Beautiful Sunday is a free monthly concert series presented by the Esplanade. It is a family-friendly concert for all ages and people from all backgrounds and those with special needs. Today’s concert, A Gift for Singapore, is performed by the Asian Cultural Symphony Orchestra (ACSO).
The ACSO plays music with an Asian sensibility. A relatively new orchestra founded in 2016, it is mainly made up of young amateur musicians who play home-grown tunes in their concerts. The guests today are vocalist Sugie Phua and world fusion music group Flame of the Forest and other ethnic instrumental soloists.
The first piece is the best of all of today’s pieces: a specially arranged medley of at least eight songs by Cultural Medallion winner Dr Liang Wern Fook. The music was full of joy, melancholy and expressed a sense of reminiscence. They include Xi Sui Chang Liu (the song that will for ever be remembered as the one the Prime Minister sang at a National Day Rally), Lian Zhi Qi (loosely translated as Break From Love), Pai Pai Zuo (loosely translated as Sitting in Rows), Singapore Pie and one that has been made popular by Heavenly King Jacky Cheung, Mei Tian Ai Ni Duo Yi Xie (loosely translated as Love You More Each Day). The beautiful tone colour and musical timbre were so beautiful that Dr Liang would have been very pleased if he was there.
Another nostalgic Singaporean medley consists of Malay songs like Di Tanjong Katong, performed with not just Flame of the Forest (playing the sitar and tabla) but also instruments like the er hu, zhong ruan, accordion and the harp. A gao hu soloist (Rosie Hong in a resplendent red gown) was featured in the 1999 composition Legend of the Merlion, which describes Singapore in three movements: Seek Blessings, Regency & Nanyang Perfection. Another piece called Li Yuan (“Separation”) featured two Chinese flutes and a Chinese ensemble. What was interesting for me was that the piece opens with a cello solo to the harp accompaniment, but the two very young and adorable Caucasian girls next to me were getting bored and restless so I became distracted.
The finale was where all the performers – the full orchestra, Flame of the Forest and Sugi Phua (whose fame began when he took part in the Project Superstar Singing Competition on TV several years ago) – came together. Called Singapore Fantasia, it consisted of works by notable Singapore composers such as Zubir Said’s Semoga Bahagia, Chen Jiaming’s Moonlight in the City, Dick Lee’s Bunga Sayang and songs by Iskander Ismail and the Sam Willows.
It was a pleasant concert and I look forward to listening to the ACSO again.