Monday, 9 May 2011

MOTHER'S DAY CONCERT / Singapore Chinese Orchestra / Review

MOTHER’S DAY CONCERT / Singapore Chinese Orchestra
Singapore Conference Hall / Saturday (7 May 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 9 May 2011 with the title "A nostalgic Mother's Day".

Nostalgia was the key to the Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s Mother’s Day Concert, a well-conceived variety show conducted by the orchestra’s Associate Conductor Quek Ling Kiong (below).

The evening began with a solo xylophone playing the melody of Lo Leung Fai’s Memories Of Youth, later joined by yangqin accompaniment. This work, popular among Taiwanese children, soon took on a Christmassy vibe with its preponderance of high-pitched timbres.

It was the return of the opening melody that brought back a flush of familiarity, which continued in Kuan Nai Chung’s Blue Memories, a medley of the late chanteuse Teresa Teng’s hits. The ubiquitous The Moon Represents My Heart, a melancholy rather than rousing number, proffered a more introspective side to outward glamour of Teng’s life and music.

Law Wai Lun’s music for Anthony Chen’s short film The Reunion Dinner (2011) tugged at the heartstrings, with a simple but poignant story of a heartlands family through the changing landscape of Singapore from the 1960s to the present. It was more of a Father’s Day yarn, but that mattered little.

Qu Chun Quan’s Themes Of World Classics Medley was a veritable rojak, with Sakura, Greensleeves and Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer tossed into a mix of Chinese melodies. The least satisfying work was followed by the best, Wang Dan Hong’s Colourful Jiangnan, which resembled a Chinese concerto grosso.

The “concertino” component was provided by the young and stylish trio of Gu Huai Yan (erhu), Zeng Zi (dizi) and Zhang Yin (pipa), whose amplified solos shone brilliantly above the orchestra’s “ripieno” backing.

The final segment was fronted by television and radio personality Leelian Chua (left), who was both eloquent as a speaker, chatting off-the-cuff with the audience and conductor, and singer. Hers was not a booming or belting voice, but rather one of a natural and engaging crooner. Gamelan effects coloured the Indonesian folksong Sunset, while a more upbeat pace lifted Liang Wern Fook’s Old Clothes Are Better Than New.

Taiwanese star Huang Yun Ling’s I Like You The Way You Are, with its cloying lyrics, was her last song before the audience was invited to sing and clap along in Yang Yao Dong’s All Mothers Are Alike. “Love your mothers and fathers” was the take-home message which closed the concert on a cheerful note.

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