Tuesday, 29 November 2011

QUE SERA SERA / re:mix / Review

Esplanade Recital Studio
Sunday (27 November 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 29 November 2011 with the title "Melodic mix of memories".

Five years is about the age a child begins to remember the melodies he or she has heard, sung or played by a parent, or via any other media. Childhood memories and yearning for simpler times are the premise of the 5th anniversary concert of the string ensemble re:mix, that untiring purveyor of musical nostalgia.

The supreme irony is that much of its music is played by people who were born long after the original music first came out. They were essentially playing their parents’ music. As for their children, and there were many noisy toddlers in the matinee, numbers like the titular Que Sera Sera (from Hitchcock’s 1965 movie The Man Who Knew Too Much) or any of the Beatles songs, The Yellow Submarine and Eleanor Rigby, belong in the realm of classical music.

It was nonetheless a fascinating experience to relive hoary old chestnuts distilled and re-jigged in new wineskins. Recent Cultural Medallion winner Kelly Tang (left) is a master of transcription, and his re-look at Yin Kerong’s Xiao Bai Chuan (Little White Boat) rolled back the years with pleasure.

Further arrangements by younger colleagues Wong Kah Chun and Chen Zhangyi gave new life to Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me and Chris Babida’s Xin Bu Liao Qing (New Everlasting Love) respectively, the former sung with some longing by the Singapore Lyric Opera Children’s Choir. Yet the sheer cleverness of the arrangements sometimes put the string players to a test in which they did not always emerge with flying colours.

The latter song sounded over-stretched and under-rehearsed, while the remixed Eleanor Rigby by Chen, packed in Yesterday, Hey Jude and pizzicatos in the manner of the Blues from Ravel’s Violin Sonata. Too much of a good thing, one might say. There was no denying leader Foo Say Ming’s (left) virtuosity in Vieuxtemps’s Souvenir d’Amerique, where the emergence of Yankee Doodle brought out smiles and laughs from the audience.

The theme of primary school blues replaced zoological species in a specially modified version of Saint-SaĆ«ns’s Carnival of The Animals. Narrator Rosmarie Somaiah’s very witty script entitled Something’s Happening At School is worth several reruns, as was the playing of the twin sisters Low Shao Ying and Low Shao Suan (above) on piano.

The movement Pianists saw pianists and violinists swap places, and cue total mayhem. If that reminded one of school recess periods, this conception would have succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. Happy fifth birthday, re:mix, and may you always retain that inner child in yourselves.

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