A charming and nostalgic Mother's Day concert

REVIEW / CONCERT

A GIFT TO MUM

Singapore Chinese Orchestra

Singapore Conference Hall

Last Saturday

The Singapore Chinese Orchestra's annual Mother's Day Concert this year was not so much about motherhood than about the memories of childhood. Directed by resident conductor Quek Ling Kiong, the concert opened with Lullabies, a medley of familiar cradle songs orchestrated by Sim Boon Yew.

Schubert's Schlafe, Schlafe (Sleep, Sleep) and Brahms' Wiegenlied from the West were balanced by songs from Dongbei and Kyoto, the last featuring the Japanese shaku- hachi, and this was incongruously followed by Five Little Monkeys On The Bed, which sounded all too flippant.

More appropriate was Lo Leung Fei's Memories Of Youth, which featured nostalgic child-like melodies, accompanied by a projected montage of baby photographs of the orchestra's musicians and their families, which was a nice touch.

Two concertante works completed the first half, beginning with Gu Guan Ren's arrangement of Charms Of Jiangnan, with soloists Yin Zhi Yang (on qudi), Ling Hock Siang (erhu) and Xu Hui (guzheng). This was much like a Chinese concerto grosso, with each instrument having separate flourishes and joining the general ensemble for a grand finish.

The outright virtuoso concerto of the evening was Phoon Yew Tien's Rhapsody On Dinuhua for yangqin, based on a popular Cantonese operatic melody.

Qu Jian Qing, its dedicatee, gave a spectacular performance, easily transcending the orchestral textures in her stirring runs, and also casting a ruminative spell in the work's slower and more reflective moments. This work deserves a place among the Yellow River and Butterfly Lovers of the Chinese canon.

The concert's second half had the feel of a pop concert, with dimmed lighting and flashing spotlights.

Law Wai Lun's medley of six Lo Ta-yu popular songs constituted Love Song (2016), which employed a different solo instrument for each melody. Conductor Quek was also on hand to quiz members of the audience as to which instrument played a starring role.

The stage was now set for Singapore-born singer-songwriter Hanjin Tan, a pop icon presently based in Hong Kong, to charm the hearts of mothers. Boyish in appearance, laconic in humour (occasionally referring to himself in the third person) and possessing a Barry Manilow kind of crooning voice, he was a natural slayer of aunties.

His Mandopop ballads, Marry Me, Wo Men Dou You Cuo (Nobody's Perfect) and Yi Bu Yi Bu Ai (Love Step By Step) had a contemporary feel which would easily appeal to listeners younger than the concert's pioneer-generation audience.

That he could get a usually reticent crowd to clap, respond and shout "encore" (with a little coercion) - no easy task - was a testament to his ability to entertain.

Fearing for their safety, he spared the concertgoers the need to stand for his final song, Zhan Qi Lai (Stand Up), which closed the programme on a high.

Quek and the orchestra were not done yet and a clap-along to the popular melody Tian Xia De Ma Ma Dou Yi Yang (Mothers Are All The Same) was indeed the perfect encore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'A charming and nostalgic Mother's Day concert'. Print Edition | Subscribe