Listen to Singapore movies

The concert includes songs from Singapore films such as Jack Neo's I Not Stupid (above), Royston Tan's 12 Lotus and Ken Kwek's Unlucky Plaza.
The concert includes songs from Singapore films such as Jack Neo's I Not Stupid (above), Royston Tan's 12 Lotus and Ken Kwek's Unlucky Plaza.PHOTO: MEDIACORP
The concert includes songs from Singapore films such as Jack Neo's I Not Stupid, Royston Tan's 12 Lotus (above) and Ken Kwek's Unlucky Plaza.
The concert includes songs from Singapore films such as Jack Neo's I Not Stupid, Royston Tan's 12 Lotus (above) and Ken Kwek's Unlucky Plaza.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE
The concert includes songs from Singapore films such as Jack Neo's I Not Stupid, Royston Tan's 12 Lotus and Ken Kwek's Unlucky Plaza (above).
The concert includes songs from Singapore films such as Jack Neo's I Not Stupid, Royston Tan's 12 Lotus and Ken Kwek's Unlucky Plaza (above).PHOTO: KAYA TOAST PICTURES
Adrian Tan.
Adrian Tan.PHOTO: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

Listening To The Movies features the works of local composers in films along with movie scenes

When the Singapore Wind Symphony (SWS) toyed with the idea of dedicating a concert to Singapore film music, its music director Adrian Tan worried it might lack material for the show.

"It took me quite a while to convince myself to take on this theme. I thought, are there really enough interesting Singapore film soundtracks to fill a concert?" he says.

But after he sought out his friend Eric Khoo - one of the most recognisable names in Singapore film - he found himself struggling to whittle down the selection.

Tan, 39, says: "He pointed me in a couple of directions, which really expanded my horizons. I was surprised to discover there was more than enough outstanding material - so much so I ended up having too much and needing to cut down."

Taking place at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Sunday, Listening To The Movies is the fifth edition of Singapore! A Musical Celebration, presented by the SWS in collaboration with the Esplanade. It tells the story of the growth of Singapore's film industry and pays tribute to some of its brightest stars.

The wide-ranging programme includes the works of the late Zubir Said, who worked as a score arranger and songwriter for CathayKeris Studio, from the early 1960s; songs from Singapore films such as Jack Neo's I Not Stupid (2002) and Royston Tan's 12 Lotus (2008); and music from recent movies such as Ken Kwek's Unlucky Plaza (2014) and the well-loved 7 Letters anthology (2015).

It took me quite a while to convince myself to take on this theme. I thought, are there really enough interesting Singapore film soundtracks to fill a concert?

SINGAPORE WIND SYMPHONY MUSIC DIRECTOR ADRIAN TAN, who ended up having to whittle down his selection

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE! A MUSICAL CELEBRATION 5: LISTENING TO THE MOVIES

  • WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Sunday, 5pm

    ADMISSION: $15 from Sistic, excludes booking fees (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

The works of Singapore composers in overseas films will also make an appearance, among them Dick Lee's Chase, the theme song of 1994 Hong Kong film He's A Woman, She's A Man, which starred the late Leslie Cheung. There will also be two songs from the 2010 Tamil film Jaggubhai, scored by Mohamed Raffee.

Meanwhile, Khoo has curated a selection of scenes from some of the featured films for the concert.

Tan was introduced to Khoo - whom he dubs "a true renaissance man and a true connoisseur of music" - by film-maker and multimedia designer Brian Gothong Tan.

The two hit it off, bonding over their love of horror films.

Adrian Tan says: "Some people think I have lots of ideas, but that's because they haven't met Eric Khoo. Conversations with him inspire me and send me down garden paths I would never otherwise venture down."

It was, after all, Khoo's 1995 debut feature film Mee Pok Man that opened the music director's eyes to what the Singapore film industry had to offer and gave him a newfound respect and admiration for film-makers here.

"When I encountered Eric's Mee Pok Man, I had no idea what to make of it," says Tan, who grew up watching films from Hollywood and Hong Kong. "It's perhaps not unlike the experience of a classical musician trying to convince an audience who grew up on popular music."

Khoo himself was keen on the idea for the concert from the start.

"I was very excited as I love wind instruments and the idea of songs or scores being played with them," says the 51-year-old. "I feel it will work really well, especially with the more emotive pieces."

The SWS will be joined on stage by guest stars, including getai singer Liu Ling Ling, actress-singer Pam Oei's rock band Ugly In The Morning and singer-songwriter Kevin Mathews.

Mathews, who will be performing his 1993 hit song My One And Only, featured in Khoo's 12 Storeys (1997), is "thrilled to bits". It will be the first time the 55-year-old is playing with a wind orchestra and performing at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

Singapore! A Musical Celebration explores different facets of Singapore music each year, from national songs such as Home in its first instalment in 2012 to pop hits in last year's concert.

Since the series started, SWS has created more than 60 arrangements of Singapore works, producing a fresh repertoire for school and community bands, says Tan.

"Our band kids were raised on a diet consisting of arrangements of broadway musicals or big band jazz or Billboard hits, which is well and good," he says. "But how do we raise appreciation for local music and artists if they never have a chance to get to know them?"

While orchestras have taken on the music of John Williams - the American composer behind some of the most recognisable film scores, including for Jurassic Park (1993) and Star Wars (1977) - and works from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003) and Studio Ghibli films, Singapore film music is still fresh ground.

"Everyone gave me a surprised look when I told them I was curating Singapore film music for a concert," says Tan.

"So I hope that with this first Singapore film music concert, I can inspire some film-makers, composers and musicians and encourage them to deepen their exploration of how film and music work together so magically. Hopefully, when the next Singapore film music concert comes around, people won't be so surprised."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline 'Listen to Singapore movies'. Print Edition | Subscribe