By Leong Jun Wei (23A01D) and Iman Talia Zahiri Han-En (24S03E)
On 6 April, Raffles Guitar Ensemble took part in the biennial Singapore Youth Festival. The Stamford Training Room was filled with palpable anxiety as the members of RJGE gathered for one last practice as an ensemble before boarding the bus to SOTA, their performance venue.
Comprising of 24 Year 6s—with only 5 of them having prior experience—and 4 Year 5s, the group of guitarists were visibly worried if they were able to perform at a standard worthy of the elusive Certificate of Distinction. “I think everyone is stressed about maintaining the SYF legacy that our seniors had left behind,” Renee Lim Xin Ni (23S03E), the Chairperson of RJGE, revealed.
After giving some final reminders about their playing, Mr. Munees, one of the Ensemble’s conductors, provided some words of comfort and encouragement. “Regardless of the outcome, it is a proud achievement to go on stage together and this should be a joyful occasion for you all”, he summarised, urging the members to enjoy their last performance together as a batch.
RJGE practicing for SYF.
As the ensemble entered the chilly SOTA auditorium, they were met with the familiar faces of family members and batchmates that had made their way down to support the players. Their presence definitely encouraged each and every member as the ensemble burst into a bright, clear melody.
The repertoire performed consisted of Gavotte (Allegro moderato) from Concerto Grosso in D minor, Op. 6 No. 10, HWV 328 (G. F. Handel, Arr. H. Niibori) and Memories of Albeniz (Isaac Albeniz, Arr. Balraj Gopal).
Gavotte, with its artistic and carefree nature, had audience members unconsciously swaying to its uplifiting beat that was a key characteristic of 18th century folk dance. It stood in stark juxtaposition to the solemn introductory passage, “Córdoba”, of the ensemble’s second piece, Memories of Albeniz. Memories of Albeniz, a medley of songs by Isaac Albéniz, was personally arranged by the ensemble’s conductor, Balraj Gopal.
What started out slow and serious took a sharp turn into the fast and rapid passage of “Asturias (Leyenda)”, showcasing the technical prowess and flexibility of the ensemble. “We hope that through this type of contrast, we can bring out the artistic range of what our Guitar Ensemble can express,” Preeraruj Kittichaidamrong (23S03G), Vice Chairperson of RJGE says.
In a matter of 7 minutes, the performance that took months to perfect and execute came to an end. As the SOTA concert hall burst into applause, the members of RJGE turned to the audience and bowed with bright smiles on their faces, clearly having heeded Mr Munees’ advice and enjoyed every moment of their last performance as a batch.
As the members stepped out of the concert hall, they were met with schoolmates and family members who congratulated them on their performance, before taking a picture together to commemorate the journey they had completed together.
Raffles Guitar Ensemble after their SYF performance.
When asked about the performance, Kang Yi Hui (23S06E), a member of the ensemble, admits that she “was glad that we [the ensemble] gave our all but I’m not sure if it was enough…”. She was not alone in her sentiments, as surrounding members nodded and murmured in agreement.
Just 4 days later, on 10 April, the members gathered in the canteen, awaiting the results with bated breath. As they received news that the ensemble had achieved the Certificate of Distinction for their presentation, screams and cheers of delight rang through the canteen.
Yi Hui revealed through tears that she “was relieved and glad that our efforts over the year paid off”. Yoon Le Ann (23S03O) shared a similar view, saying that she was “very surprised, pleasantly of course!” about the results.
“If I could relive the past 9 months with my batchmates again, I would do so in a heartbeat!” she added—a sentiment that will surely be shared by her fellow members of Guitar Ensemble.