Concert review: New local commissions shine at SSO National Day Concert

The heady music combined multifarious influences, reflecting a cosmopolitanism that Singaporeans aspire to.
The heady music combined multifarious influences, reflecting a cosmopolitanism that Singaporeans aspire to.PHOTO: SINGAPORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

SSO National Day Concert

Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Sistic Live from Sunday (Aug 29)

Singapore Symphony Orchestra's annual National Day Concert has become the marquee event when Singaporean composers get new works commissioned and performed by the national orchestra.

Local works deserve to be heard alongside the likes of Beethoven and Brahms in subscription concerts, but one should nonetheless be grateful for an evening, even an online one, that featured no fewer than five world premieres.

The orchestra conducted by Joshua Tan opened with Syafiqah 'Adha Sallehin's Dengan Semangat Yang Baru (In A New Spirit), the title of which comes from Majulah Singapura.

Recognisable motifs from Zubir Said's national anthem coalesced with original melodies into a gratifyingly tonal whole. Its gentle pastoral feel and absence of dissonances or harmonic tensions seemed to describe a utopia without personal or societal strife.

Jonathan Shin's Folk Games played on three familiar songs - Rasa Sayang, Singapura and Chan Mali Chan - by finding contrapuntal possibilities and cleverly dressing them in the string garb of Bela Bartok, Dmitri Shostakovich and the Second Viennese School.

The most modern-sounding work was Koh Cheng Jin's Luciola Singapura, named after a rediscovered local species of firefly. Ingeniously scored by including yangqin, harp, piano, trumpet and multiple percussion instruments, its short duration seemed a vivid portrayal of bioluminescence, filled with brilliant scintillation and ebullient, light-hearted effects.

Yong Kailin doubled as violin soloist in his own composition Raising The Life, a concertante work with cadenza inspired by a haiku he wrote years ago about taking care of one's roots and later flourishing as a result.

The heady music combined multifarious influences, including Chinese, Carnatic, Middle Eastern, American bluegrass, pop and Paganini, reflecting a cosmopolitanism that Singaporeans aspire to.

Film and television composer Jessica Tam's A Little Trip Down Memory Lane mixed xinyao with jaunty songs such as Moments Of Magic and the calypso beat of Singapore Town into a well-tossed rojak. The colourful score evoked not just nostalgia, but also pride.

No National Day event would be complete without the usual suspects like Dick Lee's iconic Home, Stand Up For Singapore, We Are Singapore and Count On Me, Singapore, the last three of which were relived in Tony Makarome's Sing Singapore Medley.

The evening closed with Avik Chari's arrangement of Tanya Chua's Where I Belong, the 2001 National Day Parade theme tune, likely to tug at the heartstrings.


Book it / SSO National Day Concert (Online)

Where: Sistic Live

When: Available on demand till Sept 28, 3pm

Admission: Pay-as-you-wish from $5 to $50 via Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to Sistic's website)

Info: Singapore Symphony Orchestra's website