A virtual tribute to Ode To Joy

Singaporean conductor Wong Kah Chun assembles local and overseas musicians to perform Beethoven's well-loved work

The three-minute video of the performance will be aired on The Straits Times YouTube and Facebook channels at 7pm today.
The three-minute video of the performance will be aired on The Straits Times YouTube and Facebook channels at 7pm today. PHOTO: WWW.BEETHOOVEN.COM

As a mark of global solidarity during the Covid-19 outbreak, Singaporean conductor Wong Kah Chun has assembled local and overseas artists to put on a virtual performance of Beethoven's Ode To Joy.

The three-minute music video, aired on The Straits Times YouTube and Facebook channels at 7pm on Thursday (May 7), includes performances by members of music groups such as the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Dresden Boys Choir (Dresdner Kreuzchor) as well as local freelancers and musicians.

Wong, 33, chief conductor of Germany's Nuremberg Symphony, conceived the idea for the project on an overnight flight from Nuremberg to Singapore in March.

"As musicians, the concert hall is our sacred space. It is where we go for emotional bonding and catharsis. With the current Covid-19 situation, we have lost these physical avenues, so when I considered how we could continue to contribute to society, this idea came to me," he said.

He made it a point to include sign language in the video after getting a friend to give him a crash course.

The music video also includes artwork by children from local non-profit organisation Child at Street 11, calling on the public to join the performers and sing together.

He said: "I wanted to put together something meaningful, which was both traditional and innovative.

"We featured a multi-generational orchestra in this video. In the era of Covid-19, our boundaries are not physical but digital, and we can surpass them through music."

The launch of the video on Thursday coincides with the first performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, which was conducted on May 7, 1824.

The German composer wrote Ode To Joy as part of his Symphony No. 9 in 1824 after losing his hearing. The lyrics represent the triumph of peace and universal brotherhood.

This year also marks Beethoven's 250th birth anniversary.

But tribute concerts and musical events have been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Wong’s enthusiasm for the project is truly inspiring. While we originally aimed for a concert on the occasion of the start of our EU-Presidency on 1 July, not least as the‚ 'Ode to Joy‘ is the anthem of the European Union, the project will now connect not only Singapore and Germany, but also Europeans with citizens of Asean-member states and far beyond. People-to-people contacts like these are now needed more urgently than ever!” says German Ambassador to Singapore, Dr. Ulrich A. Sante, whose embassy is among Singaporean and German institutions supporting the production of the virtual final concert.

The launch of the music video kick-starts a worldwide campaign inviting short musical submissions of Ode To Joy from people around the world, many of whom are currently isolated at home.

The deadline for submissions is May 31.

The one-minute-long social media clips of participants singing, humming, whistling or playing a musical instrument will be pieced together for a virtual orchestra and choir video as part of The Straits Times' 175th anniversary celebrations in July.

• For more details on the global campaign, go to str.sg/JQ8d

Correction note: An earlier version of this article said that the Singapore Symphony Orchestra is one of the performers. This is incorrect. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2020, with the headline 'A virtual tribute to Ode To Joy'. Subscribe