Singapore Chinese Orchestra maestros spotlighted in books

The stories of musicians from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) take centre stage in two books launched to mark the ensemble's 25th anniversary.

SCO Hidden Gems - Celebrating Singapore Chinese Orchestra's Silver Jubilee is by Leong Weng Kam, formerly a senior writer at The Straits Times.

Former Lianhe Zaobao associate editor Giam Meng Tuck, along with Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese editorial team, penned a separate Chinese edition.

Both were launched last Friday at a gala concert at the Singapore Conference Hall.

The books shine the spotlight on eight maestros - concertmaster Li Baoshun, erhu I principal Zhao Jianhua, pipa principal Yu Jia, yangqin principal Qu Jianqing, sanxian associate principal Huang Guifang, dizi principal Yin Zhiyang, sheng principal Guo Changsuo and suona and guan principal Jin Shiyi.

Readers will learn about the musicians' trials and tribulations and their lives after migrating to Singapore. For instance, there is the story of how guan player Jin teamed up with his former student Liu Jiang, an SCO diyin suona player, to create a new instrument, the SINGuan - "sing" stands for Singapore - after four years of research and trials.

It features modifications to the traditional guan, a double-reed wind instrument.

"My purpose is to make it easier for people to learn and play while retaining the traditional guan's characteristics," he says in the book.

The SCO was inaugurated in 1996 after starting out as a community orchestra. The acclaimed ensemble, which has a diverse repertoire, comprises 85 members whose ages range from 27 to 64.

In a video at the event, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the orchestra's patron, said: "Today's SCO is more than just a Chinese orchestra. Over the years, it expanded its repertoire and focused on presenting Singapore's style of Chinese orchestra music, commissioning and performing works that draw on our multicultural heritage."

SCO board chairman Ng Siew Quan added: "Through the candid accounts of our eight hidden gems, the book traces the making of a top Chinese orchestra and provides valuable background information on SCO's early years too."

Last Friday's gala was one of several SCO concerts since July held to mark the orchestra's 25th anniversary.

Digital copies of the English and Chinese books are available for free on SCO's website (

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2021, with the headline 'Singapore Chinese Orchestra maestros spotlighted in books'. Subscribe