Blown away by fun tunes



The Philharmonic Winds

Esplanade Concert Hall/Last Sunday

Every arts group knows it is vital to build audiences, which is why light music is often programmed at shows with that in mind. Although this event was not billed as a young people's concert, it was attended by many families and children who knew that the titular "Fun" was not to be resisted.

Conducted by its founding artist- director Robert Casteels, the 80-minute concert opened with Eric Coates' London Bridge March, a rousing curtain-raiser that also introduced William Ledbetter, who played the role of circus ringmaster as only he knows how. Following which, Michael Markowski's arrangement of Turkey In The Straw was so luxuriantly and jazzily orchestrated that the original melody was almost completely masked.

The first soloist was 12-year-old Chen Xinyu, whose breathtaking pipa solo in the Chinese classic Ambush From All Sides (arranged by Ong Jiin Joo for wind orchestra) was a showstopper. There was a section when Casteels stepped off the podium and the orchestra was silent as she evoked the raucous sounds of furious battle, later joined by shouts from the players.

Not to be outdone was clarinettist Ralph Emmanuel Lim in Adolf Schreiner's Immer Kleiner (Always Smaller), who had his instrument dissembled part by part until he was left with its mouthpiece. As the pitch got progressively higher, his playing became faster, capping off with a shrieking squeak.

Three percussionists then took centre stage in a hilariously choreographed version of Leroy Ander- son's Sandpaper Ballet, where three pairs of sandpaper blocks jostled for their place in the spotlight. Sand artist Lawrence Koh gave a masterclass in projected animation, with a sequence of African motifs set to Robert Smith's Africa: Ceremony, Song And Ritual. Visions of tribal art, savannah flora and fauna surfaced to the strains of indigenous song and drumming.

The final soloist was Singapore Symphony Orchestrs tuba player Hidehiro Fujita, who proved that his ungainly instrument - the largest in the brass family - was anything but clumsy.

The story of Three Billy Goats Gruff was narrated by Ledbetter to outlandish effect in Fredrik Hogberg's Trolltuba, a nifty act that was exceeded only by lots of horseplay and lung power in Vittorio Monti's Csardas.

Shouts for an encore were rewarded with an elaborately dressed version of Do-Re-Mi from the musical The Sound Of Music, which prompted a clap-along and an avalanche of balloons.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2016, with the headline 'Blown away by fun tunes'. Print Edition | Subscribe