In late autumn and early winter, as Hong Kong is rejuvenated by mild temperatures and fresh breezes, Tai Kwun’s Parade Ground and Prison Yard are transformed into performance spaces with a magical atmosphere not found anywhere else in our city. While the Parade Ground is the natural stage for exuberant family entertainment, the Prison Yard, flanked by the dramatic austerity of the Prison Wall and the cell-block D Hall, and the modernist restraint of JC Contemporary and JC Cube, becomes a natural home for music which takes us deep within ourselves to touch the soul, warm the spirit and stir the heart.
Prison Yard Festival: Music from within celebrates the healing power of music, an art-form which provides solace when we are alone and isolated from those we love, and which underscores our joy when we are reunited. Solo instrumental music for unaccompanied violin or solo piano ruminates through a myriad of emotions – loneliness, longing, anticipation, dreams of escape – providing a certain comfort to the player and the listener, but almost crying out for another voice to join in. More than any other art-form, music thrives on collaboration, whether it is between two like-minded musicians, or among an ensemble of fine instrumentalists, between a composer and a performer (possibly even centuries apart) and between performers and audiences. Music from within brings together individual musicians, ensembles and audiences to create and share the unique and intimate setting of the Prison Yard in which music leads us from poised introspection to extrovert joy.
True to its title, Music from within begins indoors, in the JC Cube. And true to its location overlooking the Prison Yard, the festival opens with LENK Quartet performing music written “on the inside”. French composer Olivier Messiaen was a prisoner in a POW camp in Poland in 1940 and composed Quartet for the End of Time for himself and three fine musicians who were among the other POWs in the camp. Through his extraordinary imagination, Messiaen led his ensemble, and his audience, in an escape from the confines of prison, flying above the material world in cosmic freedom. “Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension.”
The monumental Goldberg Variations are heard in a new light when pianist Rachel Cheung and lighting designer Amy Chan collaborate to realise Bach’s great keyboard composition from 1741 through a distinctly 21st century lens.
Music emerges from within as the outdoor stage of the Prison Yard hosts a series of highly atmospheric evening concerts, including two chamber concerts by some of the finest musicians from the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. Revered Hong Kong pianist Nancy Loo will perform Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata under the December full moon. The Prison Yard Festival will close with the unstoppable energy of baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro with their stellar soloist Jakub Józef Orliński, making his Asian debut with two nights of dazzling virtuosity from the 17th and 18th centuries.
"From anticipation to anxiety, from bewilderment to awe – for a brief musical moment the prisoners were free."
Rebecca Rischin, For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet
Written in 1940, Quartet for the End of Time was one of the most frequently performed works by French composer Olivier Messiaen. The quartet, scored for the unconventional ensemble of clarinet, violin, cello and piano, was composed and premiered inside a prisoner-of-war camp during the WWII under extremely harsh conditions; but was "listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension" by his fellow inmates, many of whom were hearing chamber music for the first time. The work embodies the composer’s firm faith and perseverance amid adversity, and is considered a symbol of the power of great art to console hearts in the humanity’s darkest chapters.
Formed upon the performance of the same work in 2021, LENK Quartet is bringing this monumental masterpiece to the highly evocative former Victoria Prison, now reimagined as Tai Kwun. The night view from the huge picture window of the JC Cube overlooks the dramatic Prison Yard and recalls a century of prisoners who could find a brief, sunlit semblance of freedom within its high security walls. Hong Kong composer Daniel Lo reflects upon Messiaen’s gigantic quartet with newly composed work for the same forces.
Daniel Lo│In Nomine - Meditation in the Dark (commissioned by LENK Quartet)
Messiaen│ Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time)
Duration: Approximately 1 hour without intermission
Tai Kwun’s intimate auditorium the JC Cube is perched above the Prison Yard and adds a remarkable dimension to the concert experience with its wide, architecturally framed window on the yard revealing the austere Prison Wall, the concrete and metal boldness of the galleries, the Victorian arches of D Hall and the leafy treetops of its mini-forest. Tai Kwun’s unexpected and occasionally eccentric collision of historic and contemporary architecture has inspired a completely new look at one of classical music’s landmark compositions.
