The tour party was composed of a highly talented group of musicians and it was with considerable excitement and anticipation that we embarked on our 6,000-mile journey in the second week of the Michaelmas half-term holiday.
The focus of the first day or two in Hong Kong was preparation for the official opening of Shrewsbury School Hong Kong, a new primary school in the Tseung Kwan O area of the region. After a full day of rehearsals the day after our arrival, a celebratory day lay ahead on Monday 22nd October. The opening ceremony took place at lunchtime and was officiated by Carrie Lam – the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The VIP list also included the British Consul General Andy Heyn and the Consul Generals from Australia, Thailand and America alongside Sir David Lees (Chairman of the Board of Governors, Shrewsbury School Hong Kong) and Tim Haynes (Chairman of Shrewsbury School, UK). The cutting of ribbons was followed by the triumphant fanfare of the specially-composed ‘Hong Kong Handel’ by the Shrewsbury musicians, with a final flourish including the melody from the School School Song.
The celebratory day was brought to a rousing finale with a Gala Concert held in the 400-seater auditorium of the new School. The concert commenced with a stirring display of Chinese Drumming by the Year 5 and Year 6 pupils at the Primary School, put together by Director of Music Euan Kilpatrick – an impressive achievement given the School had only opened its doors the month before!
Shrewsbury School musicians performed a range of solos, duets and concertos, including the sumptuous Doppler Flute Concerto played by Sheldon Yuen (Ch) and Ella Johnson, one of our Leavers from last year.
Henri Cramsie’s oboe solo from ‘The Mission’ by Enio Morricone was followed by the wonderful Albinoni Concerto for two Oboes and Strings, with Henry joined by fellow School House musician Reuben Denison.
Oldhamite Ohin Cheng enjoyed performed to family, friends and fellow Hong Kong residents, relishing the operatic performance of ‘Laci darem la mano’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Handel’s duet ‘Happy We’ where he was joined by Leaver Jessie Inglis-Jones.
There were too many musical highlights to list here, but without doubt the audience were left suitably inspired, and there was a suitably rousing ovation at the end of the evening in appreciation for the musicians and the staff involved in the concert.
As the evening came to a close, a symbolic gesture of friendship was extended by Shrewsbury School Headmaster Leo Winkley in presenting a watercolour painting of Shrewsbury School to his compatriot Ben Keeling, Headmaster of Shrewsbury School Hong Kong. A new chapter in Shrewsbury’s rich history has been opened and, fittingly, the two Schools united in performing together the song ‘Children of the World’, sung beautifully by the Year 3 and Year 4 Choir accompanied by senior musicians from Shrewsbury School, UK.
Relationships were further built up the next day in a more informal way when our tour party returned to the primary school to embark on a series of workshops and performances around the School site. There were impromptu string sessions in their library, conducting masterclasses, saxophone performances on the rooftop, and a particularly memorable session in the Recital Hall where our pupils were treated to a spontaneous explosion of dance moves from one of the younger pupils who felt suitably moved by the jazz melodies of Jonty Gould to perform some rather elaborate and impressive dancing! We were made to feel hugely welcome, and for many this was one of the great highlights of the tour. Friendships were formed, relationships developed, and a strong bond between the two Schools has certainly been forged.
Wednesday saw our second musical engagement, with a major Dinner Recital hosted by the Friends of Shrewsbury School Hong Kong at the sumptuous venue of the Royal Garden Hotel in Tsimshatsui East. Over 120 guests joined us for a wonderful evening of food, music, conversation and an opportunity for our Hong Kong parents and prospective parents to hear from Shrewsbury’s new Headmaster Leo Winkley. One parent flew in from Shanghai especially for the event, such was the lure of hearing from the new Head!
A highly convivial evening was punctuated with musical interludes from a number of our musicians, including the fantastic ‘Celtic Suite’ played by the Saxophone Quartet (Maddie Baly (M), Phoebe Morris (EDH), Nathan Mielczarek (Rb), and Jonty Gould (SH)), who also played out the evening with the toe-tapping tune ‘America’ from the musical West Side Story.
