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Hong Kong stages its Expo finale

HONG Kong goes out in a blaze of Expo glory next week with over 60 performances showcasing the energy and creativity of the region. Zhang Qian reports.

Hong Kong throws a rousing, weeklong bash of the best the region has to offer from next Monday through Friday - from traditional culture to urban culture, Cantonese Opera to the Police Band.

More than 60 shows and programs involving 1,000 people will be staged inside and outside the World Expo site during the Hong Kong Week, the highlight of the region's Expo offerings.

The six-month Expo concludes on October 31.

"It provides a last opportunity to share with the Expo visitors from around the world the talent and creativity of Hong Kong people, as well as the vibrancy and diversity of Hong Kong's cosmopolitan society," says Michael Wong, Hong Kong's director of information services.

After a star-studded opening ceremony with Hong Kong music industry icons, Hong Kong Week will unfold a city of diversity.

The program includes "Legacy and Creations - Art vs Art Exhibition" by modern artist; "Budding Winter" exhibition by art students; a Cantonese Opera performance by the Children's and Young People's Chinese Opera Troupe; a concert by the Police Band; a cross-media performance "A Soldier's Story" by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta; and the daily Hong Kong Pop Up parade in the Expo site featuring new Hong Kong culture.

Hong Kong scenes will "pop up" in a giant (5.5mx3.5mx3.5m) pop-up book whenever a "page" is turned. Five pages display colorful aspects of Hong Kong: blue - "Opportunity Unlimited" for business; yellow - "Action Unlimited" for sports; green - "Green Unlimited" for eco-protection; silver - "Creativity Unlimited" for movie and music producing; and red - "Festival Unlimited" for various traditional festivals.

The pop-up book was designed and produced by Kit Lau, creator of the original Hong Kong pop-up book, and winners of the Hong Kong Pavilion concept design competition, Ida Sze and Billy Chan.

The scenes on each page pop up in a different way, representing the Hong Kong spirit of "never say 'die'," says Sze.

The daily parade with 130 participants will be led by the Hong Kong Police Band, with a funky jazz ensemble from the Hong Kong Fringe Club providing the musical finale.

The parade will include cuddly mascots from Ocean Park as well as a walking feast of Hong Kong food favorites such as traditional milk tea, egg tarts, mooncakes and fish ball sticks.

Noted choreographer High King has worked with 50 dancers from six schools and institutes to illustrate the pop-up themes with energetic performances.

Around 25 performers, aged from four to 19, will present traditional Cantonese Opera at the Expo. All belong to the region's youth troupe, which provides lessons and performance opportunities to young people.

Most of the performers started studying when they were around five years old, says Flora Cheung, art director of the troupe. Kids are first motivated by the chance to wear beautiful costumes; their parents want the lessons to help kids learn more about traditional culture.

The opera troupe will present 15 performances in five days at Baosteel Stage, including famous scenes from "Madam White Snake," "Magic Lotus Lantern" and "Princes Flower."

The opening ceremony will include well-known entertainment figures such as Frances Yip, Eason Chan, Eric Suen and Kay Tse; veteran composer Joseph Koo; renowned violinist Yao Jue; erhu (Chinese fiddle) master Wong On-yuen; musical director Mui Kwong-chiu; and the Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra conductor Ng Ka-ming.

A cross-media performance of Stravinsky's "A Soldier's Story" will bring down the curtain on the Hong Kong Week. It will bring together the Yip Wing-sie and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, choreographer Yuri Ng, narrator Chu Pak-him, and renowned dancers Huang Leim Shirai Tsuyoshi, Jay Jen Loo and Abby Chan.

Other Hong Kong culture events will be held around Shanghai. A film retrospective featuring 23 acclaimed, and uncut, Hong Kong movies will be held from October 18 to 22.

The "Fashion Visionaries" Hong Kong fashion show is underway at Xintiandi, a shopping and entertainment hub, through October 28.

Highlights of the culture week

'A Soldier's Story'

In a Faustian pact, a young soldier on his way home from war trades his violin (symbol of his soul) to the devil for a fortune. Stravinsky's "A Soldier's Tale" will conclude the Hong Kong Week at the Expo.

It will be staged as a cross-media show of music, dance and narration at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center on October 22.

The tale was adapted by Hong Kong Sinfonietta director Yip Wing-sie and choreographer Yuri Ng.

"Few people today will actually see themselves as the soldier," explains Ng. "Competition in the office is the major battle for many of them, while the chair of the big boss is what most people want."

In this story, business suits replace military uniforms; a violin still represents the soul traded to the devil in exchange for material wealth and success. Actor Chu Pak-him is both narrator and the devil himself, who comments mercilessly upon human greed.

Four artists dance to Stravinsky's witty, highly infectious and intricately written work, which is performed by an ensemble of seven musicians.

Three male dancers play the role of the soldier in different phases of life - the carefree young man, the troubled middle aged man and the old man who has become the tool of the devil. The musicians, too, become figurants in the performance.

"Sitting there and playing the music correctly was always the only task for the musician, but not any more," says Yip. "As many other performances like dance and drama have all moved forward to more multi-entertainment, musicians should also think about ways to expand their audience."

Hong Kong Sinfonietta has been producing crossover works every year since 2002.

To complete the program, the sinfonietta will perform two other Stravinsky works, the neoclassical "Card Game" and "Three Pieces for Clarinet."

Date: October 22, 7:30pm

Address: 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 100-580 yuan

Police Band

Police officers armed with musical instruments will parade along Nanjing Road and the Expo site to celebrate the Hong Kong Week.

In addition to leading the daily parade, the Hong Kong Police Band will march in Century Square on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall on Saturday and Sunday, and perform concerts at the Celebration Square in Zone B of the Expo site next Monday and Tuesday.

Performances include Chinese and Western compositions and examples of martial music from Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the United States; and Scottish folk music.

The band is comprised of 48 police musicians in the marching band and bagpipe band.

Joining the police band will be traditional Chinese drums playing folk music - and the famous American Dixieland Jazz Band.

Police vocalists will sing popular Hong Kong songs like "The Chinese" by Andy Lau.

To attract more Expo visitors to the concert at the Celebration Square, the band will start marching 15 minutes before the concert starts, according to James Leung, the band's music director.

Founded in 1951, the police band expanded from the original 21 members to 84 today who are both professional musicians and police. They perform in more than 600 activities each year.

Date: October 16, 1pm, 6pm; October 17, 1pm, 5:30pm

Venue: Century Square on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall

Date: October 18, 3pm, 5pm; October 19, 3:30am, 5pm

Venue: Celebration Square in Expo site


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