By Abhyuday Kushwaha, Alexander Loh Yi Kai, Ang Cheng Kiat Reyes and Da Zhengyu
“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”Confucius
RI (Y5-6) Chinese Orchestra (or RICO for short) is musical first, and Chinese second. Based on the Western symphonic orchestra, it is made up of five sections: the soulful Winds (吹管) carrying the overtones, the vibrant Plucked Strings (弹波) blending the harmonies, the Bowed Strings (胡琴) unifying the melody, the ever-present Cellobass (低音弦) bringing a deep yet playful undertone, and the bombastic Percussion (打击乐) forming the heart of the Orchestra.
Formed in 1982 when the Pre-U section of RI split off to form Raffles Junior College, RICO (Y5-6) traces its roots back to the formation of RI’s first Chinese Orchestra in 1975, by headmaster Eugene Wijeysingha. Over the years, our orchestra has developed and advanced new compositional styles, musical tastes, and a varied set of pieces. We have also collaborated with our sister orchestra, RICO Y1-4, for a concert in 2019. Some of our members and alumni play in the Raffles Alumni Chinese Orchestra, with many alumni having also gone on to make notable contributions to the local Chinese Orchestral music scene, most notably the award-winning composer Wang Chenwei.
At the helm is our conductor, Mr Yang Jiwei, whose tenure has seen our orchestra soar to greater heights, producing consistent distinctions at the Singapore Youth Festival and holding impressive performances at the Singapore Conference Hall and the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. As a multiple award-winning sheng performer, Mr Yang read music at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and he has since gone on to receive many accolades and awards in recognition of his work in promoting Chinese music and culture in Singapore. He is currently conducting in the Chinese Orchestras at Raffles Institution (Y1-4), Raffles Institution (Y5-6), and Raffles Girls’ School.
Recently, the Orchestra demonstrated its versatility by producing a digital concert, Sounds of Home, which was live-streamed on YouTube. A piece from the recording, Kreta Ayer, was replayed at the National Day Celebrations.
This versatility was brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has paradoxically brought the orchestra closer together. In 2021, members of the orchestra came together to do mini-productions, bringing A Whole New World from Aladdin, a Christmas medley for a Virtual Orchestra series and Dance of the Golden Snake (金蛇狂舞) for Chinese New Year 2022.
This year, members enjoyed more physical bonding experiences, such as weekly dinners, outings to Changi Airport & Jewel, Sentosa and Pasir Ris Park, as well as games like Exploding Kittens and Werewolf. Additionally, we still carried out virtual bonding events, with members having Discord calls late into the night, playing, studying, or just chatting.
Given our smaller size and cosy atmosphere, we involve all members in planning activities and events. Members also often give each other encouragement cards, study together, and plan their own outings to bond in groups. New members can expect to be brought in to help plan events in a way that includes their vision or ideas and perform in SYF 2023 and concerts.
To quote our conductor Mr Yang, RICO (Y5-6) is a CCA that can be summed up in 5 words – youth, passion, dedication, finesse, and family. While we may all be individuals, with each of us coming from very different backgrounds, it is our love and passion for music that unites us as a tightly-knit family of young musicians. Every single one of our members forms an integral part of our orchestra, and our culture of mutual support and care ensures that everyone is valued and no one is left behind. If what you’re looking for is a warm and inviting CCA, then we’ve got you covered. On the other hand, if you simply want to put your musical talent to practice, we’ve got your back too.
If you have had experience with playing Chinese instruments or Western strings, or you can pick up new instruments with ease, you’re welcome to join us for the music or join us for the vibes. Either way, what’s for sure is that you’ll be meeting great friends, making great music, and creating unforgettable shared experiences on Monday and Tuesday evenings from 5.30pm.