Arts Interview Music Singapore

Music Is: An Interview with Hans Sørensen, Director of Artistic Planning, Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Hans Sørensen is Director of Artistic Planning at the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. What that means is that among the many hats he wears, Sørensen is also responsible for the dynamic programming that goes into the Orchestra’s upcoming season, including acclaimed international and local musicians from Paul Lewis to Daniel Moult, the Thomas Clausen Trio to Yu Jing.

A violin player, throughout his career, Sørensen has also worked with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Universal Music, alongside being a conductor and producer of film music, and music history lecturer at the European Film College and the Danish Film Institute. We spoke to Sørensen about the SSO’s upcoming season, how he’s been taking the re-opening of borders and influx of concerts, and what he’s excited about in the year ahead. Read the interview in full below:

Bakchormeeboy: Hans, it’s been awhile since we last chatted. How have you been? It’s been a rather hectic couple of months, how is everything?

Hans: Thanks I’m good. Since mid-March 2022, we have finally been back to full orchestra and audience size so that’s great. It’s nice to see the audience return to enjoying live concerts by our national orchestra in great venues such as the Victoria Concert Hall and the Esplanade Concert Hall. 

Bakchormeeboy: There’s been a huge influx of concerts with many big names, but how do you stay fresh, or rather how do you also keep audiences fresh and wanting more?

Hans: Artists and repertoire are key to developing the orchestra and retaining the interest of existing and new audiences. The repertoire for a symphony orchestra, in all genres, spans over 400 years of history. The mix of standard and new interesting repertoires, along with finding new talent to perform these repertories are crucial. “Big” names are important, but new talent can also give unique experiences, our youngest Artist–In-Residence Chloe Chua is a good example.      

Bakchormeeboy: We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, with sold out shows aplenty, what are your thoughts on the “post pandemic” situation and how is SSO going to move forward for the next part of the year?

Hans: By providing the best live symphonic and chamber concerts for the audience, and being relevant as one of the few analogue experiences in a world of digital everything. Arriving at a venue and personally witnessing live musicians perform the greatest music, not amplified or seen on a flat screen, is almost refreshing now! Social media, especially YouTube, is an important alternative to attending live concerts. This may also eventually encourage these online audiences to check out SSO’s concerts in person! 

Bakchormeeboy: You have recently released the “2nd half of the season” for the SSO’s 2022/23 Season. could we talk about the idea behind the programming? And it’s almost like preparing us for a very exciting 2023, can you share anything?

Hans: Part of the programming is based on constantly developing the SSO through choosing the right repertoire that will challenge the musicians. Schumann’s four symphonies at first might not seem like difficult music to play, but they are! The symphonies will need the right conductors, like our Music Director Hans Graf, to work with the SSO on them. Besides that, finding new and interesting repertoire like the Kozlovsky Requiem, the Tribute to Bill Evans program and the massive Korngold Symphony, alongside all Asian or Singaporean premieres, are part of the programming. The 2023/24 season is already planned and will be launched later in 2023. Rachmaninov and Richard Strauss are among the composers in focus for this new season.             

Bakchormeeboy: While there is a lot to look forward to, can we talk about coming out of the pandemic, and whether there is a bigger craving for live music?

Hans: Definitely. Music events are always a favourite among consumers and with the two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the craving for them is manifesting now and has probably reached a fever pitch. Case in point: the recent F1 event in Singapore which recorded the highest attendance.    

Bakchormeeboy: There are a lot of young people interested in music, how would you encourage them and what would your advice be to choose the right concert to attend?

Hans: Firstly, I would encourage them to check out the concert programs online at www.sso.org.sg. We have concerts featuring many types of music genres, from classical to modern and more current and popular works like movie music. There will be something which new concert goers can pick to try out. I would recommend most of our programs to everybody as the live experience of watching a symphony orchestra perform on stage is truly unique.     

  

Bakchormeeboy: SSO is closing its 2022 season with a bang with James Ehnes, Capriccio, Seika Ishida and of course ending with the SSO Christmas fund-raising concert, is there a lot to celebrate as we are set to see sold out shows during this time?

Hans: Yes! We have had a lot of sold-out concerts in the first part of the 2022/23 season. Selected concerts will also be streamed online on the SSOLOUNGE platform as an option for audiences to enjoy in their comforts of their own home. 

Bakchormeeboy: Your job involves the planning of the concerts and you wear many hats in the company. Can I know more about what you do? And can I also know more about your considerations, what you look out for, and what are your favourites whether for concerts or music?

Hans: I have 30 years of experience in the symphony orchestra and recording business, and worked with all genres of music. I lead the artistic planning of the SSO subscription and Gala concerts, SSO POPS, Christmas and the VCHpresents programs. I’m also head of the Artistic Administration team that handles the coordination of most of SSO’s CD recordings; we have 7 projects this season.  

Bakchormeeboy: As we end 2022, we look forward to 2023 and 2024, While I know you are already in the midst of planning and confirming everything, Is it sometimes difficult to give what people want rather than feasibility?

Hans: We try to give as many Singaporeans as possible a chance to create memorable shared experiences with music. We are a dedicated team in the administration, musicians and singers in the SSG that are all living and breathing for music.     

Bakchormeeboy: In your role at the SSO, what keeps you going? And while everyone has different music taste, how do you hope Singaporeans and all those who come to attend an SSO event will appreciate the thought and the process of how concerts are being programmed?

Hans: I have still the same interest and dedication to provide people with a music experience from the time I began working in the music business. Music is a lifestyle and you are working with people on both sides: the performers and the audience. For me, the best way of gathering the audience feedback is by walking around during the concert intermission and after the concert, seeing and hearing what the audience is talking about. That has always been the best indicator of whether the program has been interesting for the audience.  

Find out more about the SSO’s upcoming season on www.sso.org.sg.

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