by Jervan Khou (13S06I) and Chua Jun Yan (13A01A)
There are some school concerts where the music is incidental to the occasion. Thankfully, Bandemonium – Not Yet Christmas was not one of them. Presented by the Raffles Symphonic Band, and featuring Raffles Winds, the concert was held on 7 December 2012 at the Performing Arts Centre. It was a night in which the music clearly took centre stage, captivating and enthralling even the usual phone-fiddlers and whisperers in the audience.
The concert’s significance is three-fold. First, it is the latest offering in the Symphonic Band’s calendar. Second, it features a diverse range of performers, spanning Year 1 to 6, RGS and the alumni base. Third, it comes right after the announcement of reforms to the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF), meaning that musical groups will have to increasingly rely on platforms like this to showcase their talents.
Fortunately, the concert did not disappoint. The symphony was one that produced a harmonious amalgamation of sound, rather than a disparate collection of brass and woodwind instruments. The resulting performance held the audience’s rapt attention throughout. For instance, the band performed a rousing rendition of O Magnum Mysterium which reverberated throughout the hall. The piece was haunting, and every member of the band was fully utilised. In First Suite in E-Flat, the band seamlessly navigated an impressive tonal range, evoking the full spectrum of human emotion and building towards a climatic finish. With pieces like The March from 1941 and Hymm to the Infinite Sky, the musical dexterity and technical agility of the performers were evident.
However, the undisputable favourites of the night were familiar tunes like The Phantom of the Opera (performed with a rock twist), The Wizard of Oz, Disney Classic Revue, and Highlights from My Neighbour Totoro. Call it an appeal to nostalgia, but there was a 1990s tinge to the evening, transplanting many in the audience – who would have grown up in that period – into their childhood. The good-humoured, like-hearted, even cheeky execution went down well – at points, the performers donned Christmas hats, and the conductor even signalled for the audience to clap and sing along!
As promised, the concert captured the mood of the holiday season, with its unmistakably festive tunes. Popular songs were included in the in the concluding medley, Christmas Fantasia, and the encore piece, It’s a Small, Small World. While these melodies resonated with the audience’s taste, they were elegantly delivered, without being cheesy or pedestrian. This is, perhaps, the greatest achievement of Bandemonium – remaining accessible to a largely unacquainted audience without sacrificing musicality and showmanship. The selection of pieces – from across cultures and time periods – is also worth mentioning.
Unfortunately, the band was let down by the acoustics of the PAC, which failed to create a three-dimensional aural treat. As a result, the sound was rather flat, much like a CD (the reviewers are advised by a Physics student that this has something to do with the refraction of sound waves). The all-too-frequent and at times clumsy interjections from the emcees also detracted from the magical quality of the evening.
Still, the music itself was animated and enchanting. Bandemonium is a charming addition to the school’s arts calendar, especially in the interregnum when campus life dies down. It’s not quite Christmas yet, but Bandemonium was a lovely way to get into the festive spirit.
The reviewers’ tickets were sponsored by the Raffles Symphonic Band.