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Festival of Southeast Asia in Oxford – A Concert for Cambodia

A musical journey from medieval Europe to modern Cambodia

In aid of the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children, Cambodia

Somerville College Chapel, Oxford, 14th April 2016, 8pm

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Dr Kah-Ming Ng – Harpsichord

Catherine Louise Geach – Violin/Soprano

Music by:

Hildegard of Bingen
Claudio Monteverdi
Giulio Caccini
C. P. E. Bach
Modern Cambodian Mohori music

A complimentary ticket is included in every Symposium registration.
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About the Performers

Dr Kah-Ming Ng


Born in Malaysia of Cantonese-Hakka descent, Kah-Ming Ng studied at Monash University, Melbourne (where he obtained a B.E. in civil engineering), the Frankfurt State Academy of Music (as a DAAD scholar), the London Guildhall School of Music & Drama (on a Foreign & Commonwealth Office scholarship), and St Anne’s College, Oxford (as a British Council Chevening research scholar), from which he gained his performance M.Phil. degree. He was awarded a D.Phil. by Keble College, Oxford, for his doctoral research into figured bass accompaniment in its social and artistic context. His harpsichord teachers included Elizabeth Anderson (Melbourne), Harald Hoeren (Cologne), Michael Behringer (Freiburg) and Christopher Kite (London). He is a winner of the Guildhall School’s Early Music Competition and a Fellow (in Harpsichord) of the Trinity College of Music London. He has accompanied the recitals and concerts of pioneering artists of the historically-informed movement, including Emma Kirkby, James Bowman, Catherine Bott, John Holloway, and Simon Standage. Kah-Ming regularly contributes reviews and articles to leading specialist music journals; he wrote the entries on English and French baroque ornamentation in the revised New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians. In between his performing and directing, he squeezes in some adjudicating (of competitions and examinations) and lecturing, his most recent position being Course Co-ordinator & Lecturer in Early Music Studies (2004–6) at the Faculty of Music, Oxford University. As the director of the award-winning Charivari Agreable and its work with over forty choirs in the UK, Kah-Ming was recently invited to address the 2008 annual convention of the Association of British Choral Directors, his co-presenters being some of the biggest names in the choral scene, such as Sir David Wilcocks, John Rutter, Bob Chilcott, Nicholas Cleobury, Andrew Parrott, and Eric Whitacre.

Catherine Louise Geach 

Catherine Louise Geach was born in England and began the study of violin and classical dance at the age of four, before giving her first public concert at the age of five. She studied with Bernard Blay and Caroline Lamont, receiving masterclasses from Professor David Takeno and Professor Felix Andrievski, the latter from the Yehudi Menuhin School. She performed in numerous concerts and recitals as a soloist, before winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London at the age of fifteen, where she began her studies the following year with violin as her principal study and pianoforte and singing as her second studies.

When she was eighteen she went to Cambodia to compile a report on the violation of human rights by the Khmer Rouge and was granted permission by the Cambodian government to travel in war zones to document Khmer Rouge post-genocide atrocities. She also performed at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. On her return to Britain she wrote the “Aid and War” report for which she was awarded the Bernard Brett Peace Bequest Award. She continued with her studies at the Royal Academy of Music and graduated at the age of nineteen.

After her graduation she returned to Cambodia and began teaching violin at the Royal University of Fine Arts, as well as traditional Cambodian Mohori music to mutilated ex-soldiers at a rehabilitation centre in Phnom Penh. With funding from the British Embassy she set up a scholarship fund for students of traditional Cambodian music at the Royal University of Fine Arts to strengthen the art of traditional Cambodian music, leading her to the creation of a Cambodian Non-Governmental Organisation, the Khmer Cultural Development Institute, which was ratified under King Sihanouk and the Supreme National Council in 1993

In 1994 after receiving funding from the Japanese, Canadian and British Governments she built the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children, where she was it’s director (taking no salary) for over ten years, before becoming permanent board member and artistic committee chair. Apart from her study of Cambodian music, she also studied and performed Cambodian dance. Today she helps coordinate funding and artistic programs and visits the school regularly.

She was awarded the Raol Wallenberg Humanitarian Award in New York in 1999 and the school received the UNESCO World Decade for Cultural Development in 1995.

She perfected her singing studies in Italy and now continues to live in Italy and works as both a soloist and ensemble violinist and a soprano of Early Music. In 2000 she was given an Associate for Life from the Royal Academy of Music. She has recorded for Vatican radio and has been the subject of a BBC television documentary, BBC radio interview, South African radio, Australian National Television (ABC) and the Voice of America Radio in Khmer (Cambodian) language.

About the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children, Cambodia

The Khmer Cultural Development Institute – Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children, was founded in 1993 and built in 1994 during the Cambodian civil war in the Southwest Province of Kampot.

DSCN2119The founder of the school, Catherine Louise Geach, is an English violinist from the Royal Academy of Music, who first came to Cambodia in 1990 at the age of 18 to compile a report on the violation of human rights by the Khmer Rouge and then in 1991 upon graduation at the Royal Academy – came out for a longer period to teach violin at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, by invitation of the Dean of the University. So many Cambodian artists had been killed during the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975 – 79), that there were no longer enough teachers.

