Local arts charity Foundation for The Arts and Social Enterprise (“The Foundation”) has launched a 10-year commissioning series for works across various genres of music, with Cultural Medallion winner Kelly Tang (Dr) as the first composer in this inaugural series.
This iconic initiative will make significant contributions to Singapore contemporary music, with the commissioning of major works by Singapore composers and systemically building up a canon of major Singapore music for the first time.
“We need music to uplift the country and refocus Singaporeans’ sights on the future. We started planning for the Series three to four years ago, but the pandemic has given the project a renewed sense of purpose,” says Michael Tay, Founder and Executive Director of The Foundation.
The Music Commissioning Series (“the Series”) aims to commission one composer a year over a decade. Besides resulting in new major works, they will also be produced for public performances. Each project will roughly take 18 months to fulfil, from the time of commission to its performance premiere. The Foundation will champion these new works through opportunities for performances in Singapore and overseas, as well as distribution of digital assets.
The first composer for the Series is Kelly Tang, a Singaporean composer known for wind band, chamber, and orchestral works. Dr Tang was conferred the Cultural Medallion in 2011 for his contributions to the local music scene. “Kelly suffered a stroke recently and is recovering. With this experience, I believe that his composition will be his magnum opus, both reflective and exuberant,” says Michael.
Dr Tang’s compositions have been performed by world-renowned ensembles such as the Russian National Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Minguett Quartet in Germany, and the Ensemble Contemporain of Montreal. In Singapore, his music is regularly performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. His commissioned works for the Singapore Youth Festival are performed annually by all bands and choirs in schools.
“I’m honoured to be selected as the first composer for this Commissioning Series that is the first of its kind to showcase the best of Singapore composers, and promises to bring them onto the global stage, where their work will be performed to a global audience,” says Dr Tang. “This is a large-scale effort to promote Singapore work and art in a field that promises to realise the full potential of the creative talent that we possess.”
Dr Tang plans to write a 30-40-minute work for a full orchestra of approximately 70 musicians. In a nod to Singapore’s heritage, this new suite will take inspiration from a curated selection of art works in the National Gallery Singapore’s collection. Further plans include a premiere by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra at the Esplanade Concert Hall by early 2023.
“We are pleased to be a partner in the debut of the Music Commissioning Series with The Foundation, as the National Gallery Singapore is always keen to find creative ways to showcase Singapore’s national collection,” says Chong Siak Ching, Chief Executive Officer, National Gallery Singapore. “As a key custodian of Singapore art, we also passionately support efforts to promote Singapore art overseas and working with The Foundation will allow us to do that. Artists building upon one another’s art across disciplines will also broaden and deepen the growth and appreciation of the eco-system of Singapore arts in the long run.”
Composers for the Series will be selected and commissioned in consultation with an Advisory Council comprising experts with the necessary breadth of experience. While Dr Tang’s piece is a full-scale orchestral work, The Foundation will commission composers for works across genres such as jazz, Chinese orchestra, cross-cultural music, and even rock opera or a musical.
“The idea of the Series is to build up a canon of original and major music works in Singapore. There have been commissions before, but The Foundation believes in a broader approach to commissioning music across genres. This series captures what we are trying to do with the musical eco-system. We are doing it thematically to cover different genres over a span of 10 years that can appeal to various audiences,” says Tay.
The Foundation will seek major funding Patrons for each of the works in this undertaking. The cost will cover the commissioning, staging of the concert premiere, as well as promoting the commissioned works overseas. The promotion includes the lobbying of international orchestras to perform the works, as well as identifying opportunities through our overseas Singapore agencies and foreign partners to restage the works in key cultural capitals.
The Series is The Foundation’s second Iconic Initiative. Its first was the UTOPIA Symphony by Vladimir Martynov which was inspired by Singapore, and was recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and released in CD format under LPO’s label in November 2020.