Tuesday, 23 July 2013



The Living Room @ The Arts House
Sunday (21 July 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 23 July 2013 with the title "Varied voices of Singapore".

Given the major symphony orchestra’s abject failure to commission and support local compositions, more Singaporean composers are relying on chamber groups to champion and perform their works in concert. Chamber.Sounds is a collective of young professional musicians and composers, mostly alumni of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, which has found an annual platform for its members.

Its yearly concert, usually held in the summer to coincide with its players’ vacations from overseas studies, is an ample showcase of the Singapore voice. This concert had a common theme of dance and childhood, which partly explained why there was sizeable number of children in the audience. They were mostly well-behaved, and more importantly, quiet throughout the event’s 70 minutes duration.

Driving ostinatos opened and closed the concert, beginning with Derek Lim’s Dance On! for piano trio (above). Wong Yun Qi’s piano provided an insistent jig-like beat, which was joined by Ng Wei Ping’s violin and Chan Si Han’s cello. There were multiple changes in meter, and the paced upped to resemble Shostakovich’s more manic moments.

Jeremiah Li’s Seasons: A Petite Suite, inspired by English poetry, portrayed the change of moods through indolent summer, lively autumn (with beat provided by Li’s baritone saxophone), desolate winter (starring Daniel Yiau’s clarinet solo) to the rejuvenating bagpipe drones of spring. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony was cheekily quoted at its close.

Alicia De Silva’s Silhouette for Two was a cleverly disguised tango for violin, flute and clarinet, with Klezmer elements (Yiau again) thrown in, its title suggesting the ever-changing flickering of a flame and the shadow it casts.

Audience participation was called for in the first movement of Liong Kit Yeng’s Childhood Fantasy Suite, entitled The Clown (above). Clarence Tan’s jocular euphonium solo was punctuated by squawking and hooting on children’s party toys, which the kids in the audience duly obliged on cue. The balance of the suite consisted of more “naïve music”, totally tonal and eminently listenable.

Yiau’s IV Movements Four V ironically has three movements, every one being rhythmic, from the minimalistic Moving, the more fluid Flow and the funereal march of Rhythm which closed with one loud dissonant chord. The concert ended with John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango, its centre adopting a slow habanera rhythm, percussive Bartokian pizzicatos, and its bristling end being a summation of all that had come before. 

A certain pride of place has to be reserved for the Sonatina Op.2 No.3 for solo violin (above) by Cheng Wei Le. It began simply enough, a top-line melody in D major, which later shifted tonally and dynamically at an alarming pace, such that it ended like something by Prokofiev, stretching the resources of violinist Ng to the full. The astonishing thing is this: Cheng is only 11 years old. Are we witnessing the bright beginning of a startling new trend?

My apologies for not being to name every single performer who played in this concert. chamber.sounds In Motion also featured violist Jeremy Chiew and flautist Kevin Seah. 

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