Glittery welcome for Chinese New Year

Rhapsodies Of Spring is the Singapore Chinese Orchestra's way of celebrating Chinese New Year in concert, and, for the first time, it was performed in The Star Theatre.

As with previous editions, the concert took on the form of a variety show and was hosted by television personality Marcus Chin.

He and conductor Yeh Tsung displayed good chemistry in their playful banter in Mandarin, peppered with a few English phrases. There were no skits from radio personalities this year, but more music, which began with Li Huan Zhi's Spring Festival Overture.

This familiar work was accompanied by visuals of the orchestra projected on a giant screen behind the stage and was soon overtaken by the entrance of the nine-member ZingO Festival Drum Group.

Its synchronised drumming in Soar and Xu Chang Jun's Dragon Dance was an impressive show of precision and togetherness.

The first half was otherwise the Marcus Chin show. He had four costume changes and enthralled the aunties with his crooning in the Nostalgic Song Medley (arranged by Tan Kah Yong) and Mix Match Song Medley (Phang Kok Jun). He does not have an operatic voice for songs such as Man Chang Fei, Azaleas Bloom, Yue Qin and The Traveller With A Bamboo Pole, but his tenor comfortably scaled the heights with lots of personality and some dancing.



    Singapore Chinese Orchestra

    The Star Theatre

    Last Saturday

The Chinese Folksong Medley curiously included a Russian song, Under The Shimmering Moonlight (but sung in Mandarin) and concluded with Radiant With Joy, rendered in an authentic Sichuan accent.

Then the concert took on the feel of an episode from variety show Saturday Night Live. With the lights dimmed, the main orchestra dispersed, leaving behind the 16-strong SCO Pop Ensemble, which resembled and played like a jazz combo.

TV Golden Medley (arranged by Law Wai Lun) revived melodies such as Striving (from local television serial The Awakening), Good Morning, Sir! and Kopi O.

Suona principal Jin Shi Yi had a field day with his assorted reeds in the Taiwanese song Tian Hei Hei, alternating between jazzy riffs and Donald Duck imitations. Not to be outdone was Han Lei on guanzi in Beijing jazz pianist Kong Hong Wei's Summer Palace, with a stirring display that brought on loud cheers.

The two-hour concert concluded by bidding farewell to the Year of the Goat and ushering in the Year of the Monkey.

Wang Li Ping's Shepherd Song gave way to Xu Jing Qing's Gan Wen Lu Zai He Fang from Journey To The West, which saw Chin imitating the moves of the Monkey God. Joined by four women dancers, the glittery ensemble got the audience singing and clapping along to Sim Boon Yew's Spring Suite VI.

Have there been that many Chinese New Year songs in circulation? The Singapore Chinese Orchestra under Yeh has played them all.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'Glittery welcome for Chinese New Year'. Print Edition | Subscribe