Day of service: Let the music play

In Hong Kong, Yale musicians perform for the elderly.

Tim O'Rourke

Tim O'Rourke

Five members of the Chamber Music Society of Hong Kong’s Yale Club played to a full house at a community center for the elderly. View full image

“We have to keep adding more chairs,” remarked Lanly Yeung.

She wasn’t complaining. Yeung, manager of the St. James Settlement Central and Western District Elderly Community Centre, was delighted that the Day of Service concert held there had drawn so many people. “We want to grow and foster the elderly community here in Sheung Wan”—an area in the northwest of Hong Kong Island—and the concert, he said, had “given us a bit of a hidden fan following.”

The concert took place on the evening of May 25, two weeks after most Day of Service events. It featured five of the nine classical musicians of the Chamber Music Society of the Yale Club of Hong Kong, all Yale graduates—in this group, four from the School of Music and one from Yale College. The group commanded the St. James Centre’s activity hall with pieces by Brahms, Grieg, and Chausson. The concert drew both fresh and familiar faces, said Yeung. The audience, mostly seniors and their caregivers, filled the hall; some of the seniors even gave up their seats to the steady trickle of newcomers and stood in the back with the staff.

“The idea to create this group came after we met during an alumni gathering,” said Lora Chow ’11, a singer, who works at a hedge fund in Hong Kong. But although the members of the new group were all eager to play chamber music, it wasn’t easy to find venues or audiences. Then they had the idea of performing for nonprofits. They’ve now played for many NGOs, such as Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre Hong Kong and HOPE Worldwide Centre for Kids. And they’ve found it rewarding. “You can see the people’s enjoyment and their smiling faces up close,” said clarinetist Eric Fung ’15MusM, a freelance musician who plays in several orchestras, including the respected Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. “There is a connection with the audience, who see you as a human being—as opposed to one of many in a concert hall.” 

Said pianist Wing-Chong Kam ’04MusM, ’06MusAM, who teaches at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts: “All of us who are professional musicians are used to playing for concert audiences with critical ears and honed expectations. Yet there are people out there who don’t get the opportunities to learn or to appreciate music. It’s our job to share the joy of music with the community, especially the ones who are in need.”

The next concert at the St. James Centre has already been scheduled. “We are incredibly lucky for the way things turned out,” said Yeung.

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