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Tuesday, February 06, 2018 11:15am

Five minutes with Jason Lai


This story appeared first on In Daily

You are a triple threat: famed musician, conductor and presenter?  What do you prefer and why?
I really love all of these disciplines, keeps me on my toes!

How do you feel about being described as being a leading light in a new generation of Asian conductors?
I feel honoured, there seem to be a whole new generation now of Asian conductors who are doing great things, they are winning competitors and being appointed to good orchestras. I also teach conducting at the Yong Siew Conservatory in Singapore and enjoy helping train the conductors of the future.

How do you normally spend Chinese New Year?
Usually with family and friends and as you can imagine there’s a lot of eating! Also lots of visits to each others houses, always with a gift of tangerines, which signify wealth, or oranges, which are a popular symbol of good luck.

Why did you produce the orchestra Ettiquette video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etKMvzjASFk
I was taking part in a TV series for a channel in Singapore and alongside the main series they wanted to shoot some webisodes so I thought of writing a script on concert etiquette. A lot of people have written to me to tell me that the video has helped them, anything that helps gets audiences into the concert hall is great!! 

Why do you think orchestra etiquette is so important?
I just thought it would be fun to film as I’m asked these questions about etiquette all the time, but the most important thing is to just actually go to a concert and enjoy it!

2018 is the Year of the Dog – what are your dreams and aspirations for the year ahead?
I’d like to conduct more concerts in Australia! I’d also like my parents to stay healthly and happy as it’s my dad’s 80th, mum’s 70th and their 50th wedding anniversary!

The Chinese New Year Concert is a mix of masterworks and traditional Chinese favourites, tell us what pieces from the program are you most looking forward to?
I’ve never conducted the Yellow River concerto so I’m looking forward to that as it’s a Chinese classic!

What was the first recording you ever bought?
It was Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.

What is your musical guilty pleasure?
I like listening to movie soundtracks. John Williams always seems to nail it, he’s one of my favourites. 

If you found yourself with six months free to learn a new instrument, what would it be?
I’d like to learn the horn as it’s such a noble instrument, it’s very much like the cello which I used to play, but I know the life of a hornist is always on the edge, it’s such a difficult instrument to play, so not sure what I could learn in just six months.

What single thing would improve the format of the classical concert?
Communicating with an audience, when the conductor says a few words about the music or tells a story or anecdote audiences love it!

If you could go back in time which conductor or performer of the past would you like to have worked with?
I would like to assist Gustav Mahler, he was a great conductor as well as a composer so I’d have many questions to ask him.

While you’re in the time machine, which period, or moment in musical history, would you travel to and why?
For a period it would be C18th Germany/Vienna then I could meet Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. For a moment in music history it would be the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, there I could witness the commotion during the performance.

What is the most unusual place you’ve performed in?
Back in the days when I was a cellist I did a summer job on a cruise ship playing string quartets for passengers, I remember the terrible travel sickness I got trying to play Mozart abroad a listing ship, it really wasn’t pleasant!!

What has been your most memorable live music experience both as an audience member and as a artist?
I was lucky enough to be in a rehearsal with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra under the great Italian conductor Claudio Abaddo, I watched with awe as the maestro moved his magical hands and listened to the music unfold. As an artist it was conducting in a packed Royal Albert Hall for a concert in the BBC Proms season.

Which non-classical musician would you like to work with?
I love Adele’s voice and her songs, I wonder what it would be like to be working with her on a song cycle or piece for pop singer and orchestra?

Imagine you’re a Festival Director with unlimited resources. What would you program or commission for your opening event?
I’d commission all my favourite film composers to write a movement of a symphony and invite all my favourite directors or artists to create images and films to go alongside the music.

What do you sing in the shower?
My voice breaks windows so I don't sing…

What’s your kaorake go to number?
My Way, though frankly i’m no Sinatra…

What are you most looking forward to about performing with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra?
I’ve never been to Australia before so I’m very much looking forward to visiting the country and working with the ASO. It’s always exciting to debut with an orchestra, it’s like going on a first date, there are some nerves but you hope there’s chemistry and the chance of a second date!

What are you most interested in doing in your spare time whilst you’re in Adelaide?
If anyone wants to invite me to a authentic aussie BBQ i’m there!! 

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