Pioneer Valley Symphony names new musical director


Recorder Staff
Published: 7/9/2018 8:47:46 PM

The Pioneer Valley Symphony has announced as its new musical director Ng Tian Hui, who has been music director of the Mount Holyoke College Symphony Orchestra since 2011.

Ng, who succeeds 23-year music director Paul Phillips, is a winner of the American Prize in Orchestral Programming known for his innovative programming, and as an advocate of new music.

He was also recently named to the resident conductor’s position at the Boston New Music Initiative, is a guest conductor with the Boston Opera Collaborative and has conducted at MetroWest Opera and has served as Artistic Director of the Victory Players Contemporary Music Ensemble as well as interim music director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Symphony Orchestra.

A versatile musician who has conducted orchestras around the world and is equally at home in choral music — singing professionally with the Yale Choral Artists Festival, and participating in the Five College Early Music Festival Ensemble — Ng has assisted in and premiered new works by Pulitzer and Rome Prize winners such as Curt Cacioppo, Aaron Jay Kernis, Robert Kyr, David Sanford, and Joan Tower, and many young composers. He is particularly proud of his commissioning work, which has helped composers garner international prizes.

A native of Singapore, the 38-year-old music director studied piano and trombone from the age of 6 or 7.

But his musical adventures began there at age 5 leading hours of group singing nursery rhymes in a children’s hospital ward after he’d fallen off a slide and broken his elbow.

It was only a year or so later, recalls Ng, that he asked his Chinese immigrant parents if instead of the kung fu lessons they’d arranged for him, could he instead take piano lessons like his sister?

A government scholarship help send him to study composition and early music at the University of Birmingham in England.

He returned hone to help found one of Singapore’s first contemporary music ensembles and continued composing music for orchestra and chorus, film and dance.

Ng also discovered an affinity for interdisciplinary work and created the groundbreaking site-specific community-based arts festival, NOMAD, winning awards from the Singapore National Arts Council. His works have since been heard in settings ranging from the Hong Kong Film Festival to Animation World Magazine, and Apsara Asia Dance in Singapore.

At Yale School of Music, where he continued his education, he helped to start a new tradition with the music of his graduation recital reflecting on war and conflict. His recent studies have included work with Paolo Arrivabeni, John Carewe, Peter Eötvös, Kurt Masur and Michel Tabachnik.

An associate professor at Mount Holyoke who will be on sabbatical this year, Ng said he was attracted to apply for the PVS position through his work with musicians like bass player Lynn Lovell and French horn player Jean Jeffries, who play with both orchestras.

“This is really attractive for me,” he said. “There are all these colleagues I’ve worked with at Mount Holyoke who are examples of the kind of musicians you’d find at the Pioneer Valley Symphony, which is to say very, very fine musicians.”

But as guest artists at Mount Holyoke, “They come in, they play, they leave. We never get to talk. So it’s the community aspect of things that is very attractive to me.”

Pioneer Valley Symphony, which is launching its 80th season, “is a very fine community orchestra,” says Ng, “and they’re capable of doing lots of wonderful music, and that seems to be a perfect fit for a person like me, who’s trying to find a way to be engaging with the community I live in through the thing I love the most and contribute the most with, which is music. ... (PVS) is a labor of love from the get-go.”

Ng has conducted orchestras around the world including the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in the Czech Republic, Dartington Festival Orchestra in Great Britain, Orchestra of the Royal Opera of Wallonie in Belgium, and the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra in this country.

The symphony’s opening concert, the date and location of which is yet to be announced, will be an expression of the kinds of repertoire, new and old, that Ng hopes to bring to the orchestra — Franz Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Jean-Féry Rebel’s “The Elements,” Chaya Czernowin’s “Once I Blinked Nothing Wast the Same,” and Richard Strauss’s Don Juan.

The season will close with a celebratory performance of Beethoven’s grand Ninth Symphony, with the full participation of interim choral director Gregory W. Brown.

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