Artist of the Month- June- Western District

This month's AOM is Western District. One of Hong Kong's most beloved local bands; they're dedicated to taking classical music and turning it in unconventional ways. They play regular gigs at the Fringe Club. Get to know them below...
1. Name, Birthplace, Age

Western District, born in Hong Kong, soon to celebrate our 2nd birthday! 

2. How does where you were raised affect your work?

Each of our musicians comes from a different place and different musical background, and everyone brings a unique perspective and interpretation with them. It's so lovely that music is our universal language.

3. Where did you train?

Our musicians have all studied at top conservatories around the world.  Learning music is a lifelong journey, one we believe never ends!  We look for inspiration every day- meeting and playing with other musicians gives us new ideas. We grow as artists when working on cross-disciplinary projects.

4. What is your favorite style of music? Why?

Classical, of course! Classical is constantly being reinterpreted -- what is considered "classical" today (think dissonances and electronic music) sounds really different from what it was hundreds of years ago. Our past audience have heard works by Jacob TV, a piece for piano and boombox, along with full-on Romantic period chamber works and other classical favorites by Bach and Mozart.


5. What was the best show you EVER saw?

Monica and Sophia: Oh dear...we've been stuck on this question for ages!  We really can't pick a favorite! We've been going to shows since we were kids and have loved so many for lots of different reasons.  

Monica: I can clearly remember the first time I fell in love with opera--I was at Brevard Music Center one summer and they performed Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld (it's hilarious, by the way), but I also love going to the ballet or seeing the Philharmonic or going to pop shows.  This question is hard.  

Sophia: Very hard! A few favorites: The Met Opera's production of Donizetti's, Maria Stuarda, with Joyce DiDonato in the title role; hearing Dave Brubeck a few years ago; the first time I ever heard an entire symphony as a kid (the giant sound was so powerful and sublime); and this amazing tango group led by Hector del Curto, a bandoneon player, something like a decade ago, which made me completely fall in love with tango. (What I really want to do is be in Buenos Aires and play tango music all day, every day. Anybody with me??) 

6. What was the best show in HK you EVER saw? 
Since we started Western District, we go to many performances together looking for new ideas, and to absorb and enjoy the awesome art and music that others are making.  We love the Arts Festival, which brings in acts from all over the world, and some of our favorites have been Pink Martini, Buena Vista Social Club, and Roberto Fonseca, for the amazing way they combined lots of different musical influences and styles. It's something we've also done, and continue to aspire to, at Western District. Check out our Britney Spears fugue! 

7.What piece of work are you the most proud of? 

We received a grant to commission a Hong Kong composer, Joyce Wai-Chung Tang, to write music inspired by photographs of the city taken by HKU Professor David Clarke. It's one of our most ambitious multi-disciplinary projects, called City Impressions, and we were super excited to present the world premiere in early April. It was sort of like going to a silent film: The photos were projected, and we performed Joyce's music live, for a full-on sensory experience of Hong Kong. Stay tuned for future performances of this work! 

8. What is your process like?
We started Western District with the idea of bringing classical music out of the concert hall -- what we didn't expect was how much fun we'd have! We have found a solid routine -- we pick a theme, and then we start to explore related repertoire. We search for pieces or composers we haven't performed before, and select those that we think fit our sound and character as a group. We also make our own arrangements of pieces, because we work with a wide range of musicians. Every concert features a different mix of instruments--we've had percussion, laptop (yes, that's a thing), voice, guitar, and of course our own instruments, viola and piano.

9. What is your dream project?

Western District is our dream project!  We met through friends a couple years ago, and every time we hung out, we discussed all the cool music projects that our friends are doing, and all the interesting performances we read about or watched on YouTube.  We lamented the fact that there wasn't this type of innovation out in the open in Hong Kong.  One day we looked at each other and said, "Why are we complaining that nobody is doing anything?  WE should do something!"  The coolest thing is that we get to make all of the artisticdecisions on our own.  It's not always easy, but we're passionate about creating.

10. If you could change one thing about the art scene in HK, what would it be?
Hong Kong is full of interesting and talented people. We really wish more individuals would support local artists and musicians. 
For more information on Western District check out their Facebook page.

Related articles:

hongkong, aom, music


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