Celebrating SG50 in HK

The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory orchestra played its first overseas gig in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory orchestra played its first overseas gig in Hong Kong on Wednesday. PHOTO: CONSULATE-GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE IN HONG KONG

Yong Siew Toh Conservatory students perform in Hong Kong to mark Singapore's Jubilee Year

Many Singaporeans have queued for dim sum at Maxim's Palace in Central, located in the City Hall complex. But on Wednesday evening, high-powered diplomats and dignitaries sipping wine and making small talk were waiting in the restaurant, cleared of the usual tables and push carts, for some Singaporean culture.

Hong Kong's No. 2 government official, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, was in attendance as well as former Home Affairs secretary Tsang Tak Sing. Spotted, too, was Professor Peter Mathieson, vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.

Performing that night at the City Hall concert hall were undergraduates from the National University of Singapore's Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

The concert was the highlight of a series of activities planned by the Singapore consulate in Hong Kong to mark the Republic's 50th anniversary of independence. It was also the first overseas outing for the orchestra since the conservatory opened in 2003.

Mr Jacky Foo, Singapore's consul- general to Hong Kong, told Life he invited the orchestra to play because he wanted to showcase young talent. Singapore's Jubilee Year, he said, was "not just about looking back with pride, but also looking forward to the future".

"Hong Kong and Singapore are the two big Asian world cities and for the orchestra to play to a full house of serious music lovers, that puts it on the map," he added.

Professor Bernard Lanskey, director of the conservatory, called the concert "a calling card for the country and the school".

In a speech to the audience, Mrs Lam traced the cultural exchanges between both cities, saying: "Culture can bind Hong Kong and Singapore no less powerfully than trade and investment ties."

She added with a laugh that, with Singapore's new Cabinet just announced, she had already written to "my good friend Grace Fu", newly appointed Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, in her capacity as chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, Hong Kong's new arts hub.

During its performance here, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory orchestra of 73 performers, a quarter of whom are Singaporeans, played three pieces.

It opened with Empyrean Lights by the conservatory's head of composition Ho Chee Kong. It was originally commissioned for SG50, but segued into a homage to Mr Lee Kuan Yew when the former prime minister died in March, while the piece was being written.

Trumpets sounded in what Dr Ho said was "a tribute to Singapore's guiding light".

The other two pieces were Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19 and Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 In D Major, Op. 43.

Past SG50 activities in Hong Kong included a film festival in August this year and a three-day fair on Singapore at the Olympian City mall in June. An upcoming competition for Hong Kong students to submit blog posts on what they would like to do in Singapore will see winners getting a five-day trip to Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'Celebrating SG50 in HK'. Print Edition | Subscribe