The Gestures of Farewell
Jason Lai (narrator) with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta

The Gestures of Farewell

(2010, 11′)

For Narrator and Orchestra
Libretto by Benjamin Rogers
Commissioned by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta


2 Flutes (2nd doubles Piccolo), 2 Oboes, 2 B-flat Clarinets (2nd doubles E-flat Clarinet), 2 Bassoons (2nd doubles Contrabassoon), 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (Brake Drum, Two Bell Trees, Large Tam-Tam, Small Suspended Cymbal, Large Suspended Cymbal, Piccolo Snare Drum, Crash Cymbals, SIx Woodblocks, Large Sizzle Cymbal, Small Tam-Tam, Large Lion’s Roar), Harp, Narrator (amplified), Strings


Art approaches reality and never quite gets there, lest the aura vanish.

An orchestral work about imminent suicide attempts to dissect the complicated emotions of the person about to end his life, all-too-aware of the limits of an abstract representation of such a private, final act.

There are thousands of little discrete decisions made every second in an orchestra. Each decision, executed, leads to other more complex decisions. One after another. A chain of inevitability.

One person against fifty-four: the soloist can neither retreat nor advance. The two sides remain locked in an unchanging, unbalanced dance, where a singular voice can be obliterated by the masses—in a matter of seconds.

Music and words clash while we hear the conflicted, yet determined, mind of the person about to end his life. Words struggle against music, soloist against orchestra, all hurling toward the inescapable conclusion, as the work progresses towards its own unavoidable end.

– Benjamin Rogers and George Lam


March 4, 2010 Hong Kong Sinfonietta same day payday, with Yip Wing-sie, conductor, and Jason Lai, narrator. Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, Hong Kong, China. Part of the 38th Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Yip wing-sie (conductor) and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta