A Night of Music at The Hong Kong Cultural Center

Day 9 in Hong Kong drifted by. I’ve already written a post on Java Java, and the Shun Tak Center otherwise known as where to get a ferry to Macau. As I said, I’ve seen airports with smaller terminals..

Dinner was at iSquare, once the site of the Hyatt Hotel on Nathan Road, now a shopping mecca. In fact there is an escalator that you can grab right in the MTR Station below. Takes you right up to the third floor of the shopping center. So it makes it easy to shop = even when it rains – and no worries about parking.

Dinner was set for 6:30 at Shanghai Po Po 336. I had some time – So I nipped in to HMV in search of a couple of DVD’s to bring home. When last in Hong Kong in 2011, I had seen Hong Kong’s best director, Johnnie To‘s latest and newest film at the time in a movie theater. That film was called Life Without Principle (click the link for my review).

This time I wanted to pick up the DVDs for Drug War (directed by Johnnie To in 2012) with Louis Koo as the star. The other was Blind Detective which came out just a few months ago in July. Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng were the headliners. But it wasn’t to be. HMV was sold out of both titles.

dvd combo

So back to dinner. It was billed as a Shanghai Noodle house and it was just okay. No restaurant review today readers.

But the big event of the night was at The Hong Kong Cultural Center (above), which is HK’s equivalent of New York’s Lincoln Center. It was a double bill – The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (about 77 performers for this show), and a Taiwanese Drum Ensemble called The Chio-Tian Folk Drums & Arts Troupe..

We were in the third row. The good seats. Not quite the front row, but more than close enough to hear and feel the powerful drums. The Majestic Drums was about a dozen or drummers – just one woman. The came out in full martial costumes including one of a kind hair styles, war-like make-up, and each were heavily tattooed on the right arm and shoulders.

They were high energy. Not only did they have to memorize the complete drum and percussion music, but every thing was syncopated, and choreographed. From the large hanging gong, to the man with cymbals, to the rolling drums when the brakes were off, it was simply amazing. Each beat of the drum had a certain arm movement, as well as a specific arm in use. The timing was exquisite.

Beside the make-up, the tattoos, the costumes, they were intense and seemingly war like as in competing. Four on this side, four on that side, a featured performer in the center, plus the two side men – the gong and the cymbals. There were loud war cries like screams as well as the booming drums.

They did four lengthy numbers, and then there was break. At this point, the stage hands had to set up for the entire orchestra. Seats, music stands, and all properly angled to be able read the music and keep an eye on the maestro as well.

Rong Chenchu - Featured Percussionist

Rong Chenchu – Featured Percussionist

While this was a full Chinese Orchestra, tonight, two percussionists were featured. The orchestra performed solo, with featured solos by the percussionists. Then they were joined for a rousing number in tandem with the Taiwanese Majestic Drum Group.

For the finale, the entire audience was brought into play. As we entered the Concert Hall, each of us were given a small hand drum. Now we would use them with the professionals.

In an exciting and wonderful finale, the orchestra, the Drum Ensemble, and even us – all played our appointed instruments or hand drum. We, at set points, under the direction of the orchestra’s maestro, Chew Hee-chiat, we were encouraged to make our hand drum play, then we were to scream as loud as we could – as he put it, in both Cantonese and English – let it all out.

But at his direction – we would stop our drumming instantly, and under further instruction – we would all shout, then stop instantly and scream out HEY! and then go silent.

The screams were a loud AAAAAAAAH, and then, we then stopped by shouting HEY!

Well as an audience we ate it up. It was fun, we participated in the performance, and we even had some practice rounds to make sure everyone was paying attention, and would follow the maestro’s commands just like his professional musicians.

Gao Shan - featured Percussionist

Gao Shan – featured Percussionist

So tonight, it wasn’t about food and drink, tonight it was all about a cultural event. It was really about Majestic Drums leading to a splendid evening.

Their performances were called:

Billowing Sea
Battle Drums of Chio Tian -Dragon King Drums
Centipede Drum Formation

The orchestra was of course The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. The two pieces were;
A Percussion Concerto – The Sun – First Movement of The Age of the Dragon
Drum Parades Street Concert = led by the guest percussionists Rong Chenchu and Gao Shan.

The Maestro - Orchestra Conductor Chew  Hee-chiat

The Maestro – Orchestra Conductor Chew Hee-chiat

The Grand Finale was Sky Rocking Battle Drums – and this is when we were involved as described above..

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