Young big talent at ChildAid Asia Tokyo 2014

Singaporean pianist Pung Rae Yue, 10, performed at the ChildAid Asia Tokyo 2014 concert at Suntory Hall on January 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE
Singaporean pianist Pung Rae Yue, 10, performed at the ChildAid Asia Tokyo 2014 concert at Suntory Hall on January 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE
Ong Yi Ting, flutist from Singapore, performed at the ChildAid Asia Tokyo 2014 concert at Suntory Hall on January 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE
Animato Quad, a four-member piano ensemble from Singapore, performed an “eight hands” piece at the ChildAid Asia Tokyo 2014 concert at Suntory Hall on January 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE 

As Suntory Hall is rated among the world's most prestigious concert venues, not only because of its superb acoustics but also because many great artistes have appeared there, one naturally expects superlative performances on its stage.

I was not disappointed at last Saturday's ChildAid Asia Tokyo 2014 concert at Suntory Hall, which featured young talents from Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

I had heard that many of them are outstanding soloists, but little did I realise how good they are.

At this Singapore-inspired charity event, the performances were of the highest calibre.

Japanese Asami Wada, all of 14 and radiant in her deep red gown, gave a stunning rendition of Milstein's Paganiniana, an eight-minute long virtuosic piece for the violin. She had also performed at the Dec 2011 ChildAid concert in Singapore.

Perhaps the highlight of the first half of the concert was a beautiful performance of the third movement of Mozart's concerto for two pianos K.365 by Singapore pianist Pung Rae Yue, 10, and Japanese pianist Ryuhi Arai, who is just a year older.

Concluding the first half was a performance by Singapore cellist Aoden Teo, 11, who gave a masterly account of Martinu's Rossini Variations.

This year's concert, the third in the series, also saw some unusual musical collaborations between modern and traditional instruments.

The second half of the concert featured a trio comprising 16-year-old Rei Nakajima on the shakuhachi - a Japanese flute played vertically like a recorder - Asuto Kitamura, 17, on the piano and Goh Wen Chih, 13, from Malaysia on the cello, playing a piece called Exuberance of Blooming Flowers.

In another unusual partnership, Yuji Suzuki, 17, played the Tsugaru-shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese instrument, while Julio Josua Letik from Indonesia drew sensuous sounds from the sasando, a traditional plucked instrument from West Timor.

Incidentally, Suzuki has won many prizes in national Tsugaru-shamisen competitions and is already considered a master of his instrument.

Giving young musicians like him a platform to be heard is not the only aim of ChildAid concerts.

"Through this, both the stage work and the rehearsals, the child-performer learns the meaning of teamwork, discipline, passion and compassion," said Mr Jeremiah Choy, show director for ChildAid Singapore.

"It is also an opportunity to work with and collaborate with other talented performers, understanding the Importance of sharing, caring, giving and receiving," said Mr Choy, who acted as consultant and collaborator for the event.

The main organiser of the concert was non-profit organisation Little Creators, whose association with Singapore goes back several years.

Little Creators was established in 2007 and has supported over 500 children and orphans through its arts activities and cultural exchanges with Singapore.

As a result of its interaction with ChildAid Singapore, Little Creators adopted the ChildAid concept and eventually launched the inaugural concert of ChildAid Asia Tokyo in Jan 2011 with over 100 participants from Japan and Singapore.

A second concert was staged in 2013, again with the participation of Singapore.

This year, the concert added two more countries, Malaysia and Indonesia. Although both sent only one performer each, their participation is expected to increase in future.

Speaking about her aspirations for ChildAid Asia, Little Creators founder and director Kyoko Hasegawa said: "We hope to form a network among children in Asia and to get them to think about how they can help others."

"Children who are blessed with artistic talent will learn to help children who live in less favourable environments," she added.

Ms Hasegawa said her organisation has not had time to tally up the donations from last Saturday's concert.

But the money will be used to finance singing, drama and art workshops that Little Creators conducts for children at children's homes in the hope that it will give them a stepping stone to a brighter future.

Before leaving for home on Jan 12, the Singapore contingent visited Shakujii Gakuen orphanage, one of the facilities supported by Little Creators, for a two-hour programme of cultural exchange.

Some of the Singapore children were also able to renew friendships with children at the orphanage whom they had met at previous ChildAid concerts.

"Watching the children interact, I felt they were already beginning to network with each other," Ms Hasegawa told The Straits Times.

A report of last Saturday's concert would not be complete without mentioning the choral group from CHIJ Kellock and the dance group from CHIJ Katong, who made up the bulk of the 53-strong Singapore contingent.

The CHIJ Kellock chorus not only sang a fine medley of Singapore songs but also deftly accompanied singer Rino Kanai, 8, who performed two of her own compositions, and Momoko Yaguchi, 13, who sang two children's songs.

In the second half, the audience was also treated to the angelic voice of Singaporean classical vocalist Corey Koh, 11, who performed the song "Se" from the movie Cinema Paradiso with another Singaporean vocalist Ananya Diddapur, 13.

Only three weeks ago, Corey took part in an international talent competition at New York's Carnegie Hall, another world-famous concert venue, where he bagged two first prizes in the folk and traditional categories plus a second prize for musical theatre.

Before the concert last Saturday, I had not known what to expect from our young talents. Having seen and heard them, I now cannot wait to do so again.

Perhaps there will be a fourth Tokyo edition next year, or the year after, where they will return to wow audiences once more and also to strengthen the budding Asian children's network.

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