On the afternoon of 10 October, 200 school-children from Tai Po, Sha Tin, Ma On Shan, Tsing Yi, and Sham Shui Po, and 80 guests settled into their seats at the Lecture Theatre at Shaw College. They were there for Music Picnic, a fundraising show co-organized by the E&R Foundation and CUHK. The event raised close to HK$350,000 for the University’s I‧CARE Programme.
One of the main activities of the E&R Foundation is supporting teenage music learners to go on exchange overseas in the summer. Its founder Mr. Edwin Mok, a lawyer, laments that despite the large number of music learners in Hong Kong, many are obsessed with grade exams and competitions, and overlook the essence of what music is about. In an attempt to remedy this, he provides them with opportunities to hone musical skills and stage charitable public performances.
In Music Picnic, performances featuring the piano, strings, harp, flute, and opera singing were given by young homegrown musicians, including secondary students, university graduates, as well as current CUHK students and alumni. Some performances were given by young musicians supported by the foundation and by related groups. Mr. Mok said, ‘Concerts are the platforms where they demonstrate their artistic talents and inspire others. With sponsorship from well-wishers, we can invite children who might otherwise have little opportunities to attend a performance of this kind for free.’
During the harp performance, the children were awed by the massive size of the instrument and captivated by its ethereal sounds. Their excitement was palpable. When CUHK student Mr. Perry Lau asked the audience to pick five notes for him to compose a tune with, then played it on the piano, the children were thrilled by his improvisation. The 90-minute concert featuring Chinese and Western songs of different eras enabled the audience’s imagination to take flight and broadened their cultural horizons.
Although Mr. Edwin Mok had received a Western education, he and his brothers learned the Chinese classics from a private tutor on weekends when young. He follows traditional Chinese beliefs about self-cultivation, harmonious family relationships, and philanthropy faithfully. This was the second time he supported the I‧CARE Programme. Three years ago when his son James Mok launched his novel The Challenge, they donated all the proceeds of the launch event to the I‧CARE Programme.
Why the I‧CARE Programme? He said, ‘I remember a speech in which Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung encouraged CUHK graduates to live a simple life, a noble life, and a humble life. The I‧CARE Programme is aimed at facilitating whole-person education, with emphasis on integrity and moral development, creativity and intellectual development, appreciation of life and aesthetic development, and engagement in social services. Mrs. Chung and I are Christians. We believe everything we have is God’s gift and, therefore, not a reason for singing our own praises. We should maintain integrity, and shouldn’t let ourselves be dominated by earthly desires. These are in line with the ideas of I‧CARE.’
Mrs. Joy Chung, a close friend of Mr. Mok’s, is the principal patron of Music Picnic. This was the first collaboration between her and CUHK. Besides giving monetary support, she and members of her Bible study group formed a choir and went on stage. ‘I told the choir members that we’re doing this to support university education, and it would benefit many school children. They all jumped at the opportunity.’ On the day before the show, nine choir members and their instructor Mr. Jimmy Chan rehearsed for almost two hours in the lecture theatre. Not only did they pay attention to singing techniques, they also scrutinized their stage presentation and movements, striving for perfection.
Mrs. Chung has provided financial support to many different projects through organizing fundraising concerts. She believes that the power and beauty of music can develop moral character and touch people’s hearts. She lives up to the Biblical teaching of ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’. ‘I’m blessed to have the chance to participate in an I‧CARE Programme activity. I’m grateful to our teacher for his patience and tolerance. I’m moved by the Bible study group’s wholehearted support for and dedication to singing of the Lord’s great love.’ It’s like the lyrics of a song they sang: ‘The long road is there for distant places. The rainy season is there for Mother Earth.’ Everything is there for a purpose. The singers have been contemplating what they could offer to their loved ones, friends, children and parents. ‘Everyone can contribute in their way no matter how little they have. We’re not professional singers, but we are passionately devoted. The thought that we were contributing to the education of the young was what kept us going with enthusiasm,’ she said.
The planning and preparation of Music Picnic was carried out by CUHK student volunteers, who also handled stage lighting, sound and logistic support. Although their performance was not on a par with that by professionals, their commitment received high praise from the two patrons. As they said, dedication brings perfection. This quality was also the key to the success of the fundraising event and the projects it supported.
This article was originally published in No. 467, Newsletter in Nov 2015.