Cover Margaret Yang, the CEO of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. Courtesy of Margaret Yang.

In the first story of Tatler’s new series, where we learn about the secret lives of the tastemakers in Hong Kong’s cultural scene, we speak to the CEO of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.

It’s an understatement to say that Margaret Yang lives life to the fullest. The current CEO of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, known for promoting classical music in the city since 1990, has been busy recently overseeing the Life Is Art Festival, a local art film festival that opened on August 27, as its co-festival director. In collaboration with cinema company MovieMovie, it features concerts that were filmed during the pandemic when live performances were brought to a halt. Before her passion for music and the arts brought her to the orchestra in 1999, Yang was a practising intellectual property lawyer at an international law firm. She keeps a strict daily routine to keep her jam-packed life in order—and it involves sleeping as little as four hours a night.

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7am

Normally I wake up around this time. I don’t set an alarm and my windows are shut—so there isn’t a particular sound I wake up to. I’ll then have my breakfast, which includes an apple, toast with a slice of cheddar or Emmental cheese on top, plain yoghurt, coffee, and in that order. My colleagues join me for breakfast—on Whatsapp. I normally respond to emails and messages while listening to the news on the radio and preparing breakfast.

Mid-morning

I have no specific start time, and there is no real routine except that work starts when you open your eyes. (Your phone has been collecting emails and messages all night!)

My work starts way before I actually get to the office. When I get in, my colleagues tend to already be there, apart from the orchestra and projects department people, who might be out at rehearsals. I greet the people I pass by, check the diary which sits on my assistant’s desk, sign things in my inbox, and then go into my office. If music director Yip Wing-sie is there, I go into her room for a chat.

I think most people don’t quite know what the management office of a professional symphony orchestra does, or, therefore, what I do. My office is made up of different departments: the orchestra department, that makes sure the orchestra is up and running; the programme and projects departments which manages rehearsals, performances, and ensuring we play interesting programmes, and the touring department. I also have to make sure people know about the concerts (the marketing department), and that we are not in the red (the accounting department). It’s just like running a regular company. One thing people are often surprised about: our programme planning is done at least two years in advance.

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Midday

Lunch is whenever I have a break; normally I have something light. Mostly I have lunch in the office unless I have a meeting. Sometimes I catch up with the links and information that have been sent to me online and listen to, watch and read about new performances and artists all over the world.

Afternoon

It really differs greatly from day to day. The afternoon session is normally a bit more settled than the morning.

Evening

If there is a free evening, meaning there aren’t any of our own performances or other performances to go to, I normally go to see a film. I also like taking photos. I used to do it with an SLR camera, but now with smartphones, it is more about documenting what I do every day.

Night

To wind down, I read a book, or write in my diary. I like my couch – and my bed, which is the perfect space for relaxation. I also relax by talking with friends who live abroad, strolling on the beach, doing laundry, and cooking. I need very little sleep and I believe in the four-hour cycle.

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