Ring the Bell

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ARTS - By LEE JUAN XIAN

FROM a Korean drama sound­track show­case to per­for­mances with block­buster clas­si­cal mu­sic stars such as Amer­i­can vi­o­lin­ist Joshua Bell, the Sin­ga­pore Chi­nese Or­ches­tra ( SCO) has big plans lined up to mark its 20th an­niver­sary this year.

“It’s a big mile­stone for a rel­a­tively young or­ches­tra, 20 years com­pared to those in New York, Paris and Lon­don. We have de­vel­oped our own sound. It’s very round and ex­pres­sive and also we have the ca­pa­bil­ity to con­nect the East and West in the way we per­form, just like Sin­ga­pore,” says the or­ches­tra’s mu­sic di­rec­tor Yeh Tsung in a re­cent in­ter­view.

First es­tab­lished as part of the Peo­ple’s As­so­ci­a­tion Cul­tural Troupe, which formed in 1968, the or­ches­tra re­ceived its name when it was later in­au­gu­rated as a na­tional or­ches­tra in 1996 by then-Prime Min­is­ter Goh Chok Tong, who is now Emer­i­tus Se­nior Min­is­ter.

It has since grown into a pro­fes­sional or­ches­tra with more than 80 mu­si­cians, per­form­ing at ma­jor events such as the 2006 In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund An­nual Meet­ing and Na­tional Day Pa­rade, as well as arts fes­ti­vals in cities such as Shang­hai, Paris and Ed­in­burgh.

It is cur­rently led by the Shang­hai- born Yeh, who re­ceived the Cul­tural Medal­lion, Sin­ga­pore’s high­est ac­co­lade for the arts, in 2013.

The or­ches­tra will cel­e­brate its 20th ju­bilee with a one- night- only gala con­cert fea­tur­ing Bell on April 9. They will be per­form­ing works such as the La Pri­mav­era con­certo by Ital­ian baroque com­poser An­to­nio Vi­valdi and In­tro­duc­tion Et Rondo Capric­cioso by French com­poser Camille Saint- Saens.

Bell and Yeh met at In­di­ana Univer­sity in the United States in 1991, when they worked to­gether on a con­cert.

“We’ve been try­ing to find an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage him. This is the first time Bell is play­ing with any Chi­nese or­ches­tra world­wide, so we’re very proud to have him,” says Yeh.

To pay trib­ute to the or­ches­tra’s founders, three mae­stros will also come to­gether to con­duct on stage in a show ti­tled Mae­stros Ex­trav­a­ganza in July.

They are Yeh, the or­ches­tra’s first mu­sic di­rec­tor Hu Bing Xu, and vet­eran con­duc­tor Choo Hoey, who founded the Sin­ga­pore Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and was the Chi­nese or­ches­tra’s first board mem­ber.

Yeh says with a laugh: “Their pres­ence on stage will make me feel much younger.”

In Septem­ber, the or­ches­tra will put up the Korea, New Waves con­cert, fea­tur­ing works by South Korean com­poser Ce­cilia Hee-jeong Kim and the sounds of South Korean elec­tronic band WHO-OL. The evening wraps up with an ar­range­ment of K- drama theme songs.

For that con­cert, Kim will com­pose a piece ti­tled Gut: Chas­ing Five Ghosts III, in­spired by Korean shaman­is­tic rituals. It will fea­ture South Korean vo­cal­ists Park In Hye and Hwang Min Wang, as well as Pek­ing opera vo­cal­ist Huang Ping.

The or­ches­tra will also present Per­anakan her­itage and cul­ture through The Ny­onya Jour­ney con­cert in Septem­ber.

The first half will fea­ture new works by com­posers Xie Xiang Ming, Si­mon Kong and Chong Kee Yong, as well as Per­anakan singer- song­writer Dick Lee, who has been in­vited to com­pose an ora­to­rio based on the story of his fore- fa­thers.

Lee says: “The ora­to­rio is based on my first an­ces­tor Lee Kan, who left China in 1776 aged 18 and landed in Malacca to seek his for­tune.”

Be­yond the con­cert hall, the or­ches­tra is also launch­ing a ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion of its his­tory, as well as a Chi­nese mu­sic in­stru­ment ex­hi­bi­tion.

For more info, go to www. sco. com. sg.

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the Sin­ga­pore Chi­nese Or­ches­tra will cel­e­brate its 20th ju­bilee with a one- nightonly gala con­cert fea­tur­ing Amer­i­can vi­o­lin­ist Joshua Bell on April 9.

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