Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Composers & Talents From Home / The Millennial Orchestra / Review

The Milliennial Orchestra
Chan Wei Shing, Conductor
Sunday (24 August 2009)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 25 August 2009.

Another year passes, another new orchestra is born. The latest member is The Millennial Orchestra (TMO, above), a 40-member ensemble that had beginnings in a music ministry of City Harvest Church. Religious music was however not on the agenda in its d├ębut concert.

The first half was purely collaborative, beginning with J.S. Bach’s Piano Concerto in D minor (BWV.1052). A small baroque-sized force sensitively supported Indonesian pianist Sofi Natalia, who was musical and totally secure until the counterpoint-busy finale where unfortunate lapses almost derailed the ensemble. Oh the perils of playing completely from memory.

Acquitting themselves better were three young singers, sopranos Lim Yan Ting and Rebecca Li and tenor David Charles Tay, charming their way in arias from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Tay has a dramatic presence, and despite nursing a sore voice, made the biggest impression. The sopranos blended delightfully in the Letter Duet (Figaro), which ushered the interval.

While the accompaniment was occasionally stodgy and unwieldy in the slower numbers, the ensemble led by SSO cellist Chan Wei Shing (left) did its best not to drown out the singers. The second half was totally devoted to works of Singapore composers – both established and new names.

Kelly Tang’s Sketches Of Singapore is already fairly well-known, an expertly orchestrated suite of standards like Stand Up For Singapore, Rasa Sayang, Home and Di Tanjung Katong. For all its enthusiasm, the relative inexperience of the winds and brass were a limiting factor. No matter, the tunes were still recognisable.

Two young student composers demonstrated that the trend has swung to tonally based music with strong rhythmic impetus and a palpable film-music feel. Jeanette Teoh’s Sheer Determination and Nathania Chan’s Wild Roses had their well-received premieres, and it remains to be seen how their individual voices will develop.

Finally, the Millennial Choir (above) joined forces with the orchestra in Er Yenn Chwen’s Child Of Destiny, theme song for the 2008 World Youth Choral Festival. For a composer of serious music, this has to be one of his lightest, with themes intentionally suited for a lowest common denominator audience. A pity that the script was not reproduced, as the sung verses were unintelligible. A standing ovation ensued, nevertheless.

Caveats aside, this remains an encouraging start of a fledgling orchestra in search of a niche and profile. Will it devote itself to sacred music, chamber music and local compositions, or will Reverend Ho Yeow Sun be singing Bach and Handel arias with them in the future? Watch this space.

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