CCA Previews ’22: Chinese Orchestra

By RICO (Y5-6) EXCO ’22

What is a Chinese Orchestra? At first thought, one might think of the loud crashing sounds of cymbals and the shrieking trumpet noises heard during Chinese New Year. Come visit RICO, and you’ll discover that it is so much more! Raffles Institution Chinese Orchestra (Y5-6), or RICO for short, isn’t your typical Chinese orchestra. We are a 60-member orchestra, where all of us are musicians brought together by our passion for making music, especially Chinese music!

Just like any other Chinese Orchestra, RICO comprises five sections:

RICO would be incomplete if we were missing any section, as each section has its own unique characteristic and sound.

Highlights and Competitions

Speaking of performances, like any other Performing Arts CCA, our members have many opportunities to display our skills on the big stage. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, we were still able to perform during events such as our Chinese New Year performance through filming a music video. This year, our unity and efforts shone through during the biennial Singapore Youth Festival (SYF), where we obtained a Distinction, rewarding the countless hours of hard work and practice put in by all of us.

RICO (Y5-6) after performance @ 2021 SYF.

In between SYF years, we hold concerts, giving passionate members the chance to display their talents through arranging and performing solo and ensemble pieces, on top of beautiful orchestral concertos. In 2022, we plan to organise an online musical production, so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of our music from the safety of their homes.

Certainly, traditional Chinese pieces, while captivating, are not sufficient for a two-hour concert. Hence, we also frequently branch out to more modern forms of music, playing tunes familiar to us—pop songs from the likes of Jay Chou and JJ Lin; English pop medleys; and video game soundtracks from games like Genshin Impact!

Overview of rehearsals

Behind every performance, RICO members commit to many hours of hard work and practice. Wanna find out what happens in our CCA sessions? Let us bring you through the RICO experience (virtually)!

Every Monday and Tuesday afternoon, the sleepy corner below the Multi-purpose Hall teems with life and activity. Even before CCA begins, our members gather in small groups to catch up on lectures, do homework, or chat with one another, as we  wait for the CCA room to open. Leading up to the SYF period, we had section games too!

Chuiguan Section playing Sharkie’s Quiz Battle. (Catch the full video on our IG @therjco!!)

Monday rehearsals (5.30 p.m. to 8.15 p.m.) start with self-practice. Members use this hour-long period to run through the pieces the orchestra currently plays. Fortunately, the “self” in “self-practice” does not mean one is truly alone—our section mates are there to help us out at any time.

During Monday practice, every instrument has a dedicated instructor who can provide guidance specific to the instrument. Having years of teaching experience, the instructors quickly understand the challenges we face while practising and offer us strategies to overcome them. Other than merely working on the orchestral scores, some instructors share with us their own music, and frequently provide personal demonstrations to spice things up. They offer interesting insights into instrument-specific techniques and showcase special instruments not commonly found in a Chinese Orchestra, sometimes even teaching us how to play them! In essence, our instructors make making music a hobby, rather than a chore.

The entire orchestra comes together for a combined session with Mr Yang Jiwei, our conductor, on Tuesdays (5.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.). You are probably picturing someone glaring down at you, tormenting you for making even a single mistake in your playing. However, Mr Yang is the opposite of that. In fact, he frequently jokes around with us, and is always kind and encouraging, ensuring a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. Full of charisma and passion, he patiently mentors us towards musical excellence — his pursuit of which has allowed us to consistently achieve Distinction in SYF year after year.

RICO (Y5-6) doing SYF Recording @ RI Performing Arts Centre.

Combined sessions may seem daunting at first, but they often are the most fulfilling — we often get really immersed when the orchestra tides through an emotional passage.

Administrative Details

For those asking: Can I join just to try a new instrument? Can I join with no musical background or if I haven’t played in an orchestra before? The answer  is yes! It will take some time to learn your instrument, but we have kind seniors who will guide you along, and instructors who tutor students of all  levels, from beginners to those in the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra :D Just come for our CCA trials and give it a shot, it won’t be difficult!

RICO (Y5-6)’s IG!! Do give us a follow :D

If you’re interested to find out more, do check out our Instagram page at @therjco. Our page is filled with rehearsal and performance highlights, CCA bonding events and much more. We’ll be posting our very own musical covers soon, do keep a lookout!

Feel free to DM us on our page for any enquiries!! If you’re looking for the best music, the best-est friends and the best-est-est vibes, join our family!

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