Marco Polo trilogy to debut at Esplanade

Marco Polo – The Trilogy, written by Spanish composer-conductor Luis Serrano Alarcon (above), will be performed by musicians including brothers Govin and Krsna Tan, on the tabla and sitar, and The Philharmonic Winds.
Marco Polo – The Trilogy, written by Spanish composer-conductor Luis Serrano Alarcon (above), will be performed by musicians including brothers Govin and Krsna Tan, on the tabla and sitar, and The Philharmonic Winds.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF LUIS SERRANO ALARCON, FLAME OF THE FOREST, THE PHILHARMONIC WINDS
Marco Polo – The Trilogy, written by Spanish composer-conductor Luis Serrano Alarcon, will be performed by musicians including brothers (above) Govin and Krsna Tan, on the tabla and sitar, and The Philharmonic Winds.
Marco Polo – The Trilogy, written by Spanish composer-conductor Luis Serrano Alarcon, will be performed by musicians including brothers (above) Govin and Krsna Tan, on the tabla and sitar, and The Philharmonic Winds.
Marco Polo – The Trilogy, written by Spanish composer-conductor Luis Serrano Alarcon, will be performed by musicians including brothers Govin and Krsna Tan, on the tabla and sitar, and The Philharmonic Winds (above).
Marco Polo – The Trilogy, written by Spanish composer-conductor Luis Serrano Alarcon, will be performed by musicians including brothers Govin and Krsna Tan, on the tabla and sitar, and The Philharmonic Winds (above).

When he was 12 or 13, Spanish composer-conductor Luis Serrano Alarcon looked out of his bedroom window and thought to himself: "I will write a musical piece about Marco Polo's adventures."

That childhood thought has turned into reality. On Sunday, the 42-year-old will perform Marco Polo - The Trilogy at The Philharmonic Winds' 15th Anniversary Concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

The work, which Alarcon describes as "ambitious and difficult", chronicles the journey of Venetian explorer Marco Polo and is divided into three parts.

  • Book it

  • THE PHILHARMONIC WINDS’ 15TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT: MARCO POLO – THE TRILOGY

    Where: Esplanade Concert Hall

    When: Sunday, 7.30pm

    Admission: Tickets at $15 and $25 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

The first, The Silk Road, will be conducted by Leonard Tan, music director of home-grown wind orchestra The Philharmonic Winds.

The second part, The Cathay Years, will be led by British principal guest conductor Timothy Reynish. Alarcon will lead the final part.

It is the first time all three parts will be performed together. What is unique about this performance is the incorporation of ethnic instruments such as the Chinese erhu and dizi and the Indian sitar and tabla, alongside Western instruments of the wind orchestra.

While it was challenging to get information on the Eastern musical culture and get the techniques right, Alarcon says the experience was "very enriching". He adds: "This is the most important performance of my life because the long and difficult project I have spent almost 10 years on is becoming a reality in a unique performance."

Inspired by the 13th-century travelogue The Travels Of Marco Polo, Alarcon wanted to imagine the journey through the eyes of those who travelled alongside the explorer.

He explains: "The performance is a journey through music to fantastic and remote places, a chance for people to dream that a world where there is understanding among cultures is indisputably better."

The concert will also feature Ding Yi Music Company, Vocal Associates Festival Chorus led by Khor Ai Ming and award-winning musician brothers Krsna and Govin Tan on the sitar and tabla respectively.

The Philharmonic Winds had commissioned The Cathay Years for its 15th anniversary and Leonard Tan, 37, describes the show as a "delightful musical tapestry".

Reynish, 77, adds: "I feel very excited as a conductor for The Cathay Years. It is really a great piece of music."

Also thrilled to be onboard is Ding Yi Music Company. A spokesman says: "This is the second time we are working with The Philharmonic Winds and our musicians have always enjoyed performing with them."

Krsna Tan, 25, credits his bandmate Christopher Clarke from instrumental group Flame Of The Forest for helping him overcome the challenge of reading the scores for the performance.

Since young, he explains, he has typically rehearsed for performances by listening to the songs he has to play instead of reading the scores.

He and his 23-year-old brother, who is also part of Flame Of The Forest, are looking forward to sharing the stage again. Govin says: "It's a good feeling to be creating music together and building stronger bonds with each other."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Debut of Marco Polo music trilogy'. Print Edition | Subscribe