周熙杰 ,香港中乐团常任指挥 Chew Hee Chiat, Resident Conductor of Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

Chew joined Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in 2002 and plays an active role that includes conducting, instrumentation and arrangement for numerous concerts. He studied in the United States and has a degree in Cello Performance and Computer Science as well as an MA in Music and Orchestral Conducting. Chew has received multiple international awards for his composition and conducted the world premiere of four works by Hong Kong composers at the outdoor mass concert, ‘Cadenzas of Hong Kong’ among other great achievements. In Today’s interview, DB finds out how Chew’s rich life experience inspires his music and a bit about what it is like conducting a leading Chinese Orchestra.

DB: 请问是什么让您决定加入香港中乐团的?更重要的是,是什么让您留在乐团这么长时间?Why did you decide to join the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and more importantly, what motivates you to stay?

Hong Kong seemed to provide the best professional environment for Chinese orchestral music fifteen years ago when I was looking to advance my career. Then, there was no way nor potential opportunity for me in my home country, Malaysia. Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra was the ultimate aspiration for musicians like me. I was lucky that they picked me then. Since then, the most conducive environment to develop and excel in Chinese orchestral music, in my humble opinion, is still here in Hong Kong with HKCO. That’s why I stay put.

DB:做指挥家是您一直想要做的事情还是在您学习音乐过程中所激发了兴趣爱好? Is conducting something that you always wanted to do or is it something that you discovered later in life during your musical studies?

Making music my career has always been my aspiration since, perhaps, high school. I was attracted by the Chinese instrumental performances during my first high school extra-curriculum orientation. There I joined the Chinese Orchestra on spot and began the journey. My first instrument was dizi and later other instruments or whichever needed by the ensemble. There were no hired music instructor; all were taught-from-senior-to-junior. That was the condition of our high school Chinese orchestra as the Principal kind of left us alone and used all the money to support the marching band with shiny brass instruments. Perhaps it was out of necessity that I was put on the podium under this circumstance as the kid that could “do” all kind of instruments. The taste of being able to control the musical sound and colours truly kick started my passion for conducting, although, there was really not much to control given our “poor” condition then. Yet, the seed was planted.

DB: 请问您的文化背景是如何激发您创作音乐的灵感? How has your cultural heritage inspired the music that you compose?

Growing up in Malaysia is a unique experience, at least if I compare it with people from many parts of the world. Our society is quite diversified, and the diversity is more “interlocking” than others. To explain that, just imagine the scenario: In a dinner table, I was seated with a few friends and family members. I would converse with my mom and dad in two Chinese dialects (Taishan and Fujian), across the table my Malay friend was speaking Malay with me, another Indian friend in English while my two classmates in Mandarin and my nextdoor neighbour in Cantonese (another Chinese dialect). Every conversation was going on concurrently without confusion. This kind of cultural heritage manifests in my compositions. I still remember years ago my work was selected to the final round in one of the international competitions. The judges who didn’t like my composition commented that my work was inconsistent in styles, while those judges that liked my work complemented that the inconsistency of styles IS A unique style!

DB: 请问为什么您会觉向世界分享中国民乐和宣传中国民乐器是非常重要的一件事? Why is it important to you to share Chinese music and Chinese instruments around the world?

That’s without a question! Sharing my passion around the world does not need a “why”. But again, I think it is important that Chinese orchestral music can get more exposure and be promoted to the international level. After all, such a fine art form should not be missed by the world!

DB:对比起香港中乐团,您在指导香港少年中乐团的时候有遇到什么养的困难或者有意义的事情吗? What are some of the different challenges/rewards you encounter teaching the Hong Kong Junior Chinese Orchestra compared with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra?

It is teaching if I conduct the Junior Orchestra. But when I conduct Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, it’s more like sharing my idea of musical sound and artistry. HKCO’s musicians are fine artists and they are my colleagues!

DB: 您在美国和世界其他地方呆过的时间与经历,是如何影响您对音乐及作曲的态度的? How has the time you spent in the Unites States and other parts of the world affected your attitude towards music and composition?

The 6 years spent in the US was an eye-opening period in my education years. There I learned to see different perspectives of many things. There’s a Chinese saying: “活到老,學到老” which essentially means “one never quits learning.” Exposing ourselves in other cultures will only enrich our life learning experience and what’s the better way of doing it if not travelling around the world? Yes of course that will have great impact on my attitude towards music and composition.

DB:您觉得自己最伟大的音乐成就是什么? What is your greatest musical achievement?

这应该留给大家去评论! That I shall leave others to comment!