Sing50, probably the biggest concert dedicated to Singapore music, got the Golden Jubilee long weekend off to a rousing start last night at the National Stadium.
A packed crowd of 41,300 watched the rich multilingual and multi-genre diversity of the nation's music heritage, performed by more than 250 artists who sang more than 70 iconic Singapore songs in the four official languages.
Among the performers in the 21/2-hour concert were Mandopop superstars Stefanie Sun and JJ Lin, pioneering acts Vernon Cornelius, Ramli Sarip and Tracy Huang, and Cultural Medallion recipients Jeremy Monteiro and Dick Lee.
At the end, guest of honour President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife, Mrs Mary Tan, as well as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, joined the performers in a stirring rendition of the Singapore National Anthem, Majulah Singapura.
Leading up to the National Anthem, Lee sang a heartfelt rendition of the perennial National Day favourite, Home, as part of a special multilingual medley in the show's finale.
Singers Rahimah Rahim and Rani Singam joined him, belting out other local favourites such as Kopi O, Semoga Bahagia and Singai Naadu. The performances of Lee, Lin, Sun and Huang received some of the loudest cheers.
While there were complaints about the acoustics - just like there were for Jay Chou's concert at the same venue - it was clear the audience had a great time. Pre-school teacher Hariana Selamat, 43, said: "We loved everything - it painted a picture of Singapore in the past. I liked the Chinese singers like JJ Lin - he was so good on the piano. Music is universal, we can understand it."
Featuring more than just stars and music professionals, the line-up also included performers from the community - a 1,000-strong community choir, 50 pianists, and rappers, all of whom were picked through auditions.
Sharing the stage with them were two international guests - superstar pianist Lang Lang, 33, from China and rapper Apl.de.ap, 40, from American pop band Black Eyed Peas.
A sight to behold was Lang, the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra, and pianists playing on 50 Steinway-designed Lang Lang baby grand pianos. Lang also collaborated with Lin on the Mandopop singer's two big hits, River South and Clash Of Souls, while Sun sang a grand medley of her songs, accompanied by Metropolitan Festival Orchestra.
The concert, organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times, and produced by The Rice Company, celebrated songs performed, composed or made popular by Singaporeans in the 50 years of the country's independence.
Cornelius, from 1960s rock 'n' roll icons The Quests, took the audience back to the heady days of the country's independence by belting out Be My Girl, a single that his band released in 1965.
Like many of the segments last night, his performance saw the marriage of old and new generations of musicians - the veteran was backed by contemporary indie rockers The Pinholes.
Earlier, Lee rejuvenated some of his past pop hits, such as Fried Rice Paradise, with the aid of singer Dru Chen and rapper Shigga Shay, both of whom are in their 20s.
The evolution of Malay music in Singapore was represented in a medley titled Yang Gerek, which featured acts such as Ramli, pop yeh-yeh singer Jeffrydin, folk singer Art Fazil, and the third Singapore Idol winner, Sezairi. Pop yeh-yeh is a Malay rock 'n' roll genre popular in the 1960s.
Fronting the Indian music landscape here were prominent artists Mohamed Raffee, M.S. Maniam, Mohan and The Vasantham Boys.
Jazz maestro Monteiro assembled a cast made up of the home-grown jazz scene's finest stalwarts, including singers Jacintha Abisheganaden, Melissa Tham and Singam.
The all-encompassing concert programme also paid tribute to xinyao or Singapore Mandarin folk-pop, performed by a cappella group MICappella, showtunes, led by veteran singer Babes Conde, the live club music scene, indie and alternative rock, and hip-hop .
Ms Connie Ting, 32, a dental clinic director, said: "You could see the passion of everyone on stage. It was fantastic and very, very Singapore."