Taiwanese stage designer Er Ma designed the worship platform for City Harvest Church at Suntec Singapore.
Contributed By Jesscy Chua
You couldn’t tell from the unassuming nature of stage designer Feng Jian Zhang, that he is a well-known professional in the entertainment industry.
His works graced the concerts of famous celebrities such as Mayday, Jacky Cheung, Sammi Cheng, Aaron Kwok, S.H.E., Luo Zhixiang, A Mei, Vanness Wu, F4 band, Jolin Tsai, and West End stage singer Sarah Brightman, in her 1999 world tour concert held in Taipei.
Born in Taiwan, the 39-year-old designer is better known as Er Ma (“two-horse” in English), because his surname is made up of the two Chinese characters. Feng studied interior design but found his niche in stage design. His first major assignment was the F4 band’s world tour in 2001. Apart from concerts, he has designed stages for major award ceremonies such as the Golden Melodies Award, the Golden Horse Award and the Asian Pacific Film Festival.
Er Ma first collaborated with Sun Ho, wife of CHC’s senior pastor Kong Hee, when she held her Sun With Love concert in 2001. Since then, he has been involved in designing stages for Ho’s other concerts, CHC’s stage at Singapore Expo, as well as the two Asia Conferences held in 2008 and in 2010.
You have worked with CHC for a while now. What do you like most about collaborating with the church?
I enjoy working with CHC. It is different from designing a stage for a concert. To me, it is significant as it is a church. In a concert, there is usually a rule of thumb for setting up the choir and the band on the stage. But for the church, I had to find a balance; I had to bear in mind that the stage will be filled up, so my design had to accommodate all these elements.
I have never designed for other churches before but my wife and I have noticed that this church is very lively. It has its unique style of music and preaching.
When did work begin on the Suntec project?
CHC contacted me in December 2010 and I came here to meet various people in January 2011. The design for the stage was done within three days.
Explain your design of the new stage.
I chose white color for the mood as it symbolises holiness, tranquility, and peacefulness. The design of wings that are soaring demonstrates its front as mighty and forward-looking, and its opened “wings” are forgiving and embracing with love. It also represents the Trinity: the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son.
The most special feature would definitely be the LED video wall, measuring 52 meters. It is the largest video wall in Singapore.
What constraints did you have to work with and how did you overcome them?
The materials arrived late due to the crisis in Japan, so we really had to rush the set-up. Most of us slept only a few hours per day in the last three to four days before the opening service.
What were the biggest challenges you faced creating this stage?
It is located at the center of the hall and that presented an unprecedented challenge to me. The center is actually installed with an anti-fire feature which cannot be removed, so we could not hang the fixtures, hence the “wings” fitting is not centralized and one of its wings is not balanced due to the pulling pressure from the cable. Also, the “wings” were hard to make. No one in Taiwan or in Singapore has ever done it and it is not feasible to get it made in Taiwan because of its sheer size, thus, they were made in Singapore, and for the first time ever, I had to use a welding iron to get it done.
How do you feel about your design now that you have watched the stage “in action” last weekend?
This being a church design, I feel satisfied that I have reached a new level and right now, I am asking myself, “what’s next?” and what type of design I should conjure up to outdo this accomplishment. I think I have to start visualizing a new design soon. I thank CHC for giving me this rare opportunity to work with them. It has been a wonderful experience!
Er Ma will be in town next month for his next project: Tanya Chua’s 2011 concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.