A noteworthy musical appointment
19th January 2019
The Royal Tunbridge Wells Orpheus Male Voice Choir has a new director – all the way from Hong Kong. Eileen Leahy meets Kent Lee, who has relocated to Tonbridge and finds out what he has in store for this 80 year old choral society
The Royal Tunbridge Wells Opheus Male Voice Choir was founded in 1938 just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Yet despite the chaos that brought, it stoically decided to continue performing at local venues, thus providing much-needed entertainment for the town as well as raising large sums for the war effort.
Over the past eight decades Orpheus as it’s known has become one of the area’s most respected and beloved choirs. And last year, it celebrated its 80th birthday with a series of special concerts in Ypres and Rochester Cathedral and even received recognition from Buckingham Palace.
Not resting on its laurels, Orpheus kicked off 2019 by appointing a new musical director, Kent Lee, to ensure its popularity and longevity continues.
Mr Lee, who is originally from Hong Kong but now lives in Tonbridge with his wife and two daughters, trained at London’s Trinity College of Music and it’s fair to say he has a very impressive classical music CV.
As well as being a talented musician and educator, he also founded the Hong Kong City Philharmonia and was Music Director of the Hong Kong Wind Symphony. Mr Lee has also been in charge of numerous choral societies including The Cecilian Singers, the Standard Chartered Bank Choir, the English Choir of The Hong Kong Catholic Cathedral, and the Diocesan Choir of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.
Such celestial choral experience clearly helped his appointment as the Orpheus’s new director: “I would have to say it was in God's hands. I rejoined my family in the UK last summer and the timing was perfectly matched with the opening of the Music Director position for the choir.”
Once Mr Lee had been given the role, he says he was able to form a ‘natural connection’ with the choir immediately: “The history, the enthusiasm and the friendliness really appealed,” he continues. “There are friendships among members and they support each other. They are open to new ideas and keen to improve themselves musically. And I hope that I can use my expertise to bring the joy of music to the community, creating memories and great music together.
Talking of community, what does Mr Lee hope tomorrow’s special showcase at St Peter’s Church on Bayhall Road will give those who decide to attend it?
“People will truly enjoy the process of music making; meet great people and learn to express themselves through singing,” he promises.
And finally how is Mr Lee finding life in Tonbridge? “It is a beautiful town with lots of charm. People are extremely friendly and supportive. I enjoy the pace of life there and have already made a lot of good friends. The best part is seeing the blue sky and trees while I am teaching on my grand piano at home. I love strolling in Tonbridge park along the River Medway and visiting Haysden Park with my family. My daughters like feeding swans and ducks.”
You can join the Royal Tunbridge Wells Orpheus Male Voice Choir on January 17 at 7.30pm at St Peter’s Church, Bayhall Road for a special Open Evening or to find out more information visit rtworpheusmvc.org