In tackling JS Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations for the first time, acclaimed Hong Kong pianist Rachel Cheung has collaborated with the highly creative lighting designer Amy Chan to delve into the complex symmetries, mathematical puzzles, inversions, reversals and mirror images which, at times, make this baroque score look like a book of patterns designed by Escher and borrowed by Rorschach.
Across the vast span of its two arias and 30 variations, the Goldberg Variations will be revealed literally in a new light as two of Hong Kong’s brightest artists devise a completely new concert experience.
J.S. Bach│Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
Duration: Approximately 1 hour 10 minutes without intermission
When playing in an ensemble, musicians have the ability to understand each other without verbal means of communication. It is through their silent solidarity that we can be moved by music. Throughout the pandemic, however, musicians experienced separation; it was not long ago when masks, distance and partitions were indispensable in a concert. Yet, despite these physical barriers, music transcends borders, defies quarantine and brings people together as listeners, composers or performers.
Echoing the theme of the Prison Yard Festival, this theatrically staged concert reflects on the isolation endured by all of us, and the dislocation experienced by musicians kept apart. In Mozart’s Rondo, the pianist searches in vain for meaning, connection or companionship but the introspective solitude of a Bach Partita for solo violin opens up a tentative dialogue with a like-minded neighbor. A single instrument is joined by another, first in Q&A then in harmony together; the group, the confidence and the richness grow; we pause for the calming mindfulness of Messiaen’s hymn of praise before the whole ensemble dives headlong into the extrovert joy and life-affirming reunion of Schumann’s Piano Quintet.
Mozart│Rondo in A minor, K.511
Avan Yu (piano)
J.S. Bach│Bourrée & Double from Violin Partita no. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002
Gui Li, Wang Liang (violin)
Mozart│Duo for Violin and Viola in G major, K. 423
Wang Liang (violin), Sun Yu Johnny (viola)
Messiaen│Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus from Quatuor pour la fin du temps
Richard Bamping (cello), Avan Yu (piano)
Schumann│Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op.44
Wang Liang(violin), Gui Li (violin), Sun Yu Johnny (viola), Richard Bamping (cello), Avan Yu (piano)
Duration: Approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes without intermission
The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra traverses ancient and modern music through the evocative sound of Chinese stringed instruments. Over the course of this fascinating concert, some of Hong Kong’s finest instrumentalists draw the listener into the intimacy of their solo instruments before expanding to embrace the sweep of the larger ensemble, contrasting the poetic introspection of the soloist with the exuberant joy of the group, against the backdrop of Tai Kwun’s imposing Prison Wall.
Drawing on classics of Chinese traditional music and finding inspiration in nature and the moon, this concert gathers momentum as it heads towards its life-affirming climax when Hong Kong composer Ng Cheuk-yin’s Growth Ring commemorates the steps engraved as we overcome every one of life’s challenges.
Hu Dengtiao│A Joyful Evening (String Quintet)
Ancient Melody│Three Variations on Yangguan (String Quintet)
Xu Jianqiang│Xiao-Ban (String Quintet)
Ng King Pan│Red Candles (Huqin Quartet)
- Intermission – (20 min)
Liu Tianhua│Birdsong in the Mountain (Erhu Solo)
Ancient Melody│Moonlight over the Spring River (Pipa and Zheng)
Tan Kah Yong│Leslie Cheung Forever (Huqin Quartet)
Hua Yanjun│Reflection of the Moon on the Water (Huqin Ensemble)
Ng Cheuk-yin│Growth Ring (Huqin Septet)
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes including a 20-minute intermission
With December’s full moon dominating the night sky and Tai Kwun’s Prison Yard transformed into Hong Kong’s most unexpected outdoor concert hall, the natural starting point of Nancy Loo’s solo piano recital is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
One of Hong Kong’s most revered performers and pedagogues, Nancy Loo has brought the inspiration, solace and the healing powers of music not only to audiences in celebrated concert halls around the world, but also to prisoners serving their terms in Hong Kong’s jails. Through decades of volunteering, Nancy has taught, motivated and transformed inmates as a profound part of their rehabilitation, and her experiences behind bars provide the signposts to an unspoken narrative in this eclectic and searching concert.
