Doris Chen was a pupil of Anna Nozadze who studied with her for twenty years, starting in 1947, when she was just 7 years old until 1967, when she left for the States.
She remembers going to Balia’s flat in Cameron Road and seeing the two cabinets in her flat by the piano, which were packed with music books. She also remembers Balia giving her pupils music books as Christmas presents and signing the books so that her A (for Anna) looked like a musical symbol!
Knowing the flourish that my grandmother had with her “A” for Anna, I wouldn’t be surprised if it looked like a G Clef 😀
She used to stay with Balia on some nights to make sure she wasn’t lonely; she also used to go to Shatin to play the piano while Jenny exercised her vocal chords, and when Balia went down to Perth in 1966 for a couple of months, Doris took over her pupils for the time she was away.
Doris emigrated to the States in 1967 and now is a happy grandmother, mother and wife.
Doris was asked for her thoughts about musicians and composers in Hong Kong by Oliver Chou, a gentleman from HK who contacted me about my father’s past.
This is what she told him …
My very dear friend Nona Langley told me of your research project about the development of music in Hong Kong of decades ago.
She encouraged me to write to you because it happened when I was there to see the culture, the influence and the development in those days.
I do not know if I have any valuable material to contribute to your project but I can tell you two important people, Mrs Anna Nozadze, and Mr George Parks, who helped out the developments of European Classical music into the students in Hong Kong in the decades of 40’s to 70’s. They brought their musical knowledge, technique and talent from their native Russia to China and to Hong Kong.
As a matter of fact, there were White Russian musicians and artists, as well as Filipino musicians in Hong Kong. The White Russians were involved in the Classical and the Filipino musicians were involved in the pop music and worked in the night clubs. The White Russians were well educated in classical music and art and they were respected much by the musical society.
I took piano lessons from Mrs Anna Nozadze from 1947, when I was 7 years old, and stayed with her until I left HK in 1967 for the USA to pursue my music degree in a college there. During those twenty years with her I witnessed the effort she spent with all her piano students to make them understand music and get good piano playing techniques.
Mrs Nozadze taught piano lessons in her two bed-room apartment in Tsimshashui, Kowloon to her students of White Russians, English, American, Filipino, and Chinese races. The two cabinets in her studio were packed with music books. When she gave out piano books as Christmas presents to the students she always signed her name on the book. She liked to sign her name so much that her signature looked like musical symbol.
Every year she purchased a complete set of recording records of all 8 grade piano examinations directly from the Royal School Of Music to help her students understand more about the pieces they were practicing and learning.
She held student rehearsals at home before the yearly Royal School of Music examinations and also before the yearly school piano competitions took place. Besides the above two events, she also had an annual recital at The Peninsular Hotel.
All her students made progress and did very well in all piano activities. In 1951 I was chosen to broadcast on Hong Kong Radio after the examination. It was a very rare event and very prestigious. I remember I played Tchaikovsky’s piece called “Season – April”.
After I graduated from high school, Mrs Nozadze introduced me to her Russian friend, Mrs Lydia Cohen (her husband was Dr Cohen of Anderson Partners) to play piano for her and for her student ballet classes. I worked only a few years for her. She was just too strict with her students.
Mrs Nozadze sent my younger sister Virginia to work as pianist for her another friend, Russian ballet teacher, Mrs Helen Marcus, in Kowloon. Mrs Marcus was very nice to Virginia and they stayed good friends for a long time.
There were also a couple times I was sent by Mrs Nozadze to play piano for ballet soloists in concerts.
She lived alone. Her oldest daughter, Mrs Lila Parks, was a successful business woman who visited her often. Her younger daughter, the mezzo soprano, Mrs Janet Yatskin was there with her during weekdays and gave music theory lessons to the students. Her many Russian friends visited her a lot too and talked in Russian which I understood not a word.
My relationship with Mrs Nozadze was very close. She was like my second family. I was her assistant too in some ways.
She had some health issues in her later years of her life and migrated to Australia with her eldest daughter, Lila, and son in-law George Parks in January 1974.
As a piano teacher her contributions to students were tremendous. She nourished so many students during her decades of piano teaching in Hong Kong.
My sister Virginia and I were lucky enough to gain all our piano knowledge from her. We both gave piano lessons as a profession to kids in Hong Kong.
I did it for 12 years and during that time I had one Filipino student who got first prize in the school piano competition.
I left HK in July 1967. I went to Chicago Musical College and got my Bachelor degree in Music after four years. Since then I have been living as a citizen there.
My sister Virginia Mark worked as piano teacher in HK all her life there until she retired in 2013. We both owe our success to Mrs Nozadze.
Now I will talk about the second person, my great music mentor too, Mr George Parks – Nona Langley’s father.
I did not know him well when I was in Hong Kong except that he was very helpful and involved in every one of Mrs Nozadze’s annual student concerts at the Peninsula Hotel.
When I was preparing for the diploma piano examination given by The Trinity School of Music
of England, Mrs Nozadze sent me to take a few piano lessons from George Parks. He was a very kind person and had great knowledge in music. I did pass the exam.
From my 20 some years corresponding with him when he was in Australia and I in America,
I learned that he studied with Prof Greenberg and gained his solid background in musical knowledge when he was young, then in later years from some other teachers, but the highlight was at the Mozartium in Salzburg, Austria, studying conducting under Prof Baumgartner.
He told me that in Hong Kong he played a lot of piano solos, two piano duets broadcasted thru the radio. He also played for charity concerts. He never conducted the Hong Kong Philharmonic but he took an active part in its initial formation.
He got the accredited teacher certificate in Australia and had an imposing string of letters after his name – CLJ, LRSM, ATMA, ATCL.
He had a large repertoire for 2 pianos, and concertos. During his time teaching in Australia, he liked to play piano duets with his advanced students.
He was very active in his Anglican Church and played piano or organ for the services there.
What he liked most was to compose music, particularly for his loving grandchildren.
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