Trust in Musical Leadership (Conducting)

Conductor Charles Hazlewood sums up his TED talk with these words: “Where there is trust, there is music — by extension life. Where there is no trust, the music quite simply withers away.”


Now in the old days, conducting, music making, was less about trust and more, frankly, about coercion. Up to and around about the Second World War, conductors were invariably dictators –these tyrannical figures who would rehearse, not just the orchestra as a whole, but individuals within it, within an inch of their lives. But I’m happy to say now that the world has moved on, music has moved on with it. We now have a more democratic view and way of making music — a two-way street. I, as the conductor, have to come to the rehearsal with a cast-iron sense of the outer architecture of that music, within which there is then immense personal freedom for the members of the orchestra to shine.

This TED talk pointed to an essential element of music leadership (conducting) — TRUST. Our chorale singers have this amazingly respect and admiration toward our conductor, Ms. Shang as a result of mutual trusts. Through long hours of rehearsal, she understood each singers capacity, painstakingly corrected our voicing and diction, and explained the music passages (She always says that music has logic and structure.),  since we are all amateur singers. She handpicked the orchestra leaders based on her long term relationships with the players so there is the “trust” element. Continue reading “Trust in Musical Leadership (Conducting)”

Creation — Faith and Science


This post represents the author’s personal view and should not be read as the view points or official position of Los Angeles Formosan Master Chorale.


An ambitious project of our Chorale (LA Formosan Master Chorale) is to perform Joseph Haydn’s “The Creation” next Spring. We have recruited the singers, located the place for rehearsal and distributed the music notes. Chorale members are listening to CD and watching video clips. I studied “Haydn: The Creation” by Nicholas Temperley and other literature. I am overpowered by the beauty of the music and inspired by the libretto  — God is the creator and His creation is good.

Trained as a scientist, I am constantly struggling to understand the creation story in the Genesis. The cultural war within America in the past decades on “Evolution” and “Creation” puzzled me even further. Are science and faith in conflict?   Continue reading “Creation — Faith and Science”

Trumpets, Ashes, and Tears

In the previous post (3/11/2011), I wrote: “The performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Concordia University Center last Christmas season left “onceinalifetime” experiences for members of Irvine Master Chorale. Under the baton of Ms. Shang Li-Ying, the choir and the orchestra gave a superb performance to an audience over 700 in a cold, raining night. Many in the audience sent warm compliments and praises afterwards.”

Here, I would like to elaborate more on what I have written. An authentic worship will include praise, penitence, lament, adoration, confession, intercession; and all the emotions that fit them (1). Praise is only one way to engage God because it reflects only one part of our life’s experience, as Nicholas Wolterstorff has observed and wrote in his assay “Trumpets, Ashes, and Tears” (2). A recent article argued why Praise and Worship Music is praise but not worship (3).

When I sang “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way”, I felt a deep pain within, on my past mistakes. And I pray to God for mercy and deliverance. When I sang “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him”, I held my tears but deep inside me was the lament of the pain and grief. God is a suffering God and I long for His forgiveness.

What I have heard is that the audiences worshiped along with the whole choir on that night. People felt that Christ by the Spirit is present to lead our fellowship and our worship. We experienced penitence, lament and confession besides praise. This holistic worship is not attainable easily and that is why it is a “once-in-a-life-time” experience.


  1. “discerning the spirits – A Guide to Thinking about Christian Worship Today” by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. & Sue A. Rozeboom; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies Series;  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003.
  2. “Trumpets, Ashes, and Tears” by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reformed Journal 36, no. 2 (February 1986):19.
  3. “Why Praise and Worship Music is Praise, But Not Worship” by Rev Fr Christopher Smith in