Concert featuring flutist Jasmine Choi cancelled under mysterious circumstances

The Star Philharmonic Orchestra, with Korean flutist Jasmine Choi as soloist, was scheduled to play on July 4 at the University Cultural Centre Hall in NUS.
The Star Philharmonic Orchestra, with Korean flutist Jasmine Choi as soloist, was scheduled to play on July 4 at the University Cultural Centre Hall in NUS.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/JASMINE CHOI

SINGAPORE - An orchestra performance featuring Korean flutist Jasmine Choi was abruptly cancelled a day before it was to be held, when the show's organiser allegedly produced a forged letter stating the company had flouted employment laws.

The Star Philharmonic Orchestra, with Ms Choi as soloist, was scheduled to play on Wednesday (July 4) at the University Cultural Centre Hall in the National University of Singapore. Tickets cost between $30 and $115.

A second concert arranged by organiser The Star Musicians for Taipei on Friday was also cancelled.

The Straits Times understands the company's founder, Singaporean conductor Joey-Mendelssohn Chian, 31, allegedly forged a letter from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) stating it had hired too many foreign musicians, exceeding MOM's foreign worker quota, for which he had to pay a fine.

In a statement to ST, an MOM spokesman said they were alerted to a letter containing "doubtful content bearing the State Crest and MOM logo", by a member of the public.

He said: "The letter purportedly informed the employer of audit findings, employment breaches committed and rectification measures. Our investigation shows that the letter is a fake document, and the contents of the letter are false."

He said MOM had lodged a police report, given that the State Crest and MOM logo was "misused for deceit".

The Star Philharmonic Orchestra's Facebook page says it is a collection of "professional and enthusiastic musicians who believes in bringing western and eastern culture together as one".

Musicians said the 68 local and overseas musicians, who were recruited a year ago, were notified about the cancellation in a one-line e-mail a day before the concert.

A musician who declined to be named said they had been rehearsing since last Saturday, without any inkling of what was to come.

"Each rehearsal was about four hours long. All the foreign and local musicians were having a great time bonding with one another, when we heard about this tragedy in a brief e-mail one day before the concert," she said.

"When we found out about the cancellation, as musicians, it was rather upsetting. We felt an obligation to the audience, and wanted to go ahead with the performance."

When some musicians checked the booking for their hotel accommodations in Taiwan, they found that it had been cancelled in June, well before rehearsals had started for Singapore's concert.

"So were the concerts even going to happen in the first place?" questioned one musician.

ST understands the musicians have not been paid.

A check of the Star Philharmonic Orchestra's website and Instagram page found they had been taken down, but an Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority search showed that as of Friday, The Star Musicians' records were still listed as active.

A post on the orchestra's Facebook page at 7.50am on the day of the concert said it had been cancelled "due to unforeseen circumstances".

Mr Chian could not be contacted for comment. The musicians said they did not know his whereabouts and had not been able to reach him.

A Sistic spokesman told ST ticket holders will be able to obtain a full refund, and email and text messages have gone out to notify affected customers.

A customer who bought a $55 ticket to the concert, who wanted to be known only as Kimberly, 25, said: "I was looking forward to see Jasmine Choi in concert, and seeing her social media posts in Singapore made me so happy. But I saw the orchestra's Facebook page about the cancellation, which made me really confused, then I checked Sistic and saw that it was true. I was so bummed."