by Jeanne Tan (17A01B) and Serafina Siow (17A13A)
Pictures by Angela Sun (17S06M), Raffles Photographic Society
Definition: An object kept as a reminder of a person or event.
This was also the theme of Chamber Ensemble’s annual concert, held last Friday in LT2. As the last concert before the Year 6s stepped down, this theme had a special significance to them. “Tonight, we bring you a relish of these ages’ unique flavors, accompanied by the unchanging universality inscribed onto these sounds and scores, in hopes that this evening gives you a night to remember,” said Gillian Yeong (17A01A).
Chamber did a quaint job of introducing the theme from the moment one approached LT2. At the door, each ticket was marked with a hole, following which a ribbon was presented. These components made a simple bookmark. Confusion over some strange markings on the programme too, was elucidated towards the end of the event, when the audience was taught how to fold the programme into a heart – yet another token to remember the concert by. The charming, personalised touch added to the programme’s overall theme about memory.
This effect was similarly sustained in other details throughout the night. The front of the stage, example, was painstakingly plastered with musical scores, whilst the small but fairly packed lecture theatre made for a cozy atmosphere despite the formality usually associated with classical music. The presentation of the event, too, added to the intimate atmosphere. Witty introductions and short skits were suffused into the show. Far from stuffy or snobby, the evening was full of engaging acts such as the short skit, “10 Things Only Musicians Would Know”, performed by Chan Shi Qi (17S06I), Glenda Wee (17S06N), Charissa Poh (17S02A), Rachel Lee (17S03H), Pang Kai Wen (16S06K), Tricia Tan (17S03I), Gillian Yeong (17A01A), Myra Tan (16S03J) and Bai Jiawei (16S06S). It depicted scenarios familiar to those in musical ensembles: lugging around heavy instruments, the cellist’s nightmare that is playing Canon in D, and the trials of being a part of a large ensemble when the conductor isn’t working on your section. The idea for this skit, according to Gillian Yeong, was born when “someone mentioned that nobody knows what ‘Chamber Ensemble’ is”, sparking the idea to share their unique experiences with the rest of the school. Besides the hilarious portrayals of the musicians, credit has to be given to Ms Ku for being a good sport in all the skits.
Though the cheers from the audience and preambles to each act (which were laden with jokes and musical memes) perhaps diverged from the hushed concert halls of old, the Chamber Ensemble stayed true to their classical roots. The night commenced with Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in D Major, conducted by Ms Marietta Ku. The skillful rendition of this Baroque piece was testament to the technical prowess of the entire ensemble. Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber was played next and showed a different side to their music with the melancholic and sorrowful mood, giving it the gravitas it deserved.
While there was a short break afterwards for the members to rearrange the chairs and move the piano, Farah Wu (16A03A) and Ms Ku put up a short humorous skit entitled “Farah’s Diary”. Ms Ku played the role of Farah’s teacher, and reacted comically as Farah repeatedly butchered Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. The laughter grew louder with each time Ms Ku stood up in increasingly exaggerated huffs to demonstrate in beautiful tones, and added a neat personal touch to the concert, as well as covered up the ear-piercing screeching noises made as the piano was moved.
Next up was Erno Dohnanyi’s Serenade for String Trio in C Major, Op. 10, impressively performed by Jackie Sim (17S03G), Bryan Tay (16S03B) and Joshen Lim (17S07D). The piece demonstrated not just the performers’ technical skills but also their marvelous expression of their emotions throughout the piece. Jokes aside about practicing their piece at field camp, Arensky’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 32 by alumni Koh Kai Jie, Xu Hong Yun and Daniel Ang was easily one of the best pieces of the night. They went above and beyond the chance to show off their skills, playing the rarely performed piece outstandingly. A member of the audience, Wang Huaijin (17S06F) gave the alumni a glowing review, calling their piece “very professional”.
The next piece, Allegro brilliante from Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major was a well executed, mellifluous piece that comprised a bigger ensemble, with Yee Yang En (16S06B), Wong Jia Yi (16S03A), Joshua Yong (17S06B), Zhuang Jianning (17S06E), Eleanor Chong (17S03H). This was followed up with Allegro con fuoco from String Quintet No.2 in G Major by Antonin Dvorak, which had a cheerful melody accentuated by the inclusion of the double bass, which led to interesting contrast and showcased the musical ability of the performers.
For the final piece on the programme, the entire ensemble returned to play a magnificent three movements of Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22. The first movement, Moderato, was a good display of musical expressiveness as it transitioned from a melancholic state to a lively one, and back again. The second, Larghetto, was light and flowing, and showed an attention to detail that enhanced the experience of hearing it. The final movement, Allegro Vivace, was true to its name and included rapid patterns and quick tempo, with a dip in the middle before racing with an almost frenetic pace to the end.
To cries of encore, the ensemble launched into an exciting medley of familiar songs, from Bach’s Prelude in C, the “Ave Maria”, to Bad Romance and Flashlight before switching to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, drawing the concert to a satisfying conclusion. The Year 6s took a moment to thank their mentors, Ms Judy Tay, who faithfully attended practices despite suffering an injury, and Ms Marietta Ku, who then promptly ducked off stage to go on her SSO tour.
When asked how she felt about her last concert, Yee Yang En (16S06B) said it was “bittersweet. It’s been a really meaningful two-year journey with the chamber family. As the J2’s fourth and last concert together, the preparation for the concert and the night itself are truly memories that we will cherish for a long time to come.” Farah Wu (16A03A) said that “the real challenge was making the concert relatable to most of the student population, while staying true to our classical interests.”
Of all the arts events this season, this one stood out to these reporters for being extremely heartfelt, and did a wonderful job of pulling the audience into the spirit of Chamber Ensemble– the honesty of the musicians and the enthusiasm in every piece brought the audience to a better understanding of the allure of classical music. The beauty of the show lay not just in its physical mementos, but also the hearts full of music and indelible memories. This night is indeed one to be treasured and remembered.
Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto for String in D major, RV 121
- Allegro Molto
Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings
Erno Dohnanyi, Serenade for String Trio in C Major, Op. 10
- Tema con variazioni
Anton Arensky, Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 32
- Allegro Moderato
Robert Schumann, Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44
- Allegro brillante
Antonin Dvorak, String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 77
- Allegro con fucco
Antonin Dvorak, Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22
- Allegro Vivace
Encore: Medley of different songs and pieces. Including: Poker Face, Flashlight, Ode to Joy,