On my way to New Zealand to install our largest yet Regent Classic Custom Organ I travelled via Hong Kong to meet some very accomplished organists there who have over time become ‘email friends’ and very occasional customers. This was a whistle stop visit with only 2 nights spent in Hong Kong but as luck would have it I was able to fit in an organ recital at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. There are 2 halls there with a 4 manual Rieger instrument in the larger hall seating about 800 or so.
Queuing for the organ recital
This free recital was scheduled for 5.00 on a Saturday evening. We arrived in plenty of time and I was surprised to find that before 4.30 the queue to get in had started to form and was already about 30 meters long. I wonder when you last saw a queue of any length 30 minutes before a recital was scheduled to start?
At about 4.50 we were allowed in and I was part of a group of perhaps four to five hundred who made their way into the upper circle seating, the lower levels being unused. By 5 the upper level was more or less full and the recital got underway with the benefit of a large screen projector so the audience could get a good close look at the musician’s hands.
What was also strikingly different was the audience make up which I have tried to capture on my photographs. At least 150 (or 25%) were youngsters between the ages of 10 and 20, the core adult age I would have put no more than 40 and those over 60 like myself were few and far between. Contrast that with a typical UK audience where the age demographic would be the complete reverse.
A popular instrument
So why is it the organ is popular in Hong Kong beyond anything we ever see in the UK. Is it perhaps that it is an instrument in its own right not confused by the religious context in which it is in the UK. One disappointment of this event that is even more perplexing was the programme. Our performer did not play an accessible programme. The Bach was obscure, followed by Reger and concluding with Durufle. Dare I say it a typical programme of an organist playing for the benefit of other organists rather than choosing programme to entertain. And despite this over 500 people were there!
So if the organ is so popular in Hong Kong, surely we must be doing something wrong for it to be such a niche instrument here? How do we change that? Your answers on a postcard please to Viscount Classical Organs 23 Telford Road Bicester OX26 4LD or email firstname.lastname@example.org