MALCOLM RUDLAND
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Rudland Enterprises Unlimited
issues the following communiqué from his Hong Kong Office!

I write on St Patrick's Day 2002, my first free day after adjudicating two of three weeks in the 54th Hong Kong Schools Music Festival, I write from a 21st floor window looking over Hong Kong Harbour, and I see Kowloon, the Cultural Centre and an Irish frigate here for St Patrick's Day, all twinkling in the night lights.

I donıt know how you normally celebrate St Patrick's Day, but I got a free bottle of wine from a real Irishman this year. The Music Festival gave each of the 22 adjudicators the choice of a free tour around Hong Kong, and I chose the Harbour cruise and Floating Chinese meal. With me, five other adjudicators chose the Harbour cruise, but then they went to the Revolving Western meal, so after the Harbour cruise we parted company, and for the floating Chinese meal, I found myself sitting between a retired barber from Palm Beach, Florida with whom I could talk about the home of Flagler's Railroad to Key West and his Royal Poinciana Chapel where I gave an organ recital last February, and an Irish rubber stamp manufacturer and his wife from Limerick, with whom I was able to converse about "Angela's Ashes" and "Tis" by Frank McCourt (set in Limerick) which I have just read. The Irishman paid for the wine!

Last Wednesday in the vast 1,500-seater Tuen Mun Town Hall (at one of the farthest outposts of the New Territories) came the pinnacle of my choral conducting career (Can you match this?). I conducted 1,000 kids in John Rutter's "For the beauty of the earth", in an unscheduled opportunity, prompted by my charming assistant, Debbie Tang, who thought all the choirs might like to sing the set piece together. Rudland's diffidence came to the fore, and after all the choirs were seated in the auditorium eagerly awaiting the result of my adjudication, I wasn't going to miss this, so I chose the best pianist (most of the others drowned the low notes!) and I said "Let's stand up, and do the set piece again, all together". 20 choirs of 60 each = 1,200 voices!

Later, I was disappointed with myself when another ten choirs all one after the other sang a B flat instead of a written B natural in bar 26 of John Rutter's "A Clare Benediction" in the Anthem, Singing in English Class, Age 14 and under. As each choir failed to notice the B natural, I got more and more angry, and after the final choir, I determined I would make them all stay behind afterwards until they sang it right. I had a microphone set up to speak from playing the piano, but in the end my courage failed, and I will forever feel guilty that 600 kids in Hong Kong will go through the rest of their lives, singing a B flat where John Rutter wanted a B natural. However, the day of the choirs finals was a far more uplifting experience. Unfortunately, no Clare Benedictions rose to that day, but the adjudications, delivered in the warm savoury tones of the Californian William Hatcher, made everyone feel as if they had won.

My most notable piano class was a "blood stopped play" performance in which an over confident teenager crucified the Chopin A flat Polonaise in a 100 seater hall, playing as if he was in the London Albert Hall or the Hollywood Bowl, and, as if he had gloves on! In a cascade of downward octaves, the fourth finger of his right hand hit the keys with such force that it descended leaving a trail of blood. He got up, sucked his finger, said he'd better stop, and left my assistant to clean up two octaves of blood, ready for a more sensitive Chopin Ballade, Op 47.

Later, one tiny seven-year old Grade Five pianist must have heard about this, and took no chances. He appeared in dress suit, dress shirt and black bow tie, dramatically produced a huge white feather duster from his pocket, and proceeded to wipe all the keys, as if clearing up all the contamination that any previous pianists may have left to desecrate his performance. From the top, he descended in about fifths at a time, until ceremoniously placing the duster on the lowest notes. The whole process took about as long as playing the set first movement of Thomas Arne's Sonata in A. The piano was a Bösendorfer Grand, and although he played impeccably, his tone was a little harsh, so I was not going to be intimidated by such flamboyant showmanship, and awarded first prize to a demure little girl who produced more warmth and restraint.

One winner of another class was less flamboyant but made an impression far beyond his Grade One status. After the statutory photo with his adjudicator, the winnerıs mother sat him at the piano (he couldn't get on the seat by himself), whereupon at least six more photographers appeared from nowhere and Toby Chan charismatically played the first C major prelude from the Bach 48, all from memory and exclusively beaming at each photographer in turn. The atmosphere was worthy of a Yo Yo Ma photo call.

