Bridging 'Local' and 'International': Emerging Notational and Performance Practices in Cantonese Choral Music (Keynote Presentation)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper


The 2023 conference “From Constraints to Creativity” celebrates a recent yet overdue trend toward Cantonese-language choral and vocal works within Hong Kong art music. In the area of choral music, relatively few originally composed Cantonese works existed in Hong Kong until after 2010, despite the strong choral tradition that had developed in the city through the 20th century. As is implied by the main conference theme, various constraints limited the development of Cantonese practices into the first decade of the 21st century, in part due to the unique socio-linguistic-historical position of Hong Kong in comparison to other areas of the world. Over the past decade, however, Hong Kong has experienced a sudden upsurge in new Cantonese choral works that feature its unique linguistic, musical, and cultural elements in relation to Mandarin and Taiwanese, which are also tonally spoken languages based on common, pictographic Chinese texts.

Without long-established performance practices to inform the composition, publishing, rehearsal preparation, and performance of Cantonese choral music, choral practitioners both within and outside of Hong Kong face an exciting set of challenges and opportunities as they embrace the new works: What rationale and processes exist for commissioning new works? How is a complex pictographic written language with nine tones and fluidly pronounced syllables best notated for local and international choirs? How much flexibility or uniformity should be applied as new performance practices take shape? What valuable experiences have been gained thus far in disseminating Cantonese works internationally? And what specific challenges have Hong Kong choirs faced in learning and performing new forms of choral music in their own language?

In this keynote presentation, I address these crucial questions by reflecting on several projects that I have engaged in over the past ten years as conductor, curator, editor, university educator and scholar. These include the internationally commissioned Chinese choral collection and CD Half Moon Rising: Choral Music from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan (Edition Peters, 2015) and its Chinese edition Ripples Glisten Away 水光瀲灧(Central Conservatory of Music Press, Beijing);the Hong Kong Arts Festival multilingual, multimedia cantata “Hong Kong Odyssey” (2017); the Colla Voce 2019喜粵! concert of newly commissioned Cantonese choral works; and the internationally recorded and distributed CD “Quotation of Queries: Choral Encounters of Hong Kong, China, and the Distant West” (PARMA Recordings/Navona Records, 2020). Using excerpts from related scores and audio-video recordings, I will offer my own perspective on how notational and performance practices are taking shape, as well as insight into bridging local and international choral pathways for the future.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2023
EventFrom Constraints to Creativity : A Conference on Cantonese Contemporary Music = 粵語現代音樂交流會議 : 以制約啟發創意 - Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 28 Apr 202330 Apr 2023


ConferenceFrom Constraints to Creativity : A Conference on Cantonese Contemporary Music = 粵語現代音樂交流會議 : 以制約啟發創意
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
Internet address

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Choral Music


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