Composer's ode to a drain behind his flat

LEE JINJUN, who will conduct the Orchestra of the Music Makers playing The Red Longkang on Saturday.
LEE JINJUN, who will conduct the Orchestra of the Music Makers playing The Red Longkang on Saturday.PHOTO: COURTESY OF LEE JINJUN

Lee Jinjun's The Red Longkang is inspired by the orangey-red water that floods the drain behind his home when it rains

Inspired by the Viennese waltz, The Blue Danube, Singaporean composer Lee Jinjun wrote The Red Longkang, an ode to the drain behind his HDB flat in Redhill.

The seven-minute melody opens the Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM) concert on Saturday at the School of the Arts Concert Hall.

The performance is the third of four concerts programmed for the 11-year-old orchestra's current season and has a Viennese theme.

Also on the programme are Austrian composer Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 and German composer Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1, which will feature violinist Igor Yuzefovich, best known as the concertmaster of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

The main programme is conducted by orchestra director Chan Tze Law, but composer Lee, 29, will pick up the baton for his own work, which is inspired by the orangey-red water that floods the drain behind his home when it rains.

"I'm not nervous about what people will think about the piece, I'm more nervous about being able to conduct it," he says. "It will be my conducting debut."

He is more used to being a member of the ensemble and has played the trumpet for OMM since its debut in 2008, back when he was a student at Raffles Junior College.

I’m not nervous about what people will think about the piece, I’m more nervous about being able to conduct it. It will be my conducting debut. 

LEE JINJUN, who will conduct the Orchestra of the Music Makers playing The Red Longkang on Saturday

  • BOOK IT / OMM: IGOR • BRUCH & BRUCKNER

  • WHERE: Sota Concert Hall, School of the Arts, 1 Zubir Said Drive

    WHEN: Saturday, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $12 to $29 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

OMM was formed by 80 music students and amateur musicians, who wanted to keep playing and performing even after they had graduated from ensembles in schools and universities. Its member list now includes professional musicians, who keep coming back because the orchestra does an unusual repertoire ranging from major classical works to modern and contemporary music.

One of the returning professionals is Lee, a music teacher. He played with OMM while doing his bachelor's degree at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore and has returned to the orchestra since completing his master's at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England.

"OMM is the only orchestra where I can play a lot of great orchestral works. I'm too old for the SNYO," he says, referring to the Singapore National Youth Orchestra.

"And the community orchestras don't have the resources to do the works that OMM does, such as Mahler's Second Symphony."

Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony was written for an extraordinarily large musical ensemble. OMM's performance last year, part of its 10th-anniversary season, featured 135 musicians and 215 singers.

Another stand-out OMM performance last year was that of Leonard Bernstein's Mass, which included a choir and street singers. It was named by The Straits Times' classical music reviewer Chang Tou Liang as one of the best concerts of 2018.

Next January, OMM will take on Richard Wagner's epic music drama The Valkyrie, part of the composer's famous Ring Cycle.

Conductor Chan, 55, says the sounds of Saturday's concert are a prelude to next year's Wagner concert.

"Bruckner was influenced by Wagner. The second movement of his Seventh Symphony is widely regarded as an elegy to Wagner's death," he adds.

"There is also the instrumental connection as Wagner tubas are used in the symphony."

Wagner tubas, not often used by orchestras, offer a sound somewhere between a French horn and a trombone. OMM had to specially acquire these instruments.

It is a testament to the orchestra's commitment to playing music in Singapore, adds Chan, whose former students were founding members of OMM.

He is also the vice-dean (professional integration) at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory and the founding director of the school's orchestra.

"OMM has grown considerably since it first began. I'm really quite pleased they have found their place in Singapore's classical music ecosystem," he says.

"It is a place where audience and musicians alike can gain access to some of the great works of the symphonic repertoire and we also give local composers a platform.

"Jinjun's The Red Longkang is a really, really fun piece. I think it's going to be a hit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2019, with the headline 'Composer's ode to a drain behind his flat'. Print Edition | Subscribe