Appreciating classical music need not be limited to black tie dress codes.
Attending a classical music performance, in Singapore, at least, has always been a grand, formal affair. Without diluting the rich culture of the genre, however, The Millennial Orchestra hopes to make it more accessible to the public—by going to where the masses are. Its Dinnertime Concert performances, a series of concerts to be held in smaller, less formal venues instead of the conventional concert hall setting, will allow music lovers to make a casual date with Mozart or Beethoven on their way home from work or before dinner.
During the inaugural performance, titled Christmas Concerto on Dec. 22, 2010 at the Yamaha auditorium in Clementi, each section of TMO took turns to be featured throughout an hour-long concert. The brass section, comprising seven musicians on the French horn, trombone, trumpet and tuba, opened the evening with “Kiki’s Delivery Service” by Joe Hisaishi taken from the 1989 Japanese animated film of the same name, as well as the universally known “Canon” by Johann Pachelbel. While the acoustics could not be compared to that of a concert hall, the proximity of the musicians to the audience and the decentralization of the various sections made it easier to sift out the particular sound qualities of each instrument, and allowed for a greater appreciation of how they formed a collective harmony.
It is not just to the benefit of the audience, however. The smaller group setting also allows the musicians to exert more ownership over their performance. “Through this format, we hope the musicians can interact closer with one another, and hence, are challenged to enhance their sensitivity of ensemble playing. With no conductor, they have to listen to each other more closely—they can’t afford to miss their cue,” says concert master Lee Tat Haur, 39, a practising architect who has been playing the violin since age 7. Additionally, without the presence of the whole orchestra, each musician will invariably come under greater scrutiny, spurring them on to an even higher level of showmanship.
The winds section took over from their brass counterparts with their repertoire of “Little Symphony” by Charles Gounod and “Leolo” by Scott Joplin, which was so catchy that even toddlers were seen bouncing to the beat on their mother’s knees—proof that you do not need to have a trained ear to enjoy classical music. Of course, there was the occasional crying baby, but nobody really paid heed as they were themselves immersed in the performance.
|CN PHOTOS: Desmond Tan|
The finale of the night was the familiar “Angels We Have Heard On High” performed by the full orchestra, with the youngest member being a 13-year-old violinist who stood up and grinned bashfully when the emcee introduced him to the audience. Led by conductor Eric Wong, the song started on a somber note but took off with a lively arrangement that capped a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
TMO’s effort to bring classical music to the community is still in its infancy, but judging by the full turn-out, it may just lead to a wave of renewed appreciation of the arts in time to come. Truly, it’s not always about the size of the production but the level of engagement.
The Millennial Orchestra was founded in 2006 in City Harvest Church as a three-member ensemble. Over the years, it has grown to become a 40-member orchestra comprising mostly working professionals and students.
Check out The Millennial Orchestra’s latest updates on future Dinnertime Concerts at the Facebook group “The Millennial Orchestra.”