Monday 13 May 2024

MOTHER'S DAY CONCERT 2024 / Singapore Chinese Orchestra / Review


Singapore Chinese Orchestra 
Singapore Conference Hall 
Friday (10 May 2024) 

An edited version of this review was published in The Straits Times on 13 May 2024 with the title "Singer Chyi Yu lights up SCO's Mother's Day Concert".

One fixture on the concert calendar the Singapore Chinese Orchestra has cornered is Mother’s Day, falling on every second Sunday in May. SCO’s Mother’s Day Concerts are typically events with light music, usually of a nostalgic kind. Led by principal conductor Quek Ling Kiong, this year’s offering had several differences. 

First, the concert did away with loquacious hosts preaching unending filial piety, relying instead on Quek’s straight-talking manner, not without humour in his own right. Second, the programme separated serious music from popular fare, with an intermission intervening in between. 

Opening with Lullabies arranged by Sim Boon Yew, this medley strung together cradle songs from different cultures. Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms’ famous examples sat cheek-by-jowl with several Chinese ones before closing with the American favourite Hush, Little Baby. A departure from the first piece being a rousing one, this ran the risk of prompting listeners to near slumber. 

Just as sweetly rendered was Zhao Jiping’s Homeland Nostalgia from Cantonese Rhyme Along The Silk Road, which incorporated three Cantonese melodies, including Beautiful Clouds Chasing The Moon. Important solos by Zhao Jianhua (erhu), Fontane Liang (harp) and Yu Jia (pipa) lit up the proceedings. 

The Nanyin classic The Plum Blossom Story that followed, arranged by Law Wai Lun, was in the form of a pleasant symphonic poem. Its melodic charm and colourful orchestration may not be readily associated with Mother’s Day, but the feel-good quotient and animated close made it a suitable choice. 

The second half of popular music was the main reason why both evenings had been sold out. Also arranged by Law was Stars in the Sky, a delectable medley of five hit-songs by famous Taiwanese composer and song-writer of indigenous Amis origin Li Tai-hsiang (1941-2014). These included Answer, Walking In The Rain, Sunshine Avenue, Olive Tree and Farewell

Olive Tree, with its quasi-modal melody redolent of 1970s pop/folk songs, was his stand-out work. Arranged by Ong Jiin Joo, it received a separate performance by well-known Taiwanese chanteuse Chyi Yu. Once Li’s protege and sometime sister-in-law, this contemporary of the late Teresa Teng, now in her mid-60s, has retained much of her vocal prowess and stage presence. 

In Lo Ta-yu’s The Song of the Boat, arranged by Phang Kok Jun, the music’s progressive crescendo was well sustained by Chyi despite the orchestra’s rise in volume. For Chan Yiu-Chuen’s Flower of the Woman, notably covered by the late Anita Mui, Chyi impressed with dulcet tones and excellent pitch. 

All this made the inclusion of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Memory (from Cats) seem superfluous, but Chyi’s pronunciation was more than acceptable, hitting the sweet high spots with aplomb. 

Closing the evening was the concert’s only overt tribute to mothers, Wang Mon Ling’s Mother, My Love To You, with the audience whipping out their handphones and shining along. Her encore of Li’s Stars in the Sky that followed, accompanied by harpist Liang, drew the heartiest and loudest applause.

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