Grand Mahler tribute to the nation

One of the local choirs who will perform at Mahler 8: A Gift To The Entire Nation include the Vocal Associates Children's Chorus.
One of the local choirs who will perform at Mahler 8: A Gift To The Entire Nation include the Vocal Associates Children's Chorus.PHOTO: VOCAL ASSOCIATES FESTIVAL CHILDREN'S CHORUS

The Orchestra of Music Makers will perform Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony to mark SG50

One of the most ambitious pieces in classical music will soon be performed by the Orchestra of Music Makers (OMM) to mark Singapore's golden jubilee.

The local symphony orchestra will be joined by eight home-grown and international vocal soloists, four large choirs, a children's choir, a separate brass ensemble and will feature organ playing.

This group of at least 350 musicians and performers will tackle Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony or Symphony Of A Thousand in the Esplanade Concert Hall. The complex and grand work, about 90-minutes long, was Mahler's "gift to the entire nation" of Germany.

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra performed the symphony in May 2004 at the same venue.

  • BOOK IT/MAHLER 8: A GIFT TO THE ENTIRE NATION

  • WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall

    WHEN: Today and tomorrow, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $25 to $50 for restricted view seats, $50 for premier box and Esplanade box seats and $12 to $50 for standard seats. Prices exclude booking fee.

    INFO: Call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg.

The Orchestra of Music Makers' performance has been four years in the making and is a "fitting tribute to the progress Singapore has made in its short history", says the orchestra's founding mentor and conductor, Professor Chan Tze Law, 51.

Mahler, an Austrian, was born on July 7, 1860 in Kaliste, Bohemia. He grew up to become a composer-conductor and was the director of the prestigious Vienna Court Opera from 1897 to 1907 and the conductor for various orchestras, such as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, when it was formed in 1909. He died in 1911 of a heart disease.

Although his works were recognised only years after his death, he is considered an important forerunner in 20th-century composition techniques. He is also known to have influenced other famous composers of the last century, such as Arnold Schoenberg and Benjamin Britten. Mahler's works are known to be emotional and his eighth symphony requires skilful musicians and strong singers.

The orchestra will be joined by sopranos Hyon Lee from Seoul and Ariya Sawadivong from Sydney, as well as Singaporean Janani Sridhar, who is flying back home from the United States for the performance.

Other international soloists include South Koreans Songmi Yang and Dongwon Shin, as well as Australians Deborah Humble, Warwick Fyfe and Joshua Bloom.

Three of the five choirs in the performance are from Australia. They are the Perth Symphonic Chorus, The Winthrop Singers and the Queensland Festival Chorus. The Singapore choirs are the Vocal Associates Festival Chorus and the Vocal Associates Children's Chorus.

Mr Christopher Cheong, 26, the chairman of the orchestra's artistic committee, says the main challenge was "bringing all the choruses, soloists and extra instrumentalists together from all around the world".

In addition to full orchestra rehearsals, various sections in the orchestra listened to recordings and watched videos of the symphony to familiarise themselves with the music. Sectionals were subsequently organised to sort out the technical and ensemble challenges.

Mr Nicholas Bannan, 60, musical director of The Winthrop Singers, says the group is "very excited" to come to Singapore and to perform the piece.

He says: "We need to be ready to 'let rip', building our vocal stamina - singing loudly without effort. There are a lot of abrupt changes of mood and we need to be prepared to watch the conductor as if our lives depend on it.

"This means committing some pages to memory so that we can be swept along by what is happening around us."

Sridhar, 25, adds: "Mahler 8 is such a beautiful and grand work. The audience can expect to have a great time."

The soprano has been studying overseas since 2007 and is pursuing her PhD at Stony Brook University in New York. She returns to Singapore regularly to perform at concerts. When asked how she feels to be coming home to perform, she says: "Wonderful, as always."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Grand Mahler tribute to the nation'. Print Edition | Subscribe