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Richmond Fringe Fest: Matthew Lau

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Written by: Richy Jones

Classical percussionist, Dr. Matthew Lau, is bringing classical music to Richmond, but with a whimsical twist! As a queer, proud immigrant from Hong Kong, musician in the classical music scene, Dr. Lau is breaking old paradigms and reimagining how audience members and performers can connect in this genre. Set to perform his solo vibraphone recital, IDENTITY, audience members will have an immersive experience alongside electronic and video components. Whether you’re an accomplished music scholar, or a casually listening novice, Lau says that this performance is for everyone with hopes that you find what you’re looking for.

Matthew Lau holding pink percussion sticks
Classical Percussionist, Dr. Matthew Lau

Q: What does Fringe Fest mean to you and how do you fit into it?

Fringe Fest means providing a safe space for outside the box, non-societal definition artists like myself to express our artistic voice and missions. I DON'T necessarily fit into it but that's the beauty of it. By exposing our artform to a wider, otherwise largely untouched audience members; which contemporary classical music circles don't do well.

Q: What do you hope your audience will take away from your performance?

I'd like them to think. What do I like or dislike about this piece/this aesthetic? They might not be used to this type of music but that's ok. Art is subjective, and these pieces are all written by our gorgeous living composers who share the same vision of pushing our artform forward.

Q: Of all the instruments and interdisciplines of percussion, what is your favorite? and why?

I like keyboard percussion (marimba and vibraphone), with theatrical elements on top of it. I think we are storytellers, we are essentially speaking a new language. Contemporary music should be whimsical and fun to listen to, like listening to a stand-up comedian in a foreign might not understand the text but the inflexion, cadence, and tone in their speech, their facial expressions, their hand gestures...all contribute to the art of a successful storyteller.

Dr. Matthew Lau playing vibraphone
Dr. Matthew Lau

Q: How did you select the pieces you'll be performing for your recital titled IDENTITY?

As a queer Asian percussionist in the percussion world, which is very cis-white male centric, throughout grad schools and even post-grad schools, I would receive little aggressions or comments said I should be doing XYZ, because on how I look, or where I come from, or how i act/talk. That period was from 2009-2017 and it was such a different world for LGBT people. Even talking to other Asian colleagues in this country, they were told to just follow the "white definition", and don't stir pot too much, in other words conforming to another culture here. On the other hand, as someone from Hong Kong whom we lost our identities because of recent political activities, many folks from HK are willing to lose our unique identity to conform to the countries they emigrate to like the UK, Canada, and in the US. All of that got me thinking during my own relocation back to the States last year (from Hong Kong), I should embrace my own individuality even more, and don't let these folks put me in a box where I won't succeed. (WOW THIS IS A LOADED QUESTION!)

Q: In what ways do you wish to push the genre of percussion/classical with your artistry?

I'd like to break current norms and boundaries in the classical contemporary percussion world. There is a lot to be done, but largely especially in the US, it's a "white boys club". For example, if you look for a new piece or want to join a consortium of a new commission, you can almost expect what it's going to sound like because they all follow a certain predecessor's norm or form. Nothing wrong with that but we are blessed with working with living composers and percussion instruments are very young in history (compared to the piano, violin, cello etc.) Combining other genres that aren't historically involved with the contemporary world is something I really like. I love crunchy avant-garde music but I also like Spanish disco and country music...why not combine them? This is exactly what I have been doing in commissioning new works. As an extension, if there are young percussion students wanting to do something so out of the world and unique and never been seen... DO IT!

Dr. Matthew Lau

Q: What do you hope YOU will take away from performing at Richmond Fest?

I hope to engage and start conversations with the audience members in the Richmond community about what percussive arts meant to me, and to them.

Q: What are some things we can look out for coming up? (new music releases, commissions, lectures, etc).

My very pink, very fun self-titled debut album is out on all streaming platforms. The gorgeous videos are on my Youtube.

I will be releasing a new EP on one of the pieces in this program, which I premiered last november. New music videos should be released in May, and EP should be this fall. The piece is called Ritratti Surreali by Massimo Lauricella. 5 movements in total, the first two movements' videos are already on my Youtube. I will be touring in Italy and Switzerland at the end of May; teaching and performing in Perth, Brisband, Melbourne Australia in July. More exciting things are in the books for fall like Mexico, Hong Kong etc. Check out my updates on my website.

Q: Final thoughts?

Say gay! BE WHO YOU ARE!

Buy an entrance button and ticket to see Matthew Lau perform Monday, April 17, 2023 at the Richmond Fringe Festival.


Instagram: @matthewlaumusic

Blog Author - Richy Jones: Hey, my name is Richy Jones (they/them) and I’m a freelance creative holding it down in RVA. In 2017 I earned a bachelors degree from Virginia Commonwealth University with a discipline in music education. As a former school music teacher, I maintain a passion for sharing my love of music through various media. I’m happy to be apart of the HearRVA team, being a proponent of Richmond’s vibrant and growing music scene. As a hip hop artist, I record and perform under the stage name Qing Richy.

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