It was a very special occasion and an opportunity to thank the Hong Kong parent community for their support and friendship over many years, and we were very grateful indeed to the organising committee, most particularly Chair Betty Ip and Vice-Chair Helen Mayhew, both of whom devoted an extraordinary amount of time in the lead up to the trip and indeed during the week itself.
Thursday evening saw the final musical event of the week, a chamber concert in the beautiful venue of St John’s Cathedral in the Central area of Hong Kong (the oldest Anglican church in South-East Asia). We were delighted to see a packed audience for the event, perhaps no surprise given the interest in Shrewsbury School and the reputation for excellence our musicians have built up.
A wonderful programme of chamber music was opened with Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major for Trumpets and Strings, performed magnificently by Archie Eyre (Rb) and Frank Coughlan (SH) (pictured l-r below). Frank has recently gained a place at the prestigious National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
The Destenay Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Piano was a particular highlight with Reuben Denison on piano, Henri Cramsie on oboe and Will Hope (Ch) on clarinet. The Saxophone Quartet were likewise in fabulous form performing the impressively complex movements from the Anna Magdalena Notebook by Elena Kats-Cherin. Athena Yu’s interpretation of Ravel’s Sonatine was beautiful, and Matthew Poon and the String Ensemble’s rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (‘Summer’) was simply outstanding, all the more impressive in the wonderful acoustics of St John’s Cathedral.
Aside from Matthew’s spell-binding solo performance (which can be heard for yourself at the forthcoming St Cecilia Concerts), the string ensemble was enriched by a wealth of musicians including Amos Cheung (SH), Fingal Dickins and Mathew Tsang (R), Harry Chan and Jackie Chan (Rt), Alvin Jim (I), Kaneii Nishii (Ch) and Janet and Rosa Li (M).
The concert was brought to a fitting finale with the stirring Concerto for Two Clarinets and Orchestra by Franz Krommer, with soloists Will Hope and Oliver Toms (PH) demonstrating their considerable talent as musicians and concluding the concerto on a wonderful note. Shrewsbury School music was at its very best.
The pupils worked extremely hard during the week and their focus throughout was hugely impressive and was highly professional at all times. There was the opportunity for some down time with visits to the Peak to enjoy the spectacular panorama of the city below, watching the Symphony of Lights in Tsmishatsui, a dip in the warm ocean at Stanley Beach, and the odd moment or two for shopping both in the shopper’s paradise that is Causeway Bay and indeed the bargain-hunter’s delight of Stanley Market. The final day saw a visit to Ocean Park for a much-anticipated sighting of their famous pandas, and, for the brave and bold, a rollercoaster ride on ‘The Hair-Raiser’, perched perilously on the cliff-faced mountaintop of the park. For the record, Mr Moore led from the front and was first on. Rumours of high-pitched squealing and cries of despair from the staff are entirely unfounded.
Such a tour is simply not possible without the commitment and enthusiasm of the staff that lead it, and Director of John Moore deserves particular mention for all his work in ensuring the trip became a reality and that it was such a success. As John comes to the end of his time as Director of Music (after three decades of service) this tour of Hong Kong was a fitting way to mark his achievements and to celebrate his association with the region.
Likewise, a huge amount of work went in from Head of Woodwind & Brass Maria McKenzie and Head of Strings David Joyce, both of whom played a key role in putting together the concert programmes and ensuring the musicians were prepared and ready to flourish. The Music Department at Shrewsbury is in rich health and this week-long celebration of music and performance was a wonderful showcase of the considerable talents that are nurtured and developed here at Shrewsbury School. I, for one, felt immensely proud of them all - both pupils and staff - and it was a great honour and privilege to join them on what was a hugely successful and worthwhile trip to Hong Kong.
Peter Middleton, Deputy Head (Co-Curricular)