in a tranquil state, you are enthralled.

Here, we're not talking about a real garden, but Garden of Repose, a multimedia choral concert to be held at the West Kowloon Cultural District Freespace. Music Director and Conductor Sanders Lau tells FestMag that the programme takes inspiration from the narrative of the traditional Requiem. While there are only a few select works in this repertoire, Garden of Repose deals with the intertwining themes of repose, trauma and death that are juxtaposed with choral works from various genres and generations, providing the audience with a brief moment for self-reflection and inner conversation. Under Lau's baton, the chamber choir NOĒMA, which he established, will perform the choral works with minimalist accompaniment from electronic music. "I would like to present the conventional, neat and beautiful choral sound in a new light, and try some more diverse sonorities. When it is all wired up, the chorus will be able to sing as if it's whispering."

As the singers spread over Freespace and the venue is bathed in sound, the ensemble will evoke a range of emotions, even as it maintains its distance from the audience. In designing the physical movements for the singers, Director and Choreographer Ivanhoe Lam says he prioritised the music while also championing the interplay between the singers and the site.  "I envision that the ensemble will be in synergy with the space as well as the audience. Both performers and spectators should feel as comfortable as if they are at home." In keeping with this objective, the design of the installations will be low-key and "less technophile, yet more poetic, human-oriented and warm", says Scenographer and Set Installation Designer Oliver Shing.

Garden of Repose offers a brief moment of rest —allow its soothing sounds to help steer you to your next destination.

Garden of Repose—a Multimedia Choral Concert

Date: 3-10 Mar 2024

Venue: The Box, Freespace, West Kowloon Cultural District