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Quotation of Queries: Choral Encounters of Hong Kong, China, and the Distant West


Students form an integral part of the research culture in the HKBU Faculty of Arts. Our researchers in creative practice have a unique opportunity to partner with student artists in a teaching-research nexus that illuminates Hong Kong’s multicultural profile in relation to global repertoires. In June 2018, student choral ensemble Cantoría Hong Kong from the HKBU Department of Music spent one week at Studio 28 in Bangkok, Thailand recording its first CD, Quotation of Queries: Choral Encounters of Hong Kong, China, and the Distant West, for release on Navona Records (PARMA Recordings) in April 2020.


Quotation of Queries explores selective cultures, eras and texts of human civilisation through the international choral medium from the perspective of a Hong Kong music ensemble looking outward in space and time. In this practice-led research project, Cantoría members and faculty conductor Professor John Winzenburg address a set of key research questions through performance: 

-    How do ancient texts find meaning through choral music in 21st-century life? 
-    How do traditions of classical poetry, Greek theatre, Hungarian-inspired German Romanticism, French chansons and Brazilian folk forms merge into a contemporary choral platform?
-    How are tonal Chinese languages such as Mandarin and Cantonese enunciated chorally alongside non-tonal Western languages such as English, German, French and Brazilian-Portuguese? 
-    How do advancing media technologies transform Asian university ensemble practices across cultures?
-    How does the Hong Kong perspective both include us in and distinguish us from the traditions of different continents?  



This collection features recent works, including three choral recording premieres, by prominent composers from Hong Kong, Brazil and the United Kingdom. Two sets of classical Chinese texts are scored for chorus and piano. However, the musical languages are highly contrasted, and the CD title track Quotation of Queries 蘇問 by Chan Hing-yan is sung in Mandarin, while Under the Mid-Autumn Moon 水調歌頭 (Seui Diu Go Tau) and The Crane Releasing Pavilion放鶴亭記 (Fong Hok Ting Kei) by Chan Kai-young are performed in Cantonese. John Browne’s Suppliant Women score combines elements of ancient Greek drama with contemporary choral theatre, as the chorus assumes the role of group protagonist in a novel partnership with percussion and the ancient Greek reed instrument, the aulos. The unaccompanied Suíte Nordestina captures folk idioms of Brazil that are themselves amalgams of South American, African and Portuguese forms, in which the voices sing intertwining melodies and imitate percussion instruments.


Older German and French works of the Western choral canon also figure in this collection. The Brahms Zigeunerlieder were conceived as an accompanied part-song cycle for solo quartet and, in 19th-century Viennese society, were prized for their symbolic blending of uninhibited exotic culture and Western art music. Poulenc’s French chansons cycle for unaccompanied choir, in its clever bucolic setting, offers a social commentary of French folk life. The CD presented here thus offers a two-directional glimpse at eclectic musical texts: from Hong Kong, we peer back toward the Chinese and non-Chinese origins of our composite worldview; from elsewhere, we observe the cosmopolitan “fragrant harbour” through a new choral-cultural lens.



John Winzenburg - The Suppliant Woman: Exodus


Project team members 

Current and past student members of the Cantoría Hong Kong
Department of Music
Faculty of Arts


Prof John Winzenburg

Professor John Winzenburg