Israel Lai | composer

Israel Lai | composer

“Israel Lai's thought-provoking ‘BOU6’

a visceral work... unreservedly powerful”


Israel Lai is an award-winning composer, collaborative pianist, and conductor from Hong Kong. His music, rich in harmony, deeply personal, and acclaimed as ‘thought-provoking’, ‘visceral’, and ‘unreservedly powerful’ in The Oxford Student, has been widely performed in Hong Kong and the UK, as well as abroad in Taiwan, Italy and North America....
Full biography "About"

What's on

Latest happenings and exciting music stuff.

Music Salon II with Mivos Quartet

I'm very excited that my string quartet out to tolo will be performed in an online concert ‘Music Salon II’ by the world-renowned Mivos Quartet. I previously worked with Mivos at a 2018 reading session on the piece Playwright, when they visited the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The work out to... Read More "Music Salon II with Mivos Quartet"

Workshopping with the Trio Anima in Cardiff

I'm very excited that I'll be presenting my new work Porthladd at a workshop with Trio Anima, as part of the BFE/RMA Research Students' Conference in Cardiff in January. This work is inspired by harbours, a geographical feature that connects Cardiff and my hometown Hong Kong. Harbours embody contrasting things: they're always... Read More "Workshopping with the Trio Anima in Cardiff"

Joining the Opus 1 scheme with Britten Sinfonia

In a serendipitous turn of events, I'll be joining this year's roster of Britten Sinfonia's Opus 1 scheme. This prestigious and competitive scheme offers developing composers an opportunity to work with world-class musicians from the Britten Sinfonia, and especially to experiment with combinations of sounds through their mixed ensembles. I'm late to... Read More "Joining the Opus 1 scheme with Britten Sinfonia"

Speaking at the Languages in Science Conference, Lancaster University

I have been confirmed as a speaker at the Languages in Science conference at the Lancaster University, 27-28 July 2023, giving a talk related to my compositional research, titled 'Why it matters to make art in neglected languages'. While I'm currently not working in the sciences, the conference explores ways that languages... Read More "Speaking at the Languages in Science Conference, Lancaster University"

Performances / Appearances

Latest works

“Best of the bunch” — Abingdon Music Festival

out to tolo

2022–2024 For String Quartet out to tolo outlines the flow of Shing Mun River in Shatin, Hong Kong, towards the Tolo Harbour. It portrays the diversity of landscapes and architecture that the river passes by, and the sudden widening towards the sea. cranes among chickens follows the flow of the river and... Read More "out to tolo"

Mind the Gap

2023 For Symphony Orchestra Mind the Gap is a semi-autobiographical work that captures my current identity and state of mind as an immigrant. ‘Please mind the gap’ is a sonic element shared between the soundscapes of my hometown, Hong Kong, and famously of my adopted homeland, the UK. The ‘gap’ in the... Read More "Mind the Gap"

Elegy for an unopened peanut

2023 For tenor horn, piano, and optional off-stage tenor horn Oolong (Mar 2021–Mar 2023) was a gluttonous, quick-footed, well-travelled Syrian hamster with oolong-milk-tea-coloured fur and an oversized-peanut-shaped physique. He was my only friend and roommate during the pandemic, and has been to three cities around England and Scotland. He passed away due... Read More "Elegy for an unopened peanut"


2020 A Symphonic Metamorphosis Summer is the exhibition of a metamorphotic process between themes drawn from the Swedish folk song Små grodorna, sung at midsummer celebrations, and from the composer's other Swedish Rhapsodies, depicting the different seasons of his exchange year. The piece comes in five main sections, between which the melodies... Read More "Summer"

Bou6 / 暴

2019 A chamber opera on manufactured truth and reflected lies ‘There is no riot, only tyranny,’ said a black banner, erected in the heart of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong on 1 July 2019. Freedom fighters, predominantly in their early twenties and teenage years, had broken into the building to send... Read More "Bou6 / 暴"

Dusk in Chiufen

2019 For Symphony Orchestra Dusk in Chiufen was conceived during the composer’s one-day trip to the northeastern Taiwanese town of Chiufen (九份), where he was captivated by the literally picturesque sunset. Rather than depicting the sun, the piece paints three elements of the surroundings, framing the heart of the scenery in negative... Read More "Dusk in Chiufen"