A modern counterpart to Beethoven’s Sonata, Doming Lam’s Moonlight Over the Spring River brings the musical story to our own region in our own time, and Nancy’s boundless curiosity has gathered together a daringly diverse program, drawn from her encounters on the inside, which finds a deep and moving resonance in the extraordinary setting of the Prison Yard.
Sakamoto │ Aqua
Beethoven │ Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op 27, No.2, Moonlight
Debussy │ Clair de Lune
Doming Lam │ Moonlight Over Spring River
- Intermission –
Scriabin │ Étude in C-sharp minor, Op. 2, No. 1
Scriabin │ Étude in D-sharp minor, Op. 8, No. 12
Ben Ng │ Precious Lord, Take My Hand (Arr. By Victor Chan)
Indian tune │ I have Decided to Follow Jesus (Arr. By Steve Ho)
Schubert │ Impromptu in G-flat major No. 3, Op. 90, D. 899
Schumann │ Aufschwung from Fantasiestücke, Op. 12
Arvo Pärt │ Spiegel im Speigel (with LENK Quartet)
Duration: Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes including one 20-minute intermission
The finale of Prison Yard Festival: Music from within welcomes the return to Hong Kong of the acclaimed Italian Baroque ensemble il Pomo d’Oro and the first performance anywhere in Asia of Polish countertenor sensation Jakub Józef Orliński.
Both il Pomo d’Oro and Jakub Józef Orliński are known for their brilliantly inventive programmes that draw on meticulous historical research to unearth strikingly distinctive composers and boldly expressive music which had been forgotten by history. il Pomo d’Oro, which merges a profound mastery of historically informed practice with contemporary vitality in performance, shares with Tai Kwun the highest standards of conservation and an unwavering commitment to revitalization of the treasured heritage of which each of us is the custodian.
In the dramatic outdoor setting of the Prison Yard, Orlinski will offer two distinctly different programmes - Faces of Love and Seasons of the Soul. While Faces of Love comprises music from the award-winning album of the same name, Seasons of the Soul has been created especially for the Prison Yard Festival and will reveal exciting new discoveries and give voice to the music of long lost composers of the 17th and 18th Century – perhaps even a centuries-late world premiere! History, heritage, artistry and star-power come together in two unforgettable evenings in Tai Kwun’s Prison Yard.
Programme I – Facce d’Amore (Faces of Love)
F. Cavalli│Sinfonia & Erme e solinghe cime… Lucidissima face from La Calisto (1661)
G.A. Boretti│Chi scherza con Amor from Eliogabalo (1668)
G.A. Boretti│Sinfonia & Crudo amore, non hai pieta from Claudio Cesare (1672)
G. Bononcini│Infelice mia costanza from La costanza non gradita nel doppio amore d’Aminta (1694)
G. Bononcini│Sinfonia from La nemica d’Amore fatta amante
F.B. Conti│Odio, vendetta, amor from Don Chisciotte (1719)
L.A. Predieri│Dovrian quest’occhi piangere from Scipione il giovane (1731)
- Intermission (20 minutes) -
G.F. Handel│Spera, ché tra le care gioie from Muzio Scevola (1721)
J.A. Hasse│Sempre a si vaghi rai from Orfeo
N. Matteis│Ballo dei Bagattellieri from Don Chisciotte in Siera Morena (1719)
L.A. Predieri│Finche salvo è l’amor suo from Scipione il giovane (1731)
G.M. Orlandini/J. Mattheson│Che m’ami ti prega from Nerone (1721)
Duration: Approximately 1 hour 20 minutes with a 20-minute intermission
Programme II – Le Stagioni dell’Anima (Seasons of the Soul)
Arias, cantatas and instrumental pieces by Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Sances, Netti, Jarzębski, Marini, Moratelli and others.
Duration: Approximately 1 hour 20 minutes with a 20-minute intermission