August being the month of Singapore’s National Day, this concert consists of a myriad of Singapore folk tunes. Today’s Beautiful Sunday concert is a performance by Novo Winds, a non-profit community band (from the Toa Payoh South Community Club) formed in July 2010. The Latin term “de novo” is defined as “anew; afresh; from the beginning”. Similarly, Novo Winds seeks to broaden the scope and function of band music by incorporating new performance concepts and musical directions, as well as to reach out to passionate musicians and promote music development to the members with the opportunity to further their ensemble experience.
The concert opened with City of Dreams Symphonic Suite for Wind Orchestra commisioned for the Novo Winds. The Suite is in three movements:
- I. Fanfare – the awakening of dreams; a tribute to the late Leong Yoong Pin;
- II. Intermezzo – in remembrance of Lee Kuan Yew who initiated the band project in 1966;
- III. March – riding the rainbow and looking towards the future.
The piece was conducted by a youthful-looking Issac Lim, and I recognised the motif that is made up of the first four notes of the National Anthem (sometimes transposed) no less than a dozen times in the third movement.
This is followed by a never-before-heard rendition of Rasa Sayang (in an interesting twist, with a cha-cha-cha tempo). The vocalised section was a nice touch and the audience joined in the clapping.
A Chinese musical created by Liang Wen Fu (the father of xinyao) called If There Are Seasons, was played to great success in 2007; and this, plus a medley of other compositions by Liang, was next.
Tales of the Sea with Di Tanjong Katong was commisioned by the Co-Curricular Branch (MOE) for the 2003 Singapore Youth Festival. It follows the development of Singapore from a fishing village to a modern city. There is a passage where the winds and drums depict the turbulent times, and other smaller instruments depicting peace and finally a triumphant feeling of progress and prosperity with the full orchestra. From this piece onwards, the Principal Conductor took over the baton.
Dick Lee’s Life Story, specially arranged for wind orchestra by the Principal Conductor, was next. It’s one of my favourite local compositions, and images of the movie Wonder Boy (which I watched recently) kept flashing in my mind. I found myself wishing I still had a cassette player to play my old cassette.
A medley of (about seven) xinyao by Liang, Ng King Kang and Roy Loi got me tapping and humming along. This set the mood for Dick Lee’s Home, specially arranged by Wong Kah Choon (who won the prestigious international Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition last year and had majored in Composition at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music). It is a beautiful arrangement, with an opening consisting of blue notes and drums, a rousing middle setion with rhythmic percussion which picked up a happy mood and a lovely saxaphone solo with a jazzy feel.
All too soon, the orchesstra played the last piece for the day: a medley of Chinese TV sitcom theme songs. I don’t have the habit of watching such shows, but I recognised some of the songs (such as Youth 1-2-3, Moonlight in the City and Voices from the Heart) because these are very popular.
What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon – listening to music that I enjoy! (The only thing that marred the experiece was occasional loud wailing from toddlers and babies as young as 2 months old.)