Monday, 26 May 2014


Suzhou's latest skyscraper located in the
Industrial Park looks like a pair of jeans!

Day 6 (Wednesday, 21 May 2014)

Suzhou here we come! The orchestra has two concerts here in the modernistic Suzhou Arts and Cultural Centre beautifully set on the northeast edge of the Jinjihu Lake in the Suzhou Industrial Park. As a generous gesture of goodwill and friendship, Chairman Patrick Lee hosted the entire orchestra to a sumptuous ten-course dinner at the Grand Ballroom of the Howard Johnson All Suites Hotel. There is no better encouragement than an uplifted spirit and a full stomach.

A Singapore Chinese Orchestra family photo.

A bridge over a canal in the
river town of Tong Li.

Day 7 (Thursday, 22 May 2014)

Another free day for me but I did not feel guilty making that trip to the river town of Tong Li, a venture well worth the time to experience what it is life in the “Venice of the East”. The city of Suzhou and its neighbouring villages have taken on that title, and it is well deserved. My evening is spent in the famous Master of the Nets Garden, in the company of Suzhou’s fabled musical arts, with performances of kunqu opera, pingtan, instrumental solos and ensembles by talented students and wizened veterans.  

Suzhou pingtan performance
at the Master of the Nets Garden.

Day 8 (Friday, 23 May 2014)

SCO’s concert in Suzhou was in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Suzhou Singapore Industrial Park and how this venture in investment brought the two nations together. This was held at the modernistic Suzhou Arts and Culture Centre, the impressive horseshoe-shaped edifice of glass, chrome and steel. This is Suzou’s Esplanade, only bigger and arguably grander. 

The concert hall foyer at
Suzhou Arts and Cultural Centre.

The programme conducted by Yeh Tsung began with Law Wai Lun’s The Voyage and Yii Kah Hoe’s Buka Panggung, and included a segment of kunqu opera, from the epic Peony Pavilion, called Broken Dream. The two singers, Shen Fengying and Yu Jiulin, who earlier sang in Singapore were now dressed in the traditional finery of costume and make-up. They looked and sounded magnificent, and the performance the added dimension of surtitles in both Chinese and English. One would blush at the risqué words, R-rated for certain, but how artfully these were concealed by their formidable but discreet thespian skills!

Masters of Suzhou kunqu opera.
Concertmaster Li Baoshun earns the plaudits.

SCO Concertmaster Li Baoshun starred in Liu Xijin’s Legend of the Merlion, a gaohu concerto with a surfeit of fine melodies. He is a true virtuoso, one belying an unassuming and undemonstrative surface, and how his instrument sings. In closing, Monteiro and Company ruled the house in Kelly Tang’s Montage, and how this performance varied from the last. Now it took on a more leisurely air in the slower bits but a greater swagger in the furiously-paced finale. There have been three performances of the concerto on the tour, and this one was unequivocally the best. The audience agreed whole-heartedly and were rewarded with three encores.  

Jazz legend Jeremy Monteiro gets to close the show.

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