Simplicius Cheong : Associate Artist
Photo: Cheng-Yin Chong
Simplicius Cheong was born on March 2, 1942 in Singapore. He studied the piano and music theory with his uncle, Seow Seet Yong, who was the Choir Master of Sacred Heart Church. Mr Seow instilled in Cheong an abiding love for the music of many composers, in particular Bach, Chopin, Debussy and Ravel. While still a teenager during the fifties, Cheong also played in his father's dance band. Cheong became a naturalised Australian in 1974, and is now based in Sydney.
Cheong's father, Francis, was broadminded in his musical taste, and under his tutelage, Cheong developed a wide musical taste in popular music from the Blues and Swing to Latin American music. From an early age, improvisation at the piano as required in jazz was part of his daily musical activity.
Cheong studied composition with John Exton at the University of Western Australia (BMus) and with Eric Gross at the University of Sydney (MMus). He also read education (MEd. University of Sydney) and aesthetics (MA. Macquarie University). As a music lecturer, Cheong has given courses in composition, jazz and aesthetics at various tertiary institutions in Sydney, including the University of New South Wales. In 1995, Cheong spent a semester in the USA, as part of his sabbatical leave from UNSW, and undertook a comparative study of jazz and composition programs offered by the following institutions - New York University, Columbia University, Rutgers University, Manhattan College of Music, Julliard School of Music and Berklee College of Music.
As a composer, Cheong is eclectic. His compositions include numerous works for solo piano and solo flute, two symphonies, and other orchestral and chamber music works. Many of his works have been recorded for radio broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Singapore and the Minnesota Public Radio.
As a jazz pianist, Cheong acknowledges the influence of Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Andre Previn, Oscar Peterson, Mulgrew Miller, Hilton Ruiz, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Eddie Palmieri, to name a few. He has recorded for EMI (Parlophone PMCO 7531) in 1965, with his first Australian band, The Baroque Jazz Ensemble, an album which featured three of his jazz works, Spiritual Blues, Bossa Nova Digs Bach, and Blue Bach. He has recently reissued the old EMI long-playing album on compact disc.
Since 1989, Cheong has performed regularly with his trio/quartet at the Exxon-Mobil Campus Concerts held at the National University of Singapore and also at Nanyang Technological University. He has also performed at the Perth Festival, and the Manly Jazz Festival in Sydney. From 2002 to 2006, he was the musical director for the annual Oxfam-UNSW Jazz Night, arranging the music for a variety of programs such as Blues, Bebop and Beyond (2002), El Sabor Cubano (2005) and Salsa and Samba (2006). In 2009, Cheong performed with his trio in Seattle for the Rotary Club, to raise funds for an educational project.
On June 30, 2014, Mr Cheong's new work "Jazz Movement For Flute and Piano" (2013) was premiered in London, at the Purcell Room by flautist Mark Underwood, to whom the composition was dedicated.
Simplicius performed with his jazz quartet in Rome and London in May 2016.
As a septuagenarian, Cheong still enjoys pursuing his main interests - music, meditation, and a daily swim in the ocean, near his home in Sydney.
Simplicius Cheong — current to July 2012