Tuesday, 27 July 2010

VICTORIA CONCERT HALL Gala Closing Concert / Review

Gala Closing Concert
Victoria Concert Hall
Sunday (25 July 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 27 July 2010.

Three years might sound like a short time, but the anticipated duration of Victoria Concert Hall being closed for extensive renovations seemed like an eternity for many who performed and attended its Gala Closing Concert.
For musicians like violinist Lynnette Seah, cellist Leslie Tan (T’ang Quartet) and conductor Lim Soon Lee (Singapore National Youth Orchestra), the 105-year-old hall was synonymous with passionate music-making and fond memories. For decades, they honed their craft and practically lived their lives within its hallowed portals. They waxed lyrical about the Vic’s intimate spaces, quaint charm and friendly atmosphere, contrasted with the modern, cold and impersonal Esplanade.
If walls and columns could speak, they would tell stories of legends who have graced its stage – Benjamin Britten, Claudio Arrau, Mstislav Rostropovich, Itzhak Perlman, Sergiu Celibidache, Sir Neville Marriner and our own musical pioneers Goh Soon Tioe, Paul Abisheganaden and Choo Hoey (all above), for example.
For the young ones who performed, the Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir (above) and Singapore National Youth Orchestra, the significance might take time to sink in. The angelic voices that sang The Sound Of Music and instrumentalists who polished off Vaughan Williams’ The Wasps Overture represented a bright future for music in Singapore.

Some names inseparably linked with the Hall returned. Long-time curator of its Klais Organ Margaret Chen opened the proceedings by literally creeping out from the woodwork to perform Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. There were some missed notes but nobody cared. Cultural Medallion winner Lynnette Seah, SSO’s ever-present member since 1979, laid on her famous vibrato in Massenet’s Meditation from Thaïs and Elgar’s Salut d’Amour, accompanied by SSO Principal Harpist Gulnara Mashurova (above).

Singapore’s internationally renowned chamber group, the T’ang Quartet (above, with violist Han Oh replacing Lionel Tan), offered a movement of Haydn and Barber’s Adagio in its original quartet guise. In the latter, they resisted the temptation to go weepy and sentimental. This was after all a farewell, not a funeral.

The Singapore National Youth Orchestra,
led by Lim Soon Lee, take a bow.
The big closing number belonged to Shui Lan and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, backed by its combined choir (above), in Tchaikovsky’s festive 1812 Overture. Instead of the usual cellos, Lim Yau’s choir opened with God Preserve Thy People sung a capella in Russian. This set the stage for the epic halt of Napoleon’s Grande Armée at Borodino and a place in history books. Instead of cannons, the hall rained yellow balloons, and the audience stood one last time for Majulah Singapura, in Kelly Tang’s Elgarian orchestration.

Three years cannot come soon enough, and the Gala Opening Concert in 2013 will be keenly awaited.
A standing ovation for Victoria Concert Hall!

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