SSO National Day Concert to feature old-time melodies and revival of Raffles March

The SSO National Day Concert will feature "music from the length and breadth of Singapore's musical soul", from nostalgia to pride and sorrow to joy, says associate conductor Joshua Tan.
The SSO National Day Concert will feature "music from the length and breadth of Singapore's musical soul", from nostalgia to pride and sorrow to joy, says associate conductor Joshua Tan.PHOTO: SINGAPORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

SINGAPORE - Singapore music - from perennial favourite Home to a revival of the "lost" Raffles March composed over a century ago - will resound in the Esplanade on Saturday (Aug 10).

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) National Day Concert will feature "music from the length and breadth of Singapore's musical soul", from nostalgia to pride and sorrow to joy, says associate conductor Joshua Tan.

Performers range from vocalist Joanna Dong to jazz piano legend Jeremy Monteiro. The SSO, under the baton of Tan, will be accompanied by the Singapore Symphony Chorus and Youth Choir.

One highlight is a new version of the Raffles March, originally composed in 1915 by the little-known A. Dietz - former director of the orchestra at Raffles Hotel. The piece was rediscovered in the National Library two years ago (2017) by SSO bassoonist Christoph Wichert, following a lead from composer Hoh Chung Shih and musicologist Ruth Rodrigues.

The Raffles March, written for an orchestra, was performed at Raffles Hotel in 1922. However, only a piano score exists today, Tan says.

He adds that the revival of the Raffles March will give the audience "the priceless opportunity to hear something from Singapore's past, written for what could be Singapore's first classical music ensemble, the Raffles Hotel Orchestra".

"It is also our act of linking the past with the present day by imagining how the March would sound with Singapore's full modern symphony orchestra, orchestrated by a young, contemporary Singaporean... The new version is for a full symphony orchestra and is likely much grander in scale than the original."

  • BOOK IT/ SSO NATIONAL DAY CONCERT

  • WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Saturday (Aug 10), 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: From $15. Tickets are sold out, but a few more seats may be made available this week.

    INFO: www.sso.org.sg/orchestra-season/national-day-concert

Composer and pianist Bertram Wee, 27, whose arrangement of the piece will be performed at the concert, says the Raffles March has many characteristics of an archetypical military march - opening with "arresting fanfare figurations", for example, and following a typical march and trio format. He adds that he has emulated the wind-heavy military band sound often found in such marches, supporting this with the warmth of a full string section.

Saturday's concert will also feature premiere works such as Tony Makarome's Jewel Of Srivijaya for mridangam, tabla and orchestra, and Lee Jinjun's Kampong Overture. The latter uses Malay folk tunes Geylang Sipaku Geylang, Lenggang Kangkung and Suriram as material for a symphonic overture - paying homage to Romantic composer Dvorak who merged folk music elements with symphonic music.

Cultural Medallion recipient Monteiro, 59, will be the star of the Montage concerto for jazz piano and orchestra, a piece written for his 50th birthday by Kelly Tang.

The title, a cheeky nod to Monteiro's name, also reflects how the piece - which has been performed by Chinese and Western orchestras - is a combination of various influences. Keen-eared listeners may catch the Happy Birthday motif in the concerto's third movement.

Tan, describing the concert as a testament to the musical talent in Singapore, adds: "Cultural development must always go hand in hand with societal and economic advancement. That's how we grow as a nation and Singaporeans can be justly proud that now, we can put out annual concerts that feature such local works and artistes."