Father João Lau, Director of St. Pio X academy of music
Pedro Daniel Olivera
Priest João Lau says that it is necessary to boost the cultural sector in Macau through a Music Hall. Speaking to O CLARIM, the director of St. Pio X Academy of Music also comments about the legacy of this institution in training young people and recalls the work of his predecessor, Father Lancelote Rodrigues.
You are in charge of the Academy since 18th July 2013. What is the current state of this institution?
As before, we continue to work for the musical education of young people. We have now more and more children with interest in music and to learn violin because we have two Russian teachers. Before we only had piano lessons, but now we also have violin. We have about 150 students and most of them play piano.
Are there any projects to be implemented in future?
We are on the same building above the “Cineteatro”. We would like to have more students, but we lack space. Same with money — we have support from the government, but there are too many expenses. Even the tuition fees paid by the students is not enough to cover all.
I guess that more support is needed…
It would be great if the government could grant us a better place. We have asked the Catholic Diocese of Macau, but we had no feedback yet.
Nevertheless, is the institution able to provide talented people to play for the several orchestras based in Macau?
It depends. After completing high school usually young people attend university, where they do not study Music. Still, there are a few ones that after staying with us have continued playing in local orchestras.
How do you see the music scene in Macau?
There has been growth in the past twenty years. Attached to Cultural Affairs Bureau there is the (Macau Conservatory) School of Music, nearby St Lazarus Church. For such a small city I realize that much has been done.
Even if it is small city, the Macau government have the policy to make it a world centre for tourism and leisure. Isn’t this strategy lacking in cultural dynamics?
Yes, it is. There is still more room to develop the cultural side, with the music associated. Several years ago I spoke to the then president of Macau Foundation, Mr [Victor] Ng, asking him: “Why [has] the government that is loaded with money not yet built a Music Hall?” Nothing has been done yet, but Macau needs this infrastructure.
What about the two auditoriums of the Macau Cultural Centre?
The Cultural Centre is not the place because it’s not dedicated exclusively to music, but to several cultural activities at same time.
The St. Pio X Academy of Music was established in 1962 by Father Áureo Castro. It was the first institution to provide systematic musical training to the young people in Macau. The role has proved important to assign scholarships and to provide career opportunities…
It is better to say that the Academy creates a platform to guide the children’s interest not only about music but also in the aspect of quality. Some people want to be musicians as a profession. Although they are skilled I think it is still very difficult to achieve this desire in Macau.
Is there a lack of government support?
These young people are thinking of how to make their living and whether they can do it or not through music. It’s difficult, but some can really achieve it. And if you have a lot of money then it would be much easier…
The Academy has performed with several choirs, including the Perosi Choir in an event held in Azores, Portugal, from where Father Áureo Castro hails, and also the Santa Rosa de Lima (English Secondary) Choir now in Macau. Is there more room for more similar events to come?
I think so, because it’s always great to combine music with the voice.
You succeed Father Lancelote Rodrigues as director of the Academy…
When our dear Father Lancelote got sick I was appointed deputy-director of the Academy. He was always available to help people, and his work with refugees is well known. We had little contact, because he had his office in Catholic Social Services of Macau. After he passed away, our Bishop (D. José Lai) appointed me as director. Unlike myself, Father Lancelote had a great ability for music.
Can you tell us more?
On the 21st of last December we held a Christmas concert to pay tribute to Father Lancelote in St. Dominic’s Chuch, which included his very own “Te Deum” that was performed for the first time in March 20, 1950, at the “Capela Santa Cecilia” at the Seminary during the first mass celebrated by Father (José Barcelos) Mendes (former director of O CLARIM.) The “Te Deum” was then conducted by Father Lancelote and Father Áureo accompanied on the harmonium.