Choo Hoey



Choo Hoey (b. 20 October 1934,1 Palembang, Sumatra, Indonesia–) is the founder and conductor emeritus of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO).2 He was the SSO’s resident conductor and music director from 1979 to 1996.3 A master in his field, Choo has gained a reputation for his expert handling of the orchestra and his genuine feeling for contemporary music.4 Over his long and fruitful conducting career, he has built a large opera repertoire of almost 70 scores.5

Early life and education
Choo was born into a Teochew family in the Indonesian city of Palembang. His father, Choo Seng, and his mother, Wang Su Ying, were teachers at the same local school when they met. He has a sister, Chu Eng.6


Choo’s first encounter with classical music was through listening to his father’s huge record collection,7 and he was particularly drawn to the violin. Noticing his son’s musical talent, the elder Choo gave the then six-year-old boy his first violin lessons using a Teach Yourself book.8 Upon completing his primary education, Choo came to Singapore to pursue his secondary education at The Chinese High School.9

In 1947, Choo began violin training under Goh Soon Tioe, a music teacher and impresario.10 While still in Singapore, he obtained his Grade 8 certification with distinction11 from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.12 After completing senior high school in 1951, he left for London to study at the Royal Academy of Music.13 There, he studied the violin under Winifred Small and David Martin, the horn under Aubrey Brain and Charles Gregory, and conducting under Maurice Miles.14

Choo graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1955 with two awards for conducting, the Manns Memorial Prize and the Ernest Read Prize.15 Upon graduation, he continued his violin training16 at the Conservatoire Royale de Musique in Brussels, Belgium.17

Career
Making his debut in Belgium in 195818 with Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, Choo initiated a successful career as a visiting conductor throughout Europe and South America. He went on to perform in many of the music capitals of Europe, as well as in North America, Latin America, China and the former Soviet Union. He has been a guest conductor with over 60 orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic (Norway), Orquesta Nacionale de Buenos Aires (Argentina), London Philharmonic, Beijing Central Philharmonic (China) and the Tokyo City Philharmonic (Japan).19

Choo settled in Greece in 1969 after his marriage.20 There, he served as the principal conductor of the Greek National Opera,21 and frequently guest-conducted with other major symphony orchestras including the Athens State Orchestra, Hellenic Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra22 and the Salonica State Orchestra.23 During this period, Choo gave numerous world premieres of contemporary Greek works. He also recorded many pieces with the Hellenic Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra.24

At the invitation of the Singapore government, Choo returned to Singapore in 1978 to set up the SSO, which held its inaugural concert in January 1979.25 The following year, he initiated the formation of the Singapore Symphony Chorus to add greater variety to the concert programmes.26 In 1985, Choo led the SSO in its international debut in Scandinavia27 – the first of four successful European tours.28

Choo is credited with building up the SSO from modest beginnings and developing its extensive repertoire ranging from early baroque to contemporary masterpieces during his tenure.29 In 1996, he stepped down as its music director and assumed the role of conductor emeritus.30 The title was created in recognition of his contributions, and came with a standing arrangement with the orchestra to conduct two weekends of concerts every year.31 Choo now resides in Athens and London, where his sons live.32

Awards
1980:
Cultural Medallion, Singapore33

1982: Public Service Star (Bintang Bakti Masyarakat), Singapore34
1989: Honorary Doctor of Letters, National University of Singapore35
1990: ASEAN Award for Performing Arts36
1997: Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, France37
2000: Lifetime Achievement Award, Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS)38

Family
Wife:
Alexandra, a Greek archaeologist. They met in Greece in 1968 and married in 1969.39

Children: Sons Choo Yen and Choo Lin.40



Author

Neo Tiong Seng



References
1. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Choo Hoey gets French arts and letters knighthood. (1997, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Who’s who in Malaysia & Singapore. (1983). (Vol. 2). Selangor, Malaysia: Who’s Who Publications, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
5. Yap, K. B. (1979, April 8). Choo Hoey: The maestro, the man. New Nation, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 290. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE); Sunuja, B. (1993, March 21). Father knew best. The Straits Times, p. 4; 850 deaths. (1993, July 16). The Straits Times, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Sunuja, B. (1993, March 21). Father knew best. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18; Tan, C. (1983, November 22). She carries on her dad’s work. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Oon, V. (1977, May 27). Courage to take over the baton. New Nation, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Nanda, A. (2014, January 18). Building a beautiful SSO. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Ho, S. G. (Ed.). (1978). Internationally renowned conductor Choo Hoey. Singapore: Hwa Chong Old Boys’ Association, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 785.0924 CHO.1)
15. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Symphony Orchestra. (n.d). Conductor emeritus: Choo Hoey. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: https://www.sso.org.sg/profile.php?CategoryID=62
16. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. (n.d). Conductor Emeritus: Choo Hoey. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: https://www.sso.org.sg/profile.php?CategoryID=62
18. Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. (n.d). Conductor emeritus: Choo Hoey. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: https://www.sso.org.sg/profile.php?CategoryID=62
20. Phan, M. Y. (1996, January 27). Choo Hoey to step down as SSO music director. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. (n.d). Conductor emeritus: Choo Hoey. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: https://www.sso.org.sg/profile.php?CategoryID=62
22. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Ho, S. G. (Ed.) (1978). Internationally renowned conductor Choo Hoey. Singapore: Hwa Chong Old Boys’ Association, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 785.0924 CHO.1)
24. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. (n.d). Conductor emeritus: Choo Hoey. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: https://www.sso.org.sg/profile.php?CategoryID=62
25. Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36; Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18; Nanda, A. (2014, January 18). Building a beautiful SSO. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Kong, L. (1990, January 19). A step in the right direction. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. (n.d). Conductor emeritus: Choo Hoey. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: https://www.sso.org.sg/profile.php?CategoryID=62
29. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. (n.d). Conductor Emeritus: Choo Hoey. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: https://www.sso.org.sg/profile.php?CategoryID=62
30. Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Phan, M. Y. (1996, January 27). Choo Hoey to step down as SSO music director. The Straits Times, p. 3; Chua, C. H. (2000, February 21). Thumping the podium again. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from NewspaperSG.
33. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Phan, M. Y. (1996, January 27). Choo Hoey to step down as SSO music director. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1990, November 8). Asean honours 24 writers, artists and musicians. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Choo Hoey gets French arts and letters knighthood. (1997, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Tay, S. (2000, November 27). Dick Lee makes it three in a row. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Choo Hoey, ‘maestro among the cognoscenti’. (1989, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 18; Chia, A. (2009, February 19). Choo Hoey takes on SCO. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. 850 deaths. (1993, July 16). The Straits Times, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Choo, Hoey, 1934-
Cultural Medallion Recipients (Music)
Conductors (Music)--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Music>>Conducting
Award winners