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Sirius Chau - Flute


1- You were awarded the Master of Music in Performance with Distinction under the tutelage of Katie Bedford and Sue Thomas at the Royal College of Music, London. How was it like to study under these masters?

I still find it unreal to have had the precious opportunities studying under musicians whom I usually listen to at the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Centre or Wigmore Hall! My time at the RCM is a truly rewarding learning process and is crucial to my music career. I am so grateful to all my teachers. They have shaped me into who I am now, and I would not have achieved as much without their guidance. It is not only the technique of playing the instrument that I learnt from these finest musicians, but their knowledge and maturity of approaching different repertoire, their own experience working in the music field, and their enthusiasm on both performing and teaching have inspired me in many ways. Whenever I listen to their playing, I know I have made the right choice to pursue music as my career – it heals my soul!

2- Is your family musical?

Interestingly, my parents and siblings all have different fields of expertise – from engineering to law. I used to make my parents sing folk songs (Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters…) when I was a child and I would harmonise them. I later taught my dad, who is my first ever ‘student’, to play the piano and flute, so he can play tunes without any problem!

3- You are currently pursuing your Artist Diploma in Performance as the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Scholar at the RCM. How is this progressing?

It has been an extremely busy yet exciting term for me. I performed some of the well-loved orchestral works including Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and Ravel’s La Valse under the baton of maestros Martyn Brabbins and John Wilson. I am currently studying under Katie Bedford, the Co-Principal Flute at the English National Opera, and Emer McDonough, the Principal Flute at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The Artist Diploma allows me to fully focus on fine-tuning my playing while doing extra works for orchestras and playing in solo recitals. I have recently worked with the English National Opera for their production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Philip Glass’ Satyagraha.

4- You are the recipient of the Tagore Gold Medal (2018) in recognition of your contribution to the life of the RCM. How did it feel like to be honoured this way?

It is a tremendous honour for me to be awarded the prestigious Tagore Gold Medal, which will be presented to me at next year’s President’s Visit by HRH The Prince of Wales. It is a recognition of my hard work at the RCM and has given me confidence to cope with new challenges brought by the professional music world.

5- You are the recipient of many awards and competitions. Does any one particularly stand out for you?

Apart from the Tagore Gold Medal, being selected in the Tillett Trust Young Artists’ Platform and Manchester Mid-day Concerts Series are very meaningful for myself. Both organisations have a history of offering the finest young musicians opportunities and being part of them is certainly a proud achievement. I have been offered various solo recitals including my debuts at the Wigmore Hall and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. I am excited that I have found audience who appreciates my playing and that I could share my passion on music to a much wider audience.

6- You have performed the world premiere of Ray Leung’s alto-flute concerto Waiting. How did this honour feel like and how did the audience respond?

It was my first attempt on a concerto with extended techniques – I had to play multiphonics, sing, shout, moan… The performance received excellent response and the audience found it refreshing listening to an alto-flute concerto, which does not appear in concerts so often. The work has later won various competitions as well. I enjoy collaborating with living composers as I find the process of approaching and understanding a piece of music very different as compared to learning a Baroque sonata. The process involves communication, flexibility and individuality from both the performer and the composer. Contemporary music is a subject that interests me a lot – as a performer, I enjoy the challenges and complexity in new music; as an audience, I am intrigued by the unusual sound the music creates and am eager to find out the rationale behind these compositions.

7- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

IWorking alongside my teachers in orchestras is no doubt one of my fondest musical memories. I have had the pleasure playing in several projects with the English National Opera and the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong. I secretly felt overwhelmingly excited playing next to my teachers and was a proud ‘fan’ hearing them play beautifully.

8- How often do your practice?

I guess I have the same answer as all other musicians – EVERY DAY!

9- Would you consider teaching in the future?

Definitely! I have been teaching for 6 years now and I always enjoy doing it alongside my performing schedule. Passing on my knowledge and skills to the younger generation are very rewarding and satisfying. It is interesting to see everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. I enjoy the process of finding solutions together with my students and guiding them to discover the beauty of music. As a performer, I also learn a lot from teaching as I realised difficulties that I was not aware of before and found out different ways of approaching certain techniques.

10- Who would your dream accompanist be, from the present or past?

Rather than an ‘accompanist’, I personally find ‘duo partner’ or ‘collaborative pianist’ a much more appropriate description. I am extremely grateful to every pianist that I have worked with as I understand the effort it takes in learning the repertoire because the number of notes they have in one movement probably triples the notes I have in the entire sonata! I enjoy working with pianists who are flexible, accommodating and musical. I like communication and interaction, both verbally and musically, during rehearsals.

11- What advice would you give to young musicians at the start of their journey?

Find your own voice and be bold to develop it. I believe one can improve their technique, musicality and maturity over time, but finding the individual voice on the instrument requires so much time, trials, failure and persistence. This is the most crucial element that differentiates one from the other and in my humble opinion, this makes the world-class musicians stand out from the rest. Instead of trying to please everyone and do what others like, be true to yourself and find out what YOU want to say through your instrument. Work extremely hard and one day you will find someone who understands your voice.

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submission November 2018