The Beach Boys with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

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Mar 18-Mar 19

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Beach Boys could come to Hong Kong? Well, now they are, and not only that, they’re performing two nights with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Eunice Tsang sits down with Raff Wilson, the orchestra’s director of artistic planning, to hear about the anticipated fun, fun, fun

 It’s rare for fans of pop music and fans of classical to have much in common to discuss, but this month the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra has a brilliant solution. The Beach Boys, one of rock ’n’ rolls most legendary bands, are coming. Known for their innovative approach to music and a willingness to experiment with new textures and sounds, it’s fitting that they come to the Fragrant Harbour to work with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and play some of the rock band’s greatest hits. The night’s programme will be conducted by Gerard Salonga, who has worked with stars such as Wang Leehom and Hong Kong’s very own Hins Cheung. We talk to Raff Wilson, one of the individuals who helped arrange the two performances, to discover how the collaboration came about.

Why collaborate with The Beach Boys?
We were looking for something to put on in March, which is when we try to do less traditional shows. So we said, “Why not do a concert with a pop band?” The Beach Boys had been to Hong Kong before by themselves, and we agreed on the idea to do an orchestral show. They’re an iconic band. There aren’t too many other bands out there who have been as innovative for as long as they have, so the idea was natural.

What do you think is most significant about them?

Their early sound is perhaps the most iconic. It’s a real California sound that gets people thinking of carefree summers, convertibles and just the idea of a wonderful, fun holiday. What with summer around the corner, it’s a good way to get people thinking about that coming soon too.

With the summer motif in mind, how would a concert with The Beach Boys work?

How it’ll work is that we’ll play some of their biggest hits – Kokomo, Surf Safari, California Dreamin’, California Girls, and then fit them to the orchestra. The charts will be important, of course, as they’ll ensure each element is heard to the fullest, whether it’s guitars, bass, drums, or just The Beach Boys in general.

Are there any Beach Boys songs that you’re particularly attached to?

I personally love Kokomo. It was written for Cocktail in 1988, which Tom Cruise was in, and it very much embodied the power of the time.

And how will you integrate the California sound with the orchestra?
Naturally, we’ll find some way to mix the California sound with the orchestral palate. Musically, the orchestra needs more music in front of it, versus a little flexibility or improvisation. It’s a rather different approach to music making that both parties may not be used to, but it’ll be an interesting combination. The colour range will be massively different as we’ll try to bring out the strings, woodwinds and brass to contrast the guitar sounds. We want to add a bit of grandeur to songs that people grew up with. There’s a great sense of nostalgia there.

Why does the Hong Kong Philharmonic make it a point to collaborate with popular musicians from time to time?

Collaborations are a huge and important part of an orchestra’s function, between big symphonies or just pop collaborations, because not everyone is exactly a fan of Gustav Mahler. We try to play to a broad range of tastes, to reach a wider audience and it’s a proud part of our heritage. Reaching that audience is part of an orchestra’s civic duty.

The Beach Boys with the HK Phil
Mar 18-19, Queen Elizabeth Stadium. Tickets: $380-$1,580;


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