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Mr. Alexander Wong Chuen 王銓老師 (1927-2010)

by his younger brother, John Wong Cheng (F5C, 1960), on 2011.09.08.

Born in Shanghai, China, Alexander received his music training at the National Conservatory of Music in Shanghai.

After arriving in Hong Kong, starting in 1952, he was a violist in the former Sino-British Orchestra, now known as Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. By 1955, he was the soloist tenor in both Crescendo Choral Society and Hong Kong Choral Group. He also gave several solo performances in Hong Kong.

Alexander taught at Wah Yan College, Kowloon from 1954 to 1959 as its music teacher. He was the conductor for Trial by Jury in 1955 and HMS Pinafore in 1956, both by Gilbert and Sullivan. During his tenure as the music teacher, WYK won several awards in Music Festivals. [Click here for Mr. Wong's farewell recital at WYK in 1959]

A good teacher is not one who succeeds in forcing knowledge into his students. A good teacher is one who can inspire his students and can get them so interested in the subject that they will go on learning that subject on their own and enjoy it for the rest of their lives. Judging from the email exchanges among the alumni classes of ’60 and ’61 on their endless discussion of music topics, especially classical music, one can easily conclude that Alexander Wong has done a good job as Wah Yan’s music teacher.

Alexander left Hong Kong in early 1959 and with his family immigrated to the USA. At first he joined the Robert Shaw Chorale and toured around the US continent. With a large family of five children, he finally accepted the hard fact that he needed to change his career in order to feed his large family. As most other immigrants at that time, for a period of several years, he held concurrently two or even three jobs in order to support his family. He later joined IBM and worked there 25 years until he retired. His wife Nancy, also an accomplished pianist, also changed career and trained herself to be a nurse.

Besides music, Alexander’s another love was food. Overweight all his life, in his old age he suffered from hypertension and diabetes. In the last ten years of his life, his kidney completely failed. He was on dialysis. Luckily with the nursing training of his loving wife, he managed to live until 82 years old.

Alexander’s efforts in music have not been in vain. Besides training thousands of Wah Yan alumni who are now enjoying music, Alexander left behind five highly musically gifted children. Although hardship in life prevented him from pursuing music as a career in the USA, it could not stop him from passing his music genes to his children. Any one of them could pick up any musical instrument, and within an amazingly short time, started performing with it. One of his daughters, Debbie, a graduate from Julliard, has been a professional violist in New York Philharmonic Orchestra and routinely performs in New York Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, as well as in other large cities in Europe. A life Alexander would dream for himself. His grandson Benjamin also became a professional musician in USA. He just performed in an opera in Hong Kong City Hall in 2010.

Although no longer a full-time musician in the USA, Alexander never left music. He would conduct choirs in various churches, and give private music lessons to students for free, until he could no longer even stand up. In hindsight, perhaps if he had not immigrated to the USA and had continued to stay in Hong Kong, Alexander would have continued a successful career in music and died a happier man.

At his funeral in the Catholic church in New York Chinatown, the place where he first landed when he immigrated to the USA, his children, their spouses and grand children practically took over the church, and offered him a chamber music requiem farewell. He must be smiling in heaven, for the full life he lived.

 

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