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Review: A Very Singaporean Celebration – A Bicentennial Tribute by re:Sound Collective

Screenshot 2019-09-02 at 9.08.23 AM

Celebrating the Bicentennial, re:Sound style.

How do you capture the founding of Singapore into a single symphony? Local composer Jonathan Shin certainly seems to have the answer, with the premiere of a brand new composition as part of re:Sound Collective’s A Very Singaporean Celebration.

Opening with Shin’s 1819 Suite for Small Orchestra, the chamber orchestra began with a short introduction, a prelude of soft waves on our island home with the expectation of greater things to come. We moved into a more ceremonial sound, almost as if the British fleet were arriving on Singapore, grand and majestic with snare drums and the timpani coming in, along with a strong brass section. With the third movement, a rondo, it feels as if one has embarked on a high seas adventure crossing the oceans, provoking excitement in the audience before a prolonged violin note takes us to the next movement. The mood has now been dimmed, solemn as the music quietens down, no longer celebratory but serious. But thankfully, this doesn’t last for too long before it seems a brand new, triumphant day has arrived. With new strength, the orchestra picks up again, joyous and ready to face and look forward to the future.

With Camille Sain-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals (Chamber Version), Symphony 92.4’s Andrew Lim arrives onstage to play a narrator describing each ‘animal’ in the carnival, and the sheer variety of animals just a cello, violin, double bass, oboe, flute, percussionists and pianos can come together to mimic. Essentially, this is a very fun piece that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet each animal is precisely reproduced in each song. Much of the work ends up parodying multiple familiar works to the delight of the seasoned music-goer who can recognise it. We open with the crow of the rooster, before hearing the playful ass, the tortoise where the tempo slows down the Can-can from Orpheus in the Underworld considerably, while the elephant (Berlioz’s Dance of the Sylphs) takes the original violin-driven but now played by the heavier double bass and low notes from the piano. A court of kangaroos is represented by repetitive trills, as if jumping, while a fish seems to take us further in a shimmering pool of water as we dive deep into a dreamy ocean, thanks to the glockenspiel. Ending off with a set of fossils (parodying the Danse Macabre), it feels like a party in a museum, imagining dancing bones with the help of a xylophone, and with the instruments coming together in a grand celebration .

Ending off the concert with two of the greatest composers, Mozart’s Symphony no.1 in Eb Major K.16 and Beethoven’s Symphony No.1 in C major, Op.21, there is great skill displayed in each of the works. Mozart’s work, miraculously, was composed at age 8 by the child prodigy, and is a short but effective set. Beethoven’s work is light-hearted in nature, playing with speed and rhythm and tempo throughout, fiercely original and witty with a wonderful fluidity to it. The layers in the Menuetto, for example, were very tricky, but handled well by the orchestra, finishing on a strong note.

As we observed the orchestra, we noticed musician Alan Kartik, whose arm was in a sling as he assumed his position onstage to play the French Horn. This perhaps shows the commitment of him and the ethos of the orchestra, and pleasant as a midweek concert. Unique to re:Sound is the choice not to have a conductor, showing how every member knew their part, and for our first experience with the orchestra, we were impressed by the level of passion from them. It’s not easy to put up a concert, and tonight showed us just how committed they were to making their mark on the local music scene, a dedication we would love to see more of in their next concert.

A Very Singaporean Celebration played on 16th October 2019 at the Victoria Concert Hall. 

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