LIZ CHI YEN LIEW was born and bred in the suburbs of North London to Singaporean parents.
She learnt the piano and violin from an early age, studied at the Junior Royal Academy of Music, gained double music A levels before embarking on her Bachelor of Science in music at City University and completing her Licentiate of Guildhall School of Music and Drama (LGSM) performance diploma.
After her rigorous classical music training she ventured into the world of pop music and has since toured/performed/recorded as a violinist with diverse artists Moby, Gnarls Barkley, Goldfrapp, Nelly Furtado, Lamb, Asian Dub Foundation and Boy George. Says Liz, “I feel incredibly privileged and honoured to have worked with so many amazing artists and musicians. I love the challenge of playing different styles of music and I’ve learnt so much from everyone I’ve played with.”
In the late 1990s she formed a band with her sister Sarah called Chi2, a charismatic blend of East West rhythms and melodies, blending Chinese instruments (erhu, jinghu, liuqin) with electric violins and beats, performing at festivals and gigs up and down the UK. Inspired by their tour of South East Asia (including China, Singapore and Thailand) they wrote Monkey King – A Modern Beijing Opera – a brand new spin on the classic Chinese tale collaborating with producer Tom E Morrison which they toured in the UK in 2008 (as part of the CHINA NOW season) and 2009 with the support of the Arts Council England. They released a CD to accompany the show which features special guests including Kuljit Bhamra on tabla and Indian percussion.
Her unique style blending Chinese instruments with electronics has led to commissions including ‘Time is Like Water Flowing’ a soundtrack to multi-disciplinary spectacle commissioned by Greenwich and Docklands Festival, which she co-wrote with Tom E Morrison in 2008, culminating in seven shows at London’s O2 Arena. This poetic evocation of the four seasons combined aerial acrobatics (by French group Les Passagers), with innovative multi-media effects (visuals duo 8gg) and epic Chinese landscape painting (Beijing visual artist Yan Huang). She and Tom released an album featuring music from this show under the guise of LT Chi Sound System.
In April 2008 she co-wrote and performed a live soundtrack to classic Chinese black and white film ‘Song of the Fisherman’ to packed audiences at the Royal Opera House (Linbury Theatre) as Chi2 with Jiang Li and Kimho Ip, in a commission by Chinese Arts Space. Video clip.
Other writing credits include a co-write on Lamb‘s album ‘Between Darkness and Wonder’, music for Channel 4 documentary Birthday Girl and Chi2’s music has been used on BBC Radio 4 documentary Chinese in Britain and BBC1 news segment.
As one of PRSF’s New Music 20 x 12 selected composers she was commissioned to write a 12 minute piece as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Working with Andy Leung and Chinese Arts Space , their piece XX / XY premiered to 12,000 people in London’s Trafalgar Square in January 2012, was performed at the South Bank Centre in July and was featured on BBC2’s Review Show and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. More info on XX/XY sub-page.
Her next show ‘Snapshots’ explored key moments in her life – first love, childhood memories, the birth of her first child, sudden death of her father – through live dance and music, collaborating with dancer/choreographer Yuyu Rau and Step Out Arts. Their show premiered at The Place (Resolution! 2013), showcased at Bedford Fringe Festival and she recorded and launched her full-length album at Rich Mix in London in February 2014 to a packed house.
Branching out to writing music for screen, she collaborated with filmmaker Suki Mok on a short film ‘Where are They From?’ exploring the stories of London-based artists Bhangra pioneer Kuljit Bhamra, novelist/filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, educator/bassist Svetlana Vassileva and Cameroonian-British artist Shiri Achu which premiered at Rich Mix in July 2014. More info
One of her stand-out highlights was being invited to attend the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace (October 2014) with the Queen and 170 guests, in honour of the first state visit of the Singaporean President as a UK arts representative. She described the evening as “a surreal, magical and enthralling evening”. More details here.
She served in the Musicians Union’s Equalities Committee for a number of years and was a board member of Diaspora (promoting equality in music). She is currently the Chair of Governors in a North London primary school.
LIZ CHI YEN LIEW: B.Sc. (Hons.) Music at City University, London, L.G.S.M. (Hons.) at Guildhall School of Music, A.L.C.M., at London College of Music, Royal Academy of Music (junior).
Instruments: Violin (acoustic and 5-string electro-acoustic), Pianoforte, Organ
Here’s a recent interview for Ming-Ai Institute’s British Chinese Workforce Heritage project in which she also featured in their accompanying exhibition in Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham (Jan-July 2015). Info.