By Joyce Lee (19S06O) and Kwee Qiao Ying (19S03K)
Photographs courtesy of Andrew Yap (19S06Q) and Ku Cheng Yong (19S06G) of the Raffles Photographic Society
On the 18th of May, hundreds of students and guests streamed into LT2—no, not for a late night lecture, but for Guitar Ensemble’s concert, Esperanza. The title of the concert means “hope” in Spanish and this theme was illustrated through the narrative of a young boy named Justin who dreams of becoming a musician like his late grandfather. In spite of parental objections, he perseveres and refuses to give up on his aspirations. The emotions he feels throughout his turbulent journey were weaved into the various songs, giving them greater depth and meaning.
The atmosphere in the lecture theatre that night was one of restless excitement: some audience members went in early to reserve seats with bags and water bottles, while others milled around, chatting and taking pictures with their friends. After much anticipation, the curtains parted to reveal the Senior Ensemble, which opened the concert with the first song of the night, Colours of the Wind. A slow-paced and relaxing song, it eased the audience into the concert and was a nostalgic piece for many, as it prompted them to reminisce about their childhood days of watching Disney films.
After the Senior Ensemble’s breathtaking performance, the Junior Ensemble took the stage for the first time. Most members of the Junior Ensemble had no prior experience playing the guitar and only had two months to practise before the concert. Despite this, they were calm and composed, having put their all into their practices and improving tremendously since their first attempts at learning how to play the guitar.
Their first song, Calypso was an upbeat and refreshing musical number filled with youthful enthusiasm. The jovial mood of the piece reflects Justin’s excitement as he first learns to play the guitar, as well as his budding passion for music. According to the Ensemble’s Chairperson, Melanie Chuang (18S06N), it also “expresses his joy as he recalls the happy moments he shared with his late grandfather.” This was followed by Bluetown Brays, a groovy tune that evokes images of the pioneer towns which dotted the landscape of the American Wild West. It had a sense of adventure and made the audience feel like they were embarking on a long journey into the unknown. Lastly, the Junior Ensemble performed the classic piece Somewhere over the Rainbow, a song that portrayed a sense of longing and poignantly demonstrated Justin’s grief over the loss of his grandfather. The melancholic tone of the song was accompanied by his hope of carrying on his grandfather’s legacy and one day forging his own path in the music industry.
Following the Junior Ensemble’s performances were various mashups put together by Midnight Blues, comprising of Laetitia Chia (19S03F), P Anu Priya (19S07A), Emily Ho (19S03I), Tan Yu Jin (19S03L) and Ava Leong (19S03O). The first mashup consisted of pop songs, Say You Won’t Let Go by James Arthur, Hey, Soul Sister by Train and Rewrite the Stars by Zac Efron and Zendaya. Their next mashup included songs such as Friends by Marshmello and Anne-marie, and All Falls Down by Alan Walker. With guitar and piano accompaniment, the quintet serenaded the audience with their sweet voices and harmonisation.
The next duo, consisting of classmates Liu Enqi and Sarah Wong (19A01C), took the stage with their own acoustic rendition of Colours by Halsey. The audience clapped along to the strong vocals from Sarah and Enqi as they belted out the uplifting tune. The duo had considered many other songs, and experimented with different pitches before finally settling on Colours, as a result of their shared love for Halsey. Arranger of the piece, Enqi, shared, “I got the inspiration for the strumming pattern from a YouTube cover which I found sounded lovely.”
After a short intermission, the next item was put up by Malcolm Ho (19S03N) and Vice-President of RJGE Preston Lim (19S03E). They gave a skillful delivery of the Japanese pop song Kitto Mata Itsuka, which translates to “another time, for sure” – a song about longing and nostalgia – and One, an upbeat song with a groovy rhythm by Depapepe, a Japanese acoustic guitar duo. Their chemistry was evident in the way they complemented each other in their playing, taking turns to play the melody of the song. “The two guitar parts take turns to play the melody at a higher register and a lower pitch, which is like two people taking turns to sing, as they both have their unique voices. And to me, that’s a beautiful thing to think about, because through our guitars, we express ourselves as individuals, just like how singers express themselves as individuals through their voices,” Preston commented.
The Senior Ensemble then performed their remaining four songs, the Bond Medley, Canon in D, Aquellos Ojos Verdes, and Dream a Little Dream of Me. Bond Medley was an adrenaline pumping, dramatic piece that gave a sense of danger and the upcoming challenges, a metaphor for the conflict between Justin and his parents who opposed his music dream, as well as the pressure he faced to prove himself in a music competition. Canon in D on the other hand was a slower piece, and was, according to Melanie, “played to calm Justin’s nerves before the competition”. Aquellos Ojos Verdes (Green Eyes) had a more tranquil and meditative tone, serving as a reminder to the audience that even when obstacles have been overcome, there will still be more to come. The Senior Ensemble then ended their performance on a high note with the light-hearted piece, Dream a Little Dream of Me, which symbolised Justin’s grandfather passing on his music dream to his grandson, and how this dream lives on even though he has left this world.
In between the performances, the emcees did a spectacular job of keeping the audience entertained through impromptu acting and cracking jokes. When the curtains fell after the Senior Ensemble’s performance, shouts of ‘Encore! Encore!’ rose from the audience. In response, the Senior and Junior Ensemble combined to present Take Heart, the final song of the night. This inspiring song about daring to be different and not letting adversity dull one’s hope in life had the audience clapping along to the beat. As the song ended, the audience and ensemble members shouted ‘Take Heart!’ together, drawing the concert to a climactic close.
All in all, Esperanza was an enchanting experience for both the audience and performers. As chairperson Melanie Chuang expressed, “This concert wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication, passion and hard work of all our members. I’m proud of how far we’ve come as an ensemble and I believe everyone gave their all for this concert. At the same time, I’m sad that my time in RJGE has come to an end. It has been a joy performing alongside my batchmates and juniors, and I’m thankful to this ensemble for giving me such wonderful memories to look back upon.” Indeed, the successful concert signalled a promising start to the Junior Ensemble’s journey in Guitar Ensemble and marked a bittersweet ending to the Senior Ensemble’s memorable time in the CCA.