Monday, 10 December 2012

CHILDAID 2012 The Electric Edition / Review

Marina Bay Sands Grand Theatre
Saturday (8 December 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 10 December 2012 with the title "Night of youth, pop and classical".

It has been eight years since ChildAid had its first edition. The annual concert that showcases the best of young Singapore musical talent has raised the bar by raising over two million dollars this year for its twin charities, The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund. It has also taken on a more classical sheen with the Orchestra of the Music Makers as its resident ensemble.

The young orchestra performed in almost all the items, conducted by Iskandar Ismail and Chan Tze Law for the popular and classical pieces respectively. The pop music segment served as a barometer of what is in vogue with young people today, including songs covered Adele and Justin Bieber, choral music as celebrated by the television series Glee, hip-hop, rap music and arguably the hottest item today – K-Pop's Gangnam style.

In such august company, classical music fought hard for receptive ears, and had to contend with background chattering and murmuring from the audience when its short attention span was exhausted beyond the five minute mark. Thus violinist Gabriel Ng’s effortlessly virtuosic La Campanella movement from Paganini’s Second Violin Concerto, and a shortened First Book of Brahms’s ferociously difficult Paganini Variations from Japanese pianist Hidekazu Nakajima were made to sound a tad underwhelming.

Perhaps because they came on just before the intermission, and listeners had become restless. The situation improved immediately after the break, with purely orchestral work Mothership by Mason Bates, composed in 2011 for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, getting the attention it deserved. Soloists on accordion, violin, oboe and tuba acquitted themselves well for their moments in the spotlight.

What about the magical sight of three grand pianos rising from the pit onto centre-stage? Joined by three invited pianists Hsieh Wei-Ting (Taiwan), Nguyen Le Binh Anh (Vietnam) and Gun Chaikittiwatana (Thailand), winners of the regional Steinway International Competition, who performed the first movement of Mozart’s Concerto For Three Pianos, this was the concert’s most intimate music. Every note and phrase was crisply minted, and the reading was one of utter clarity.

The ethos of ChildAid was to empower young people by way of musical excellence. Iskandar’s opening work Magic Bows provided 12 musicians with opportunities, beginning with violinist Nur Shaheen Zainudin’s confident soliloquy, then expanding to encompass duet, trio, and quartet groups, and culminating with stylish siblings Jaz and James Loh on electric guitar and cello.

Iskandar’s closing number A World To Imagine, with lyrics by Paul Tan provided the final apotheosis. Nine-year-old flautist Ong Yi Ting, the evening’s youngest soloist, was bestowed the honour of opening the feel-good piece, before all and sundry – instrumentalists, singers, dancers, choirs and bands – numbering well over a hundred returned to sign off the show. Their message was simple: one is never too young to give back to society.    

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