Jaap’s HK orchestra scraps tour, citing virus confusion

Jaap’s HK orchestra scraps tour, citing virus confusion


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2020

The Hong Kong Philharmonic, which has not played in weeks, has cancelled a tour to Japan and Korea. Here’s what the musicians were told today:

Dear Musicians,  You all follow the news these days and we hear and read all kind of different information concerning the CONVID-19. We don’t know any more whom to trust, CNN, SCMP, WHO, the governments in China or Hong Kong? Who knows in the end if travelling in an airplane is dangerous or if rehearsing and performing as a group of 100 people will increase the chance of a mutual infection? I don’t, so asked Gabriel Leung, former board member and Dean of Medicine at HKU for advice. He suggested “not to proceed with the tour, there is too much uncertainty how the virus will spread over the next few weeks in Hong Kong and Korea”. He is an expert, so we considered his advice seriously and decided to postpone the tour. This goes in agreement with the presenters and also with Jaap, who is not only worrying about the health situation, but also, as many of you as well, about the artistic shape of the orchestra after not having rehearsed and performed together for more than 6 weeks now.

So we hope for your understanding for this decision, which is also very disappointing for us. But there is a chance that the tour, or at least the 2 concerts in Japan, might be postponed to Week 43 (22. – 28. June 2020).  Please keep yourself available for that week until further notice.

Concerning our schedule in Hong Kong the venues are now closed at least until 2. March 2020 and there will be no orchestral services until 8. March 2020. We will inform you about any further development.

Passports can be collected in the office, please get in touch with Yik Wing.

Stay healthy and safe, hope to see you again soon! And let me know if you have any questions or comments. Please do not share this internal info as long as we did not announce it officially, thanks.

Best wishes, Benedikt

Benedikt Fohr, Chief Executive


  • HKmusician says:

    Considering that the Hong Kong Philharmonic gets most of its funding from the Hong Kong government, it seems surprising that its Chief Executive is publicly saying that he does not trust the government in Hong Kong. Even grouping the governments of HK and China in the same sentence is controversial these days!

    • John Borstlap says:

      He is clearly referring to the information, whether that can be trusted or not, and not to the trustworthyness of the governments.

  • Nick2 says:

    I cannot understand why anyone is surprised by this announcement. Hong Kong kept its borders open for travelers from mainland China longer than many. Several countries in the region including The Philippines and Taiwan have banned travel by anyone who has been in Hong Kong for the 14 days before travel, even those just in transit. Hong Kong has the largest number of cases outside mainland China. With South Korea being particularly sensitive on this issue, there is surely a chance that it and perhaps other countries will join the list.

    The Hong Kong Sinfonietta’s trip to Bangkok this week was cancelled a week ago. The entire programme for this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival due to run until March 14 was also cancelled last week. With the uncertain state regarding the future progress of the virus and the fact that the HK Phil has had no performances for weeks, cancellation now makes far more sense than waiting and hoping for another week or so. It’s surely just a matter of common sense rather than one of not knowing who to trust!

    • Tomas says:

      Totally agreed – and living in HK I would add that his comments (and yours) are entirely accurate

      • Steven says:

        Accurate with the exception, at the very least, of the claim that Hong Kong has the largest number of cases outside mainland China. Japan and Singapore each have more than Hong Kong.

  • ShhDontTellAnyone says:

    “Please do not share this internal info as long as we did not announce it officially, thanks.” …

    30 seconds later:


    BREAKING NEWS! HKPhil cancels tour!

  • LLT says:

    The CE should be fired for publicly announcing his distrust of the orchestra’s main funder, HK government. Don’t take their funding then, which is paying his salary!

  • CitizenX says:

    This is the same Chief Executive who fired the orchestra’s Programme Head last year, reportedly without cause. You can find the details if you google “Lam Fung SCMP.” Oh wait — SCMP is one of those news organisations not to be trusted…

  • MusicianC says:

    The government will cut a huge amount of their funding if this happens in my country.

  • MusicianD says:

    I can’t believe that Hong Kong Phil has Jaap van Sweden as it’s music director, but the CEO is such an ignorant level. It is common sense that he shouldn’t write or make a statement to his employees in such a negligent message and fire from the hip as a CEO.