Arts Interview Music Singapore

Music Is: Kahchun Wong leads ‘Beeth∞ven 360°’ in the composer’s 250th anniversary year this July

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 9.17.01 PM

On International Friendship Day (30th July), Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday anniversary will be premiered on The Straits Times Facebook and Youtube channels. This revolutionary virtual performance of music from his 9th Symphony is literally pieced together with digital submissions from world-class instrumentalists and singers of institutions including the Chicago Symphony, Dresden Boys Choir, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Japan Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, China National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Nuremberg Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Chorus and Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo.

They are joined by more than 1,000 participants of an inclusive global community campaign, for a singalong in the renowned “Ode to Joy” segment. This inter-generational bridging of professional musicians and committed amateurs from 25 nations extends the yearly German-Singaporean open air-concert ‘Beethoven im Garten’ into the digital space for 2020 to forge bonds between Asia, Europe and beyond, at a time when these are hampered by social distancing efforts worldwide.

The virtual performance is optimised for smartphones and tablets through the Youtube/Facebook apps. Laptops and computers can also access the video. More than 2000 man-hours have been spent on score preparation, the individual recordings and post-production, to create a powerful visual and aural experience for the viewer. The musicians are integrated into a 360° experiential landscape depicting turmoil, a dream of utopia, a garden city paradise, heavenly clouds and finally the cosmic world, which accompanies the musical narrative from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

Kahchun Wong explains his motivation behind the project: “Covid-19 has led to social distancing of people and nations. During such dire times, music must continue to play on. Music can inspire hope and beauty. It is an international language that transcends physical barriers. Today, we are endowed with 21st century technology that allows us to be connected and to connect with our audience, without the need to congregate in the same physical space. I am grateful to my musical friends and colleagues who have responded and contributed so generously to this project. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, with its message of inclusivity, diversity and universal brotherhood, conveys exactly our feelings of united hope and global solidarity. I am humbled to be a part of this international musical kampong.”

Prof. Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adds: “Maestro Kahchun Wong is a national treasure. Singaporeans are very proud that he is the Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra. We also admire his ambition to share the joy of western classical music with disadvantaged kids. Kahchun is using music to connect the peoples of Singapore and Germany and the peoples of Asia and those of Europe. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and the ‘Ode to Joy’ is loved by the world. I look forward to the inspiring concert on 30 July 2020.”

Mrs Rosa Daniel, Deputy Secretary (Culture) in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and CEO of the National Arts Council Singapore says: “In these challenging times, the arts and culture play an important role to uplift spirits, connect communities in Singapore and internationally, even as we are physically apart. We have witnessed the resilience, creativity and innovation of artists in Singapore and globally, with many harnessing technology and digitalisation to reach audiences in exciting new ways. We hope everyone will enjoy this innovative virtual performance led by Kahchun Wong and the international music community, which will truly bring #SGCultureAnywhere to audiences worldwide.”

Dr Ulrich A. Sante, German Ambassador to Singapore, who established ‘Beethoven im Garten’ with Wong in 2018 explains: “At a time when both of our countries are battling a common threat, Kahchun Wong has created a digital experience that will be a moment of uplifting and hope, that we can manage to overcome by orchestrating our efforts. Wong has lived up once again to his role as ‘Musical Ambassador’. Although Schiller’s lines ‘Seid umschlungen Millionen’ (‘Be embraced millions’) cannot be put into practice now, his kampong creates an impressive musical get-together that connects our hearts and souls reinvigorating the classic ideal of a society of people of equal rights that are connected by the bond of joy and friendship. Initially we had intended to turn to an ASEAN-EU-format with the ‘Ode to Joy’-tune of the European anthem this year, as Germany is currently holding the EU-Presidency. CoViD-19 forced us to make a virtue of necessity and the digital space will now allow us to bring even more people together – on a national, regional and even global level.”

Arkadiusz Czopor, Managing Director of T-Systems South Asia, whose company is supporting the project as platinum sponsor, underscores the company’s commitment: “Covid-19 has severely interrupted connections and caused a humanity crisis not seen in a very long time. Our company’s businesses are all about connectivity. ‘Beethoven im Garten’ builds links with technology that allows us to re-connect via the beauty of Beethoven’s music. We could in hindsight, easily identify with the project and hope, that the project offers also a small token of relief to musicians in Singapore and beyond at a time, when artists worldwide are struggling with the effects of the pandemic. We also feel a strong connection to Beethoven’s anniversary as our parent company – Deutsche Telekom, celebrates its 25th anniversary this same year. And by the way, Deutsche Telekom is based in the city of Bonn, the same city where Beethoven was born.”

Catch Beeth∞ven 360° on 30th July 2020 on The Straits Times Youtube channel or Facebook 


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