Traditional Cambodian music is essential to Cambodian society and is used from the cradle to the grave. Classical dance is also considered sacred and Cambodian traditional music, dance and shadow puppet theatre date back over a thousand years and images depicting instruments and dance styles still used today, can be found on the bas reliefs at Angkor. UNESCO declared Traditional Cambodian Performing Arts as,  “World Intangible Cultural Heritage.”
During their reign of terror, the Khmer Rouge, forced the entire population of Cambodia into the countryside, emptying cities and towns, destroying hospitals, schools, banks and infrastructure. They targeted all intellectuals, doctors, teachers, engineers, artists, former government officials and religious leaders and executed them together with their families. It is estimated that up to a third of Cambodia’s pre-war population of 6.5 million perished through starvation, forced-labour and mass killings.

puppets 1At the end of the three years nine months and twenty-one days of the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian survivors slowly made their way back to the cities and for nearly two decades after the end of the Khmer Rouge rule, many city houses and apartments lay empty, because their owners had perished. Suffering from an Aid embargo imposed by the international community, for years in Cambodia there were no telephones, few essential medicines, proper foods, or material goods and there existed a profound isolation from the rest of the world. Teachers and artists struggled to piece together their country and their heritage and the government could only pay them in rice, because of lack of currency. It was under these difficult circumstances that in 1991 KCDI’s founder Catherine Geach, became aware of just how precarious was the state of Cambodia’s traditional music department at the University of Fine Arts and this led her to establish a scholarship program for students to be able to attend their lessons in order to keep basic attendance rates up and to keep the department going. In those days aid agencies considered cultural development a waste of time and had no idea that later on UNESCO would declare Cambodia’s artistic and cultural heritage of world value and interest. Therefore trying to restore and preserve traditional culture was a lone battle fought in the early 1990’s.

During her time at the University, together with her Cambodian colleagues, Catherine Geach also taught traditional Cambodian Mohori music to mutilated and blind ex-soldiers in Khean Khlang Rehabilitation Centre, across the river from Phnom Penh. These soldiers suffered from terrible injuries and most used wheelchairs, some had also been blinded by shrapnel and had lost fingers and legs. Music transformed these angry and depressed, even suicidal men and for the first time since their injuries, seemed to bring joy, lightness and also laughter into their lives. After witnessing this extraordinary transformation through the use of music, Catherine Geach founded a Cambodian NGO (the Khmer Cultural Development Institute) in 1993 and in 1994 after receiving funds from the British, Canadian and Japanese Embassies, she built the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children in Kampot Province, Southwestern Cambodia. Until the early 2000’s a Khmer Rouge strong-hold, Kampot Province suffered greatly from the ongoing civil war and indiscriminate attacks by Khmer Rouge guerrillas. The school was built during a period where the nearby mountain of Phnom Vor was shelled by government forces to dislodge Khmer Rouge and there was a 3pm curfew on the main highway from Kampot to the capital Phnom Penh. Anti- personnel mines littered the countryside and bandits shot and robbed civilians. It is at this time that three Western hostages travelling by train were kidnapped in Kampot and killed.

DSCN2155The Kampot Traditional Music School works to preserve and develop traditional Cambodian culture in it’s highest form for future generations of Cambodians, whilst caring for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Kampot Province. Working in coordination with the Cambodian Ministries of Culture, Education and Social Affairs, National Theatre and University of Fine Arts, the school teaches the traditional arts with recognised Cambodian masters. Today the school has 12 Cambodian staff who teach and care for the students. In 1995 the school received the UNESCO World Decade for Cultural Development and is held by the Ministry of Culture, as a role model for it’s educative and conservation role in the Cambodian performing arts.

Former students have gone on to study in Thailand and Switzerland and to become business managers, economists, professional musicians and to have their own families. The school has gone on concert tour in France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Vietnam and Qatar.

The Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children cares for up to 20 orphaned children who live from primary school age to university level. The school also houses and cares for 6 blind children, teaching them traditional Cambodian music as vocational and therapeutic training, as well as providing scholastic lessons using Braille. Our school also teaches 400 local disadvantaged children traditional Cambodian music, dance and Yike theatre and we have 20 scholarship students who are from very poor and vulnerable families. Our school also partners with other associations for the disabled and we teach physically challenged children traditional music twice weekly. We recently started a Sabaik Lakoun Toch shadow puppet theatre program where our students both make ornamental shadow puppets and perform them. This tradition was lost to Kampot Province because of the Khmer Rouge genocide.

The school also specialises in cultural exchange programs to promote peaceful dialogue and understanding through the traditional performing arts. We have welcomed students from Qatar, Singapore and Finland.

There are no expatriate overheads or costs. The Board and the founder work on an entirely voluntary level and all donations go directly to the project itself. The annual budget for 1 year, providing free tuition to 500 children and care to nearly 30 children, is approximately €37,000 per year.

For further information, please visit or (see Khmer Cultural Development Institute)

1, Ousaphea, Kampong Bay, Kampot Town, Cambodia
(PO Box 1417, Phnom Penh)