After attending two consecutive SCO concerts which I enjoyed immensely, I have only one word to describe the orchestra – innovative.
Last night was a treat. Mike had won two tickets to the event by joining a Facebook contest. The title of the concert was Strings Delight, and what a delight it was.
The evening started out light. We were served an appetizer of light erhu repertoire. Listening to the Pines is described in the programme booklet as a grand, bold and powerful erhu piece but it was anything that. I thought it light and soothing. Son of Birds in the Desolate Mountains, like its title, was depressing. I don’t know if it was my association of erhu with funeral music or not.
The piece just before the interval was more vibrant probably because it had the full orchestra. Night Thoughts had three movements – all thoughtful, melancholic, and soulful until the end where it was more robust.
I am more a visual than audio person, and sitting close to stage gave me an opportunity to watch the conductor at work. Thus while the first three pieces were a tad boring, the performance of Music Director Tsung Yeh was a delight to watch. His movements were varied. One moment he was swaying his body in a wide arc, next he would be still, with one arm akimbo. Another instant, he would be like a traffic conductor, yet another instant kicking his heels up and stomping for emphasis. All through, he had a smile plastered on.
After the intermission, the audience were shown a demonstration of the versatile erhu and its family in the performance Suite for Chinese instruments. I quote the programme booklet : The presentation of these skills introduces a new experience to the music. Some of these techniques include alternate finger plucking, fillip, high notes, tremolo and various up, down, long and short glissando in a combined treatment. There was chirping of birds evolving to noisy chattering, siren wailing in the background…I was impressed.
But what took my breath away was the finale. The performance of Fire Ritual took orchestral performance to a new high for me. Various musicians were stationed around the borders of the theatre and provided a surround sound effect. On his part, the conductor had two conductor stands and had to conduct 360 deg. At some moments, he was conducting facing the audience, presenting the audience with a difference perspective.
The performance was a delight as an assortment of props were used to enhance the effect. The musicians had one point took their music sheets and rustled them in the air. The conductor even provided sound effect by hissing and whispering, hee…haw….and a hum even.
Li Bao Shun deserves special mention for his solo performance of erhu. He had three on stage last night which help showcased his talent and skill. It was no easy task, holding on to a note of a string instrument for many minutes at the finale, its bow vibrating non-stop. Li ended with a relief by dropping his bow abruply as soon as the conductor signalled the close.
A brilliant end and another star from me to the wonderful Singapore Chinese Orchestra.