Sunday, 28 December 2008

Beyond Boundaries: Concert by re:mix / Review

FOO SAY MING, Violin & Leader
Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (21 December 2008)

This review was published in The StraitsTimes
on 23 December 2008.
What are the factors that make certain pop songs memorable, sometimes immortal? Great melodies, ear-catching harmonies, infectious rhythms and soppy lyrics. The first three are the hallmarks of songs that regularly appear in the concerts of classically-trained string ensemble re:mix.

The songs of Abba, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Cantopop group Beyond and local xinyao (1980s Singapore Chinese pop songs) are distinctive because of their context within time and place. However, when subject to arrangements for a medium alien to the original inspiration, the music loses a vital part of its original flavour.
re:mix always plays on its feet,
excepting the cellists and bassists.

With due repect to local composers Kelly Tang, Benjamin Lim and Cultural Medallion winner Iskandar Ismail, who contributed 12 song arrangements in the latest re:mix concert, there was a certain uniformity in their highly sympathetic and well-crafted efforts when heard in succession. There was a tendency to overplay on contrapuntal possibilities. A simulated Baroque concerto grosso sound – reminiscent of many a Beatles arrangement – seemed to dominate in songs like Dancing Queen, Honey Honey, and Really Love You, for example.

Nevertheless, it did not prevent re:mix from entertaining and charming its near-capacity audience. Leader Foo Say Ming, with uncharacteristically moussed-up hair, was his usual irrepressible self, drolly introducing each piece and moving niftily with the music.

Some memorable moments include heartland song Shi Shui Chang Liu (Flowing River), a string meditation that featured solos from cellist Elizabeth Tan (not Elizabeth Tan Su Yin. Yes, there are two cellists with the same name in Singapore!) and Foo himself. There were guest performers, none more exuberant than Roger Wang on amplified acoustic guitar and Tama Goh on the drums.
Roger Wang with Foo Say Ming (extreme left)

The bossa nova suite – Girl from Ipanema, Corcovado and One Note Samba - by Brazilian icon Jobim, arranged by Iskandar, clearly rocked the house. Both Wang and Goh extemporised freely in their ad libitum bits, with the ensemble breaking ranks to witness the virtuosity. The audience was encouraged to leave their seats to join in the revelry, but only one child obliged.

Whether or not it was its intention, the group as carved a niche in the local music scene as its hippest crossover group.

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