CCA Previews ’20: Chinese Orchestra

By Lin Leyi (20S03H), Chairperson, and Alastair Soh (20S03D), Vice-Chairperson 

Presenting to you, RJCO! 

Lights on, baton up, deep breath and go. 

Honestly, we get it. Just by the look of it, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell if we were rebellious waiters and waitresses who escaped from a Chinese Restaurant (RJCR), or… musicians from a Chinese Orchestra (RJCO). Yes, you might still be holding the misconception of CO music being filled with loud cymbals and trumpet-like noises, but we promise you that what CO offers is much more than what you see—or rather hear—on the surface level. We are a big family of musicians who enjoy make 笛lightful* music together, but more so, also friends who 笛eeply* care for each other and have fun together.

Our orchestra, like any other CO, comprises of 5 sections (Tanbo, Huqin, Chuiguan, Daji, Cello Bass) where each section has their own unique timbre and requires different techniques. Though we often jokingly compete between sections to see which section is the best, we all know that every section plays an integral role in the orchestra. 

Akin to how the different sections with vastly different sounds come together to bring various pieces alive, it is the differences in strengths and talents of our members that make us better as a whole. Joining an orchestra fosters this sense of camaraderie: we learn to look out and listen to one another, and we learn to make adjustments so the entire entity can succeed as one. That in itself is indeed the beauty of an orchestra, and what deeply instills the importance of teamwork in all of us. 

RJCO after Promethean Ceremony 2019.

While many may think that what Chinese Orchestra plays is limited to traditional Chinese music (i.e. those you hear during Chinese New Year), that cannot be further from the truth—we do explore other genres such as pop music! 

Events we usually take part in include the school’s Chinese New Year celebration (I mean come on, we’re CHINESE orchestra) and Open House. In 2019, we were even given the opportunity to perform as part of the National Day celebrations in school, and showcased pieces like 听见下雨的声音 by Jay Chou and Home by Kit Chan! 

Batch of 2020 after performing for National Day celebration in the PAC.

Apart from those smaller-scale performances, we also alternate between our own concert and the local Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Arts Showcase every two years. We are proud to say that we achieved a Distinction in the SYF in 2019, and that 2020 will be an even more exciting year for RJCO—we will be holding our biennial concert where more of the orchestra’s capabilities will be showcased. Hence, do stay tuned for more information and make sure to show your greatest support! (Or join us, so you can be part of the concert) 

While practice sessions may sometimes still get stale and tiring, especially during exam periods, our conductor often coaches us with some weird quotes that will never fail to make us burst into laughter. For instance, “Watermelon, apple, pear, Singapore” to make us follow the rhythm of the piece when we were practising for the National Day performance last year, and “Okay people, we’ll start from Section E. E for Ebola!” 

CCA sessions are held twice a week, from 5.30pm to 8.15pm on Mondays, and 5.30pm to 7.30pm on Tuesdays, though timings might change during peak season. While these timings entail reaching home at 10pm, that is a small price to pay for all the fun we have during practices. On Mondays, we hold our sectionals where instructors who specialise in various instruments come down and coach our members. During the 1 hour 15 minute self-practise session we have before instructors arrive, we help each other in practicing our parts, practise our basics, and finally sneak in some catching up after we are done with all that, allowing us to forge strong bonds with our sectionmates. 

On Tuesdays, we hold our combined practice sessions where our conductor, Mr Yang Ji Wei, a well-known musician and the co-founder of The TENG Ensemble, comes down and leads us in rehearsing the pieces as a full orchestra. Thanks to his humour and friendliness, combined sessions are almost always filled with laughter and joy. 

Batch of 2020 supporting our batchmates performing for Raffles Alumni Chinese Orchestra (RACO).

RJCO is certainly a tight-knitted family. Despite the late practices, we still enjoy batch dinners together on the rooftop of Junction 8; while some of us venture into external orchestras to broaden our horizons, the rest show them our support by watching the concerts they perform in. In addition, an adorable tradition that our batch has is to celebrate every member’s birthday with a board filled with messages and a cake. The care that we show each other is certainly one that makes us look forward to CCA even after a tiring day at school. 

Just some Batch Dinner things.
Our Laren’s (Karen and Leyi) joint birthday celebration during a committee meeting.

It is also this warmth that changed the minds of many of our “helpers” for SYF 2019 to join us as actual members of the Orchestra. Although many of the current members would have had experience with their instruments, we welcome those without any musical background as well, for it is the love for music and the willingness to learn that we value more. In RJCO, we laugh when mistakes are mistakes are made, and then learn and grow from them together. 

Furthermore, the annual March chalet has been an unbroken tradition for RJCO and is bound to be one of the high points of every member’s time here. During the chalet, the orchestra gets to enjoy fun games and activities together in the daytime, followed by Fright Night (at night), where the chalet is turned into a haunted house! However, that does not mark the end of the day for most of us, as we like to pull all-nighters playing card games, talking, or even taking strolls at the park at 3am.

Members playing cards while eating tangyuan at midnight!

While it might be the love for music that brought us together, we believe that it is the bond created and memories forged that keeps us together. To us, what the 乐 in 华乐 stands for is not only music, but also joy. Hence, do join our big family, and get rea笛 to embark on this memorable musical journey with us :D 

*笛 = “di”

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