HKCO: MAJESTIC DRUMS | Hong Kong, Cultural Centre

The enormous Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) were joined on stage by four guest percussion soloists for an 80-minute, family-friendly programme of artful playing and reinvented classics. All audience members were given a little HKCO-branded monkey drum upon entering, and we were invited to drum along and shout with all four soloists, and the orchestra, in the finale of Let the Thunder of Drums Roll VII.1019, ably led by the composer, conductor Chew Hee Chiat.

Soloists Luk Kin Bun and Hsuan Huan-ning let rip in a deafening rendition of “The Sun” from The Age of the Dragon by Kuan Nai-chung. In “The Moon”, Hsuan played a giant yenluo (Chinese cymbal wall) with mesmerising finesse. Ren Xinyue had a real showpiece in Jamie Lin’s reworking, Eight Sounds in Harmony, which saw Ren take full charge of metal, stone, earth, leather, silk, wood, gourd and bamboo percussion instruments, in constantly surprising rhythms, and unbelievable synchronicity with the orchestra.

Iranian soloist Mohammad Reza Mortazavi opened the show, completely alone on stage, with an improvised solo on tombak. Stretching the skin of the drum, Mortazavi was able to bring a sense of voiced pitch to his improvisation, and every subtle tap his fingers (picked up on the microphone) seemed as unique and well-placed as a melody.

Despite advertising the show as a topless male taiko drum show, there were no “majestic” drums at all; the orchestra’s bass drum, tucked away at the back, was noticeably larger than any of the drums played by the soloists. The audience was also curiously tiny. But the divine sound of the soloists and the orchestra gave us all the majesty we needed, and received a rapturous ovation from those of us lucky enough to be there.

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