World debut for local work

Home-grown composer Chen Zhangyi's Water will be performed by the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir

Artists have always looked to nature for inspiration - and local composer Chen Zhangyi is no exception.

His latest choral composition, Water, will have its world debut on Wednesday at the Victoria Concert Hall, performed by the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir.

The piece is based on Cultural Medallion recipient K.T.M. Iqbal's Tamil poem of the same name. The poem was translated into English by poet and playwright Elangovan.

"I was drawn to the poem for its unblemished quality and the choral setting was made with Iqbal's generous consent," said Chen, 32, who is an assistant professor at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory for Music.

He added: "There's a variety of qualities of water that the poem touches on. I wanted the piece to reflect them in a harmonic and melodic language while still being relatable to young voices."

Commissioned by the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir to mark its 10th anniversary of music- making, the composition took Chen three months to complete.


  • WHERE: Victoria Concert Hall, 9 Empress Place
    WHEN: Wednesday, 7.30pm
    ADMISSION: $15, $20 and $25 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

The piece is part of a larger repertoire by the children's choir and Singapore National Youth Orchestra, which will be embarking on their first combined tour to Kuala Lumpur.

They will perform at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas next Saturday.

On Dec 11, they will share the stage with the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

Themed Colours Of S.E.A., the joint concert here by the Singapore National Youth Orchestra and Singapore Symphony Children's Choir will revolve around the themes of sea and South-east Asia.

Besides Water, pieces that will be performed include Richard Wagner's The Flying Dutchman Overture, Vaughan Williams' Sea Songs, Franz Schubert's The Trout, Sergei Rachmaninov's Spring Waters and Liang Wern Fook's Xinyao Medley.

With the music spanning a diverse range of styles, the performers are stretched to adapt to the eclectic programme.

They have been putting in several hours a week while juggling their studies.

Lara Tan, 12, from the children's choir has had to spend at least three hours a week on rehearsals during the Primary School Leaving Examination period.

She said: "I've become more disciplined. When concerts roll around, it gets busy and stressful, but we need to be independent. We can't have choirmasters spoonfeeding us all the time.

"It's been an eye-opening experience. Our choir master, Mrs Wong Lai Foon, has guided us well and been incredibly tolerant of our misdemeanours. It's not easy to tame a rowdy bunch of young singers."

Victoria Ang, 16, a clarinetist with the Singapore National Youth Orchestra, has also clocked in many rehearsal hours while preparing for the O-level examinations.

She said: "I've learnt how to manage myself more professionally as a musician. They treat us as adults and they have expectations. It's an honour to be part of such a prestigious orchestra representing the nation. Some of us feel pressured to perform up to standard, but it motivates us to work harder."

On the two groups touring together, Victoria said: "I'm excited. I think we will have good chemistry since we're all musicians."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2016, with the headline 'World debut for local work'. Print Edition | Subscribe