Updates for July 2021:
Concerto da Camera has released the second and third videos featuring the Blackett organ (HKG1936) in St. Paul’s Chapel, Hong Kong, one with a short segment by Prof. Urrows. They can be seen here:
Photo of the Month:
The Hong Kong Oratorio Society, 14 June 1981, performing Mendelssohn’s Elijah at the City Hall Concert Hall, Hong Kong. We are grateful to our colleague, Cynthia Luff (soloist in white sitting on the left), for providing this photo. The conductor is Wong Wing-hee.
Prof. Urrows writes about this image:
This photo is in an interesting historic document and at the same time raises a lot of questions about the position of the organ in Hong Kong forty years ago and also today.
The City Hall Concert Hall still doesn’t have a pipe organ, even a positive organ for continuo. In this image we see how difficult it was prior to the completion of the Concert Hall at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Kowloon in 1989 to mount performances like this. The choir galley (which seats only 60) could not accommodate the 100+ members of the Oratorio Society, and so they had to be placed on risers, presumably standing through the entire lengthy work. The choir seats in turn were covered with a precarious-looking plywood platform, and an electronic organ and six immense speakers were hoisted up on top of it (a huge logistic challenge from the stage level.) I am personally quite glad that I was not the organist for this event, and I admire my colleague, Wong Kin-yu, seen calmly sitting on top of this crazy contraption, ready to play. Everything is backwards from what it should be.
While the 1989 Cultural Centre Concert Hall solved some of these problems, such as seating for large choirs and the installation of a four-manual pipe organ by Rieger (HKG1989), the lack of an on-stage electric action console for this instrument means that the organist can only play from the massively heavy tracker console up in the ‘crows nest’ above the choir seats. So, not all of the problems faced in 1981 were solved by the new venue after all and continue to create difficulties for conductors and singers in Hong Kong to this day.
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