ST Concert a chance to 'share gift of music'

Singapore Symphony Orchestra associate conductor Jason Lai.
Singapore Symphony Orchestra associate conductor Jason Lai.

For conductor Jason Lai, staging an outdoor concert is always a challenge because of the way they are set up - and especially so in Singapore.

The 43-year-old associate conductor of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), who will be wielding the baton in a concert at the Botanic Gardens tomorrow, said the heat and humidity means the musicians do not use their "first" instruments as they are sometimes hundreds of years old and do not cope well in this weather.

He said: "Literally, the varnish on half-a-million-dollar instruments starts melting off."

The instruments are not the only things that wilt in the heat.

"I sweat profusely so I am just standing there swimming in a pool of my own sweat, hoping I don't fall into the pond behind me and literally swim either," said the British-born conductor jokingly.

Still, despite the uncomfortable temperatures, Mr Lai is elated to be conducting tomorrow's Straits Times Concert in the Gardens.

He told The Straits Times that being able to reach so many people who might not ordinarily listen to music like this, is what makes the Botanic Gardens concert special.

Said Mr Lai : "A concert hall hosts between 1,000 and 2,000 at most. But at the Botanic Gardens you easily have 10,000 people and I get to introduce classical music to people who may not have heard it before."

The hour-long concert will start at 6pm on the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage and feature classical music as well as popular tunes such as composer Dick Lee's Home.

But Mr Lai, who is also the principal conductor of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra, said his favourite in tomorrow's programme is Brahms' Third Symphony. "It's a lullaby meant to soothe, but it's also got a seriousness to it, combined with this sense of romance that is just truly beautiful."

The concert is part of the Singapore Press Holdings' Gift of Music, an ongoing series of free community concerts. He said: "That's what this concert is about. Like the series' name, it's giving people like myself the opportunity to share this gift of music."

The SSO will also perform an indoor concert today at 12.30pm at Victoria Concert Hall with a similar line-up of music. No tickets are needed, and seating will be on a first come, first served basis.


The Singapore Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2017, with the headline 'ST Concert a chance to 'share gift of music''. Print Edition | Subscribe