Although I cannot beat Kenneth van Barthold's record of listening to 1,523 piano pieces, of which 180 were a Gurlitt Waltz (Op. 179, No 21 in F), my single record was only 66, for a Bartok Mikrokosmos (No. 114). After two hours of it, and only two pianists making the wrong notes sound like rights ones, I was ready to reject some entries, convinced that some children had already been before and were after a second chance! (What a pity all Chinese look the same!). For full orchestra, I've also had 15 Hungarian Dances (Brahms 6) and 4 Hungarian Marches (Berlioz), all 'cos I'm half Hungarian. The latter competition involved an 'own choice' piece as well, and was won by St Paul's College with a "Die Fledermaus" Overture conducted by Raymond Fu, choirmaster of the local St John's Cathedral. Before announcing the winner, I kept them all in suspense with a clue, saying I had conducted the winner's "own choice" piece with the English National Orchestra, after a friend had bid them £50 for my opportunity in a charity event. I said the orchestra tonight played it as well as they did, and afterwards their music director had signed my certificate "Batman could do no better". I later learnt that some did realise they'd won then, but I kept them in suspense further with more patter about the second and third prize winners, until the roar with my official announcement brought the roof down.

Of non Hungarian note : a Buddhist school choir singing "Alleluia to the Lord", a tear-jerking "Take these wings" from Don Besig (Do you know it - I am told he is an American John Rutter?), then a Government school choir who won with No 10 of Horovitz's "Captain Noah and his floating 200" (sic!), and an own choice Hymn Singing Class who won with a "Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so", when I was crestfallen that a "What a friend I have in Jesus" backed out!

With 135,000 entries for every conceivable Western and Oriental instrument, I cannot but mention the capable and indefatigable Festivalıs Administrative Secretary, Mr Wai Sing Fat, whose nose in selecting performers, teachers and musical personalities from all over the world, created a 22-strong team of adjudicators that really gelled.

One photo I took will last in my abiding memory. It is of dozens of tiny five-year-olds sitting on a stage opposite a table of prizewinner's cups, all waiting to be won on the huge central lone grand piano. For me, it epitomises that the most impressive thing here, is that music matters.

Malcolm R

 

Malcolm Rudland offers his observations from adjudicating
in the 59th Hong Kong Schools Music Festival in March 2007

On my one free day after adjudicating three of five weeks in the 59th Hong Kong Schools Music Festival, I write from a 22nd floor window looking over Hong Kong Harbour, and, as when as I wrote in 2002, I see Kowloon and the Cultural Centre, this time after a free trip to Ocean Park, Asia's premier sea life and animal theme park, Sadly the panda house was closed, awaiting two new arrivals from the Chinese government in July, celebrating 10 years since the 'changeover'.

My most memorable experience this time was a mis-suspected kidnap, when I felt arrested by the Chinese government - to await repatriation with the new pandas? A shuttle taxi service was arranged to all our adjudication venues, and on arriving at a 21-storey church in Shatin one morning, there were road works outside, so the taxi driver parked on the pavement and said his colleague would park there to meet me at 5pm. At 5pm a car was duly there and we drove off out of town. Now I had seen that that shuttle service was due to pick up two other adjudicators from the Riverside Hotel in Shatin, so why were we out of town? When I queried this, I realised the taxi driver spoke no English. He just handed me a visa application for China and said 'Passport'. Despite fervent protestations, we drove on. My mind went into overdrive and all persistent visual aids demonstrating that I didn't want to go to China eventually sent him back to Shatin where he found his rightful guilo* who was expecting to be taken to China! *A white man

I had more difficulties with Chinese pronunciation this year than I remember in 2002. In a lunch break at the Piu Ching Education Centre (at the top of a most hair-raising hill), I ventured down Nathan Road to change my flight home at the Cathay Pacific office. Not braving the steep walk back, I hailed a taxi. 'Piu Ching Centre please'. A blank expression made me point to a little road off Gasgoigne Road. When we arrived, he said 'Oh, you mean the Piu Ching Centre'!!

But, I could question some English pronunciations. In one Primary School 'Singing Games' class, a charming set piece by M L Reeve called 'Fishing' mostly sounded like 'Fishong'.

My liturgical calendar was also greatly distorted. On the fourth day of Lent, I went to St John's Cathedral and sang of Lent's 'Forty days and forty nights' - before Christ's resurrection. On the fifth day of Lent, 2,000 kids sang me six hours of 'Hymn Singing Classes in English', and the first choir won with 'Jesus Christ is risen today'! A week later, another class won with 'Once in Royal David's City'! The popularity of hymn singing in Hong Kong is amazing, memories from my youth, such as 'Jesus loves me, this I know', but also modern hymns like 'This is the Day', listed as arranged by a Norman Warrant. Now, I know of a Norman Warren, and it was indeed he; the hymn book showed a † at the end of his name, assigning his copyrights to Jubilee Music!

