The Macao Orchestra is a professional ensemble, organized under the auspices of the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao Special Administrative Region Government. In 1983, Father Áureo de Castro of the St. Pious X Academy of Music and a group of music lovers founded the Macao Chamber Orchestra. In 1984, it was incorporated into the Cultural Affairs Bureau (formerly the Cultural Institute of Macao), and benefited from a succession of musical directors: Stuart Bonner (1983-1984), Doming Lam (1984-1989) and Veiga Jardim (1989-1995). After some thoroughgoing reforms in 1995, it became the only professional orchestra in Macao, under the baton of Yuan Fang (1995-2000). In 2001, the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao Special Administrative Region Government expanded the chamber orchestra into a medium-sized orchestra with double winds; it was renamed the Macao Orchestra in 2002 and En Shao became its first Music Director and Principal Conductor. The arrival of first-rate musicians from all over the world in 2003 and the “gala concert” in September of the same year marked a new chapter in the development of the Orchestra. Beginning in September 2008, Lü Jia has taken over as Music Director and Principal Conductor, once again marking a turning point in the Orchestra's history.
For the past twenty-odd years, the Macao Orchestra has played an important role in the musical life of Macao. Since 1989, the Orchestra has performed every year in the Macao International Music Festival (MIMF) and Macao Arts Festival (MAF), gradually becoming the nucleus of these two major cultural events. Since September 2003, the Orchestra has included several Concert Series in every season, presenting both Western and Chinese masterpieces in a comprehensive and systematic way, and thereby encouraging the pursuit of music among a broader public. Through its refined performance style and high quality concerts, the Orchestra has become a symbol of Macao’s prosperity as an international cultural city.
The Orchestra has worked with dozens of internationally renowned musicians and conductors, among them Leonidas Kavakos, Iván Martín, Barry Douglas, Maria João Pires, John Lill, Boris Berezovsky, Kun Woo Paik, Fou Ts’ong, Lang Lang, Yundi Li, Chen Sa, Pinchas Zukerman, Antje Weithaas, Joshua Bell, Cho-Liang Lin, Sarah Chang, Yu Lina, Wang Jian, Qin Liwei, Ning Feng, Li Chuanyun, Ying Huang, Hui He, Liao Changyong, Song Zuying, Zhang Liping, Daniel Oren, Okko Kamu, David Wroe, Jahja Ling, Erich Kunzel, Lü Shao-chia, Tang Muhai, Chen Zuohuang, Chen Xieyang, Lam Bun-ching, Huang Anlun and Min Huifen.
In October 1997, the Orchestra was invited to perform two concerts at the 5th Chinese Arts Festival in Chengdu. In June 1999, it toured Portugal and Spain, performing eight concerts in five different cities. In the same year, the Orchestra participated in the 2nd Beijing International Music Festival and the 1st Shanghai International Arts Festival, where its performances were very well received.
Since May 2005, the expanded Macao Orchestra has, in addition to frequent performances around the Pearl River Delta, toured eight times to Mainland China, performing nearly forty concerts in major cities across the country, such as Beijing, Tianjin, Xi’an, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Nanning, Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu. These performances included appearances in the 7th Shanghai International Arts Festival, the 8th China Arts Festival (Hubei Province), the National Center for the Performing Arts’ International Performance Season, the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival 2009, the Beijing Modern Music Festival 2011 and the 2013 Seoul International Music Festival. These tours caused quite a sensation. In playing a significant role in celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of Macao’s handover in 2009, the Macao Orchestra successfully presented its charms and strengths, becoming a cultural brand name of Macao in addition to vigorously promoting the achievements of cultural development made by the Macao SAR and the cultural image of Macao.