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SCO takes Nanyang music to Europe

The Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) will be returning to the continent after 14 years.

Fourteen years after its first tour of Europe, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) is heading there again from Aug 31 to Sept 9. It will perform in Berlin, Germany; Prague in the Czech Republic; Imola in Italy; and in Greece.

The tour will feature solo performances by Grammy award-winning Chinese sheng player Wu Wei and Singaporean violinist Kam Ning, with Kam playing the well-known Butterfly Lovers Concerto.

The repertoire for the tour includes works by Grammy award-winning Chinese composer Tan Dun, such as his dance-drama Yellow Earth, as well as “Nanyang music” such as melodies written for composition contests organised by the SCO.

Speaking at the launch of the orchestra’s new season, music director Yeh Tsung said: “The tour will mark a new milestone in our history. We look forward to showcasing our unique Nanyang music to the European audience.”

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Wu and Kam will also perform with the SCO in Singapore on Aug 3 and 24 respectively.

The orchestra’s new season begins on July 12 and 13, with the return of critically acclaimed Scottish percussion player Dame Evelyn Glennie.

It ends on June 12 and 13 next year, with a restaging of the film-concert Songs Of Liu Sanjie, with orchestra and vocalists re-enacting scenes from the 1961 classic film about the life of a legendary folk singer.

Going beyond music this season.

On Sept 26 and 27, the SCO performs famous Chinese tale Legend Of The White Snake with artists from the Guangdong Cantonese Opera Troupe.

On Nov 16, it pays tribute to Singapore’s Bicentennial with Infinite Island, helmed by director Goh Boon Teck of Toy Factory Productions. The theatrical production, performed at the orchestra’s home, the Singapore Conference Hall, will summarise 200 years of local history, with music composed and arranged by Singaporean composer Wang Chenwei.

Yeh says of Infinite Island: “We’re not going to show off one particular historical figure, but rather will concentrate on the spirit of Singapore: perseverance, optimism and openness.”

This year, the SCO also takes over the biennial National Chinese Music Competition, formerly organised with the National Arts Council.

The contest, which will be held next in 2020, is being renamed the Singapore Chinese Music Competition, in keeping with the naming conventions of similar contests in cities such as Hong Kong.

Registration for the contest opens on Sept 2. Previous editions have focused on rewarding excellence on individual instruments such as the pipa, suona and sheng, with one category for ensembles to compete.

On top of that, the next edition will include the first competitive category for orchestras and there is no upper age limit for the musicians. The previous age cap was 30.

SCO executive director Terence Ho said: “We want to draw more orchestras because playing together in orchestras is Singapore’s forte.”

Yeh agreed, saying that when he joined the orchestra in 2002, he was surprised to hear that there were more than 100 Chinese orchestras in Singapore, including those from schools.

“You don’t have so many in Beijing or Shanghai,” he said, going on to praise the discipline of the Singaporean ensembles.

He recalled the SCO’s largest concert, which featured more than 3,000 orchestra players at the National Stadium in 2014.

“At the rehearsal, I thought it would take 30 minutes to quiet them down. It took 10 seconds and then we started rehearsals.”

He added, laughing: “That’s something we should be proud of. In Europe, America or even China, this wouldn’t be possible. Only in Singapore.”

For more information on the new season of the SCO, go to

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This article was originally published in The Straits Times.


Featured image: Singapore Chinese Orchestra