In all, I took 118 Hymn Singing Classes, and I wasn't the only choir adjudicator. There were also 'Hymn Singing Classes in Chinese', and 86 entries for 'Folk Church Music', a loosely defined own choice class, encompassing gospel, jazz, and the works of John Rutter, and his American equivalent, Don Besig (ASCAP). There was also a strange entry: 'I don't know' A L Webber,
but I found I did know him, when it turned out to be a song from 'Jesus Christ Superstar'!

Also, I adjudicated 67 Junior Choirs, 51 Secondary Choirs, 22 Madrigal Choirs and I even had six entries in a Plainsong Class. But, for the really professional SSA choirs under the age of 14, there were 11 entries for the set piece of William Harris's 'Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life', an ideal piece for testing single phrases over the full rage of treble voices, and the symmetrical resolution of many juicy suspensions. In the end one girl's choir was really as good as a boy's choir, and I found myself being a little unfair in my adjudication by saying my final decision
was made by imagining that I was sitting in St. George's Chapel, Windsor and asking myself 'Which choir would have sounded more appropriate in that original setting for which it was composed?' My only consolation was to also say that if either of those two choirs planned a trip to London, I would arrange for them to sing that anthem at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

Don Besig (ASCAP) deserves more mention, for in 2002 his 'Take these Wings' drew my tears. Its ethics are of a dying sparrow telling us to take his wings and learn to fly, to take his eyes and learn to see, and to take this song and learn to sing, and to take our hearts and set them free. A second verse finds another sparrow whose life has just begun, whose wings we should, etc., etc. My tribute to America was to motivate nine adjudicators to perform this at our Festival Dinner.

In return, an American adjudicator offered a tribute to England. Gilberto Munguia, a 'cellist and a graduate from Yale University, told me he had played the Delius 'Cello Concerto six times in the San Francisco area, whereupon I was able to enrol him as a member of our Delius Society!

In the vast 1,500-seater Tuen Mun Town Hall (at one of the farthest outposts of the New Territories) this time I failed to beat the pinnacle of my choral conducting career there in 2002, when I conducted 1,200 kids in John Rutter's 'For the beauty of the earth', in an unscheduled
opportunity, when I said "Let's stand up, and do the set piece again, all together". This year the set piece was Maurice Blower's 'Hie Away' and I could only get 600 together!

Two musical experiences in the festival stand out, one, a Schubert A major Piano Sonata from a 17 year old who played as with so much experience of life that I cried, and I also cried after two tiny duettists caught my heart in Thomas F Dunhill's 'Cowslip Meadow' from his 'Four-Hand Fancies'. I must get the music to recapture the feeling. But, on the debit side, I once suffered 59 'Songs without Words', all F major Mendelssohns (Op. 85 No 1) when all the last 45 played Tenor E flats all the way through, even when it was in F major!! Next day, a local paper had front page coverage of a piano teacher jailed for four years for playing with pupils. I suggest the teacher of those 45 pupils should be jailed for four years for not correcting their E flats!!

One Tuesday, I had eleven string orchestras all playing two set pieces, 'Pieds-en-l'air' and 'Mattachins' from Peter Warlock's 'Capriol'. As a Vice-President of the Peter Warlock Society, this was not set upon my motivation, but I was pleased to meet Patrick K W Sze, the School Programme Consultant whose motivation it was, and I offered him my congratulations on the choice. Although it was easy to choose the winner, it was a pity both pieces were generally played too fast, and I ruminated with Mr Sze that this could have been because many of the CD recordings are too fast, and there might not even be any copies of Arbeau's 'Orcheosography' in Hong Kong, where the steps for the 'Mattachins' sword dance show it can't go too fast.

With a total of 167,000 entries for every conceivable Western and Oriental instrument, I cannot but mention the capable and indefatigable Festival's Administrative Secretary, Anita Wai, whose nose in selecting performers, teachers and musical personalities from all over the world, created a 31-strong team of adjudicators that really gelled.

For me, adjudicating the Kindergarten Music Activities was the real treat. These classes should be more available to the general public, for some entries became big production numbers, with added drama, dancing, lavish sets, and sequined costumes, all within a five-minute time limit. Was I trying to be impressed to give the first prize to the entry with the most expensive budget?

One photo taken for me from this class will last in my abiding memory. It is of fifteen tiny tots from the Funful Kindergarten & Children's Corner in Tuen Mun, after winning third prize in Ronald Corp's arrangement of 'When the Saints Go Marchin' in', all dressed in red and white band uniforms, surely cribbed from the film of Meredith Willson's 'The Music Man', that the parents had each paid HK$ 80 for, For me, it again epitomises that music matters in Hong Kong.

Cheers,

Malcolm R

 

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