Attitude

LIFE LESSONS

Composer, jazz pianist, conductor & music writer

- Words Thomas Stichbury Photograph­y Byron Hamzah

Composer and conductor Raymond Yiu

Moving from Hong Kong to the UK as a teenager, Raymond Yiu was mostly self-taught as a composer until he enrolled at Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2009. Describing his sound as “colourful, playful and unpredicta­ble”, the music maestro strikes just the right chord and, in 2015, was commission­ed by BBC Proms. Raymond, 48, recently released his debut record The World Was Once All Miracle,

featuring three orchestral works – including Symphony, an ode to those affected by the Aids crisis.

IF I COULD ONLY LISTEN TO ONE PIECE OF MUSIC AGAIN, IT WOULD BE FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN’S PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1… IT CHANGED ME FROM HEARING MUSIC TO LISTENING TO MUSIC. My favourite quote is, “So hold this moment fast, and live and love as hard as you know how, and make this moment last, because the best of times is now” – from La Cage aux Folles.

I had a difficult relationsh­ip with my parents because they – particular­ly my father – discipline­d me physically and mentally in a rather brutal fashion; I often went to school with bruises, and the experience left me feeling worthless for years. As a result, I never establishe­d a strong emotional bond with them. We’ve got closer since I introduced my partner to them when my sister got married in 2009. My biggest pet peeve is queue-jumping.

My celebrity crush is Paul Newman: a lifelong Democrat, a philanthro­pist and drop-dead gorgeous.

The first person I came out to was my best friend Maggie, around the age of 13… we were comparing our favourite Cantopop singers, firstly based on the quality of the songs, then we moved on to their looks. She did not show a trace of surprise (nor disgust) when I declared my ‘interest’ in Leslie Cheung and Aaron Kwok. My most treasured possession is my box of correspond­ence with people, including my first pen pal Thomas when I was 14, my late best friend Maggie, my mentor Lukas Foss and Stephen Sondheim.

When I was growing up in Hong Kong, Aids was being whispered in the media, and it became a taboo that contractin­g Aids is the guaranteed fate of being gay. It certainly put pressure on me [against] coming out, as well as encouragin­g my family to think being gay was a bad ‘lifestyle choice’.

THE POWER OF MUSIC IS IN

ITS CAPABILITY TO TRIGGER MEMORIES AND EMOTIONS IN A VERY SHORT SPACE OF TIME — A CHORD, OR A FRAGMENT OF A MELODY IS OFTEN ENOUGH TO TAKE OUR MINDS TO A DIFFERENT PLACE RIGHT AWAY.

The last time I lied was when a friend asked for my opinion on her outfit. I did not have the heart to tell her she looked like a walrus squeezed into a tiny Freddy Krueger-themed Christmas stocking.

I arrived in London in 1992. In the decade that followed, I witnessed the slow decay of some of my friends and noticed the disappeara­nce of acquaintan­ces from the scene… the fear was constant, and it was very real, not to mention those chilling moments when a sexual partner rang up and broke the news of testing HIV [positive].

MY FAVOURITE POEM IS WRITTEN IN A HISTORICAL­LY

WHITE SPACE BY FELLOW HONGKONGER MARY JEAN CHAN — ITS DEPICTION OF THE CHALLENGES WE EXCOLONISE­D PEOPLE FACE IN A WHITE-DOMINANT WORLD IS UNAPOLOGET­ICALLY POIGNANT.

In the age of post-Brexit, postpassin­g of Hong Kong National Security Law and COVID-19, I cannot quite recalibrat­e my concept of a happy place to somewhere specific. I think anywhere with a grand piano – preferably with a bar next to it.

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