Nafa alumni return for 30th anniversary gig

A special Homecoming concert featuring several top Chinese musicians, all recent graduates of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa), will be staged tomorrow to mark the 30th anniversary of the academy's music school.

The concert, which is one in a series presented by Nafa's music school in conjunction with the anniversary celebrations since last July, will feature three soloists.

They are erhu player Chew Jun Ru, who flew back from Beijing's China Conservatory of Music where he is doing a master's degree in the instrument; dizi (Chinese flute) player Tan Qing Lun; and yangqin (dulcimer) player Wei Yayi.

"I am glad to be invited to play because it shows the school's recognition of our achievements," says Chew, 25, who will play the fast-paced, contemporary work Mongolian Fantasy, accompanied by the 40-member Nafa Chinese Ensemble comprising mainly of students.

He completed his music diploma at Nafa in 2009 and went on to graduate with a bachelor's degree in the erhu from the Royal College of Music (RCM) two years ago under a tie-up between Nafa and the prestigious London music school.

Tan, 27, who was his classmate and will play the traditional Chinese ballad Lan Hua Hua, says: "I am excited because this is the first time we are returning to play together since we left Nafa after our diploma studies a few years ago."

Now the general manager of Ding Yi Music Company, he graduated with a master's in dizi from the Shanghai Music Conservatory last year.

The youngest soloist is 22-year-old yangqin player Wei, a first-year RCM-Nafa degree student who recently won the first prize at the Nafa-GTAR Concerto Competition. She will play a contemporary piece which has elements of Peking opera music, titled The Phoenix.

Started as a fine art training school for painters only in 1938, Nafa set up its music school in 1984 and now has departments in Chinese and Western instruments, keyboard, orchestra and composition studies.

Nafa's head of Chinese instrumental studies Wong Sun Tat, 40, says the concert showcases the best of Nafa Chinese music talents.

Besides the soloists, another Nafa alumnus, Moses Gay, 30, now assistant conductor with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO), will conduct the first half of tomorrow's concert which kicks off with the popular orchestra piece, Thunder In Drought.

SCO's resident conductor Quek Ling Kiong, who has for many years taught part-time at Nafa's music school, will make a guest appearance as conductor for the second half of the concert.

After the Homecoming concert, others featuring Nafa music graduates from other disciplines, including those from strings and keyboard, will follow.

Coming up next is the concert by Nafa's Project Strings, a student string ensemble. Titled Death And The Maiden, it features the works of Heitor Villa-Lobos and Schubert at the Lee Foundation Theatre on April 9.

It will be followed by Magnificat, an all-Baroque programme concert performed by the Nafa Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Ashley Solomon from RCM at the Victoria Concert Hall on April 15.