Orchestra delivers brilliant music befitting Singapore's 50th anniversary

Oliver Chou

2 OCT 2015

"But the sobriety quickly dissipated when Li Churen, 20, delivered an energetic reading of Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto. A conservatory alumni who is now a Yale postgraduate student, the young Singaporean showed extraordinary skill, displaying a sense of urgency in her playing that Lai had to stay vigilant to keep up with. Regrettably, the clapping was not sustained enough to get an encore from the brilliant pianist."

Celebrating SG50
The Conservatory Orchestra
City Hall concert hall
Wednesday, September 30

A vibrant orchestra of 80 young musicians from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music was a showcase of Singapore's coming of age in the musical arts at its debut concert in Hong Kong. Under the baton of Jason Lai, a former conductor in Hong Kong, the show opened a new chapter in the tale of the two cities. But lending an edge was the fine discipline the Singaporean band executed, which would call for some quality ensemble playing by local musicians to match.

This being part of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Singapore's independence, an official speech would have kicked off the concert, but in lieu of that, the orchestra played its historic first note in Hong Kong with Empyrean Lights by Ho Chee Kong, the school's head of composition. From the atmospheric opening on subtle cello notes, the audience was taken on a sentimental journey that, at the end, was reduced to solo trumpet calls the composer said "solemnly weave an epitaph in honour of a great statesman, Mr Lee Kuan Yew".

But the sobriety quickly dissipated when Li Churen, 20, delivered an energetic reading of Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto. A conservatory alumni who is now a Yale postgraduate student, the young Singaporean showed extraordinary skill, displaying a sense of urgency in her playing that Lai had to stay vigilant to keep up with. Regrettably, the clapping was not sustained enough to get an encore from the brilliant pianist.

Those who stayed for the second half were rewarded with the magnificence of Sibelius' second symphony, where the strings continued to shine as the forte of the band. The passionate players brought the evening to a smiling close with a vivacious Stand Up for Singapore, performed in response to rapturous applause.