SINGAPORE - Without an appreciation of arts and culture, Singapore would be soul-less, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (Jan 18).
In a message to mark the 40th anniversary of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), he wrote: "While it is important that we put bread to the table, man does not live by bread alone.
"Our nation would be soul-less without an appreciation of arts and culture."
PM Lee, in his message for a concert programme booklet celebrating the anniversary, added: "Our founding fathers believed a symphony orchestra would enrich our culture and show the world that Singapore aimed to be a gracious society."
The Prime Minister also attended the gala event, held at the Esplanade Concert Hall, which featured Singaporean pianist Lim Yan as the concerto soloist.
Mr Lim performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 with the SSO, which also performed Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question. Both pieces were played in the SSO's inaugural performance in 1979.
The SSO, led by music director Lan Shui, also performed Dayong Sampan Overture, the first local work played by the orchestra in 1980. It was written by the late Leong Yoon Pin, who in 2000 became SSO's first composer- in-residence.
In the past 40 years, the orchestra has gone from an aspiring ensemble of 41 musicians to a full-strength orchestra of 92 musicians, half of whom are Singaporean.
Its principal concert venue is at the Esplanade, though it also plays at the Victoria Concert Hall. It performs about 100 concerts a year.
Singapore Symphony Group chairman Goh Yew Lin paid tribute to SSO's founding patron, former deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee, saying that "music lovers in Singapore owe him a huge debt of gratitude".
"His plans for SSO were ambitious, far-reaching, meticulous and long-term in nature," said Mr Goh.
PM Lee wrote in his message: "Forty years on, the SSO is a fixture in our cultural firmament... The SSO continues to bring joy to Singaporeans from all walks of life, making sure that its music is not just enjoyed by a select few."
Correction note: This report has been edited for clarity.