Music makers carry on dreaming their dreams




Esplanade Concert Hall/Last Saturday

"We are the music-makers/And we are the dreamers of dreams," are the first and final two lines of Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Ode (1873), which became the inspiration of the Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM). Founded nine years ago, the orchestra of youths and students led by conductor and university don Chan Tze Law have become the "movers and shakers" of Singapore's orchestral scene.

The phrase itself, which is synonymous with the cutting edge of progress and revolution, made its first appearance in that poem. It was thus appropriate that The Music Makers, its 1912 musical setting by Edward Elgar, was given the Singapore premiere by OMM.

Joined by 200 singers from the International Festival Chorus, Taipei Philharmonic Chorus and Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School Chorus, it was another extravaganza that one has come to expect from this group.

The orchestral introduction, stormy and tumultuous but subtly built up, gave a clue to the maturity and prowess of the players which sustained the cantata's 40 minutes.

The choir's entry was also excellent, their words enunciated with intent and purpose. Multiple quotes from earlier works, including Enigma Variations and both symphonies, formed a salute to creators and artists, essentially dreamers, and their sacrifices.

The qualities that make Elgar's music memorable - lyrical themes filled with nobilmente (nobility and grandeur), pomp and pageantry, and spine-tingling climaxes - were vividly brought out.

Although it closed with a quiet and sublime equanimity, there was a strong sense that the players and singers were affirming their credo to "carry on dreaming".

The concert's second half was devoted to the music of American film composer John Williams, who turned 85 this year. The choir was not done yet, shouting out the Olympic Games motto Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) in Call Of The Champions, the anthem of the 2002 Winter Games. Williams' emotionally charged and life-affirming brand of scoring continued into excerpts from the movies Hook and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

The latter opened with a morass of atonalism before unravelling into its familiar five-note theme, which musically corresponds to the word "hello".

The subject of interstellar travel dominated with seven movements from the Star Wars movie franchise. The ominous Imperial March was contrasted with the gentle Annakin's Theme, which included a motif from which the former was derived.

The choir was called again for the gripping Duel Of The Fates and it was an eventful musical journey which closed cannily with the Elgarian strains of Throne Room & End Title.

The tender encore of Luke & Leia showcased an excellent French horn solo, while Elgar had the last word in his indefatigable Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1, with orchestra and choir in full blast.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Music makers carry on dreaming their dreams'. Print Edition | Subscribe