By Fiona Ting Zi Ying (24S06A) and Low Jing Kai (24S03H)
Photographs courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society
Filled with a variety of snazzy songs from famous films, A Tempo 2023, Raffles Symphonic Band’s annual concert, was a feast for the ears. This was the Band’s 30th A Tempo and the first A Tempo to take place in an external venue ever since the pandemic.
This year’s A Tempo theme was ‘Lights, Camera, Action!’, which hinted at the famous film soundtracks the Band would perform.
The first piece of the night was a wind ensemble piece, “Wind Quintet No.1 in B Flat Major” by Franz Danzi. It was a whimsical yet sophisticated piece, containing both energetic and mellow parts, showcasing the unique timbres of each of the instruments.
The piece’s more expressive parts were highlighted by the ethereal sound of the flute, the bright sound of the French horn, the sharpness of the clarinet, the warmth of the bassoon and the oboe’s robust sound. The piece was lighthearted yet reflective, setting the mood for the rest of the night.
Next up was “Starfall” by James Vilseck, presented by the percussion ensemble. The piece was a slow and delicate piece, with focus placed on the gentle yet bright sounds of the xylophones, vibraphone and piano, which were stressed when the piece reached its climax.
The accompaniment by the darker and more sombre tones of the marimbas let the audience picture themselves out in an open field, staring at a starry night, thus evoking feelings of nostalgia and tranquillity.
This performance was followed up by the saxophone ensemble presenting “On Air” by Hiroki Takahashi and “Give – Remix” by Joe Hisaishi, arranged by Hiroki Takahashi. The first piece had a playful introduction which gave way to a more serious and melancholic section before transitioning back to its livelier tune. While maintaining the piece’s jazzy style, the saxophone players’ dynamic sound made listeners feel like they were floating in the clouds.
The second piece, as its name suggests, is a remix of well-known snippets from various Joe Hisaishi songs, providing once again another journey for listeners to be transported to different fantasy worlds, especially for those who are familiar with Joe Hisaishi’s works. The players certainly did a wonderful job conveying the emotion required for the more moving parts and also injected into the piece the energy needed for the jauntier segments.
The clarinet ensemble then showcased “Passion Continent” by Taro Hakase, which is the theme song of a documentary series of the same name, which features the lives of people from various professions who are dedicated to their jobs.
The piece started off with a slow jazzy melody, with its focus placed on one clarinet. The mood then changed completely when the piece segued into its Spanish music-inspired motif, concluding with all the clarinets breaking out in an inspirational tune, emphasised by the many emotional highs of the melody. Then, as the music became calmer, a clarinet solo began once again, its sound mimicking that of a person singing. The clarinettists then lined themselves up at the front of the stage, ending the song with a combined burst of playing.
Raffles Institution Military Band (Y1-4) Percussion members, along with the Symphonic Band percussion ensemble, were featured in the next piece, “Marching Season” by Yiannis Chryssomallis. The piece was composed as a contemporary, New Age piece, and meant to capture the vibrancy of youth.
The piece began with a rhythmic introduction reminiscent of waves on a beach, accented by the light, smooth sound of the xylophones, marimbas and vibraphones. The rain stick provided the icing on top of the cake, with its sound emulating that of flowing water. Just like “Starfall”, the melody felt like a lullaby being played, which made the listeners resonate with the same wistful desire to return to one’s youth.
The song had the elements of traditional marching band tunes which blended well with its more contemporary and unconventional melodies. As the piece came to its end, the players walked off the stage, ending the piece with a lone snare drum playing, evoking feelings of melancholy and letting go.
Not to forget our roots, the Band then showcased its special arrangement of “Bunga Sayang”, originally composed by local singer-songwriter Dick Lee for the film ‘7 Letters’. The feature of the piece was a piano solo written by double bass player Loewe Lim (23S07B) herself.
The piece evoked imagery of Singapore in the days of yesteryear, though a touch of modernity was still maintained. The feeling of being transported back in time was emulated not only by the sentimental melody of the flute, but also the rhythmic tapping and scraping of the woodblock. The soft soulfulness of the piano wrapped up by the warm tones of the saxophones provided a comforting atmosphere, allowing the audience to reminisce about better, bygone days.
After the intermission, it was time for the pieces played by the entire Band.
The first piece the Band presented was the Wizard of Oz medley, arranged by James Barnes. The piece opened up with an enchanting rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” before transitioning into a more charming and jovial tune, complemented by the trumpets and trombones.
The train whistle and cheering from the Band members enhanced the atmosphere, as if signalling the start of a journey. The slide whistle was also used in great effect to convey the song’s mischievous tone. The woodwinds, tuba and percussion were given their time to shine during the quiet yet animated sections which soon segued back into the mesmerising variation of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, ending the piece at an emotional and satisfying climax.
The next two pieces presented were “Legend of 1900”, composed for the movie of the same name and “Maple Tree Rag”, by Scott Joplin, with the band being conducted by student conductor Alicia Wong (23S03B). “Legend of 1900” was a calm and ponderous piece, which showcased a saxophone solo and deftly conveyed feelings of reflection and recollection.
“Maple Leaf Rag” was a more upbeat and cheerful piece of music, with a steady beat being set by the basses, providing a light and relaxed mood that lifted the spirits of the audience.
Next up was “Winnie the Pooh” by the Sherman Brothers, which immersed the concert hall with a classic lively Disney atmosphere and transported listeners right back to their childhood. The song picked up speed as it progressed, with occasional pauses before resuming its ascent, giving it a fun and groovy feel.
The light and jazzy rhythms by the percussion section combined with excellent solos from the saxophones, piano, and trumpet brought out the spirited essence of the music, which was complemented by its spontaneous ending.
A variation of “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Joe Hisaishi was up next. It started off tense and brooding, with the rising and dipping chord progressions of the brasses and timpani providing a gothic yet adventurous feel to the music.
The introduction abruptly ended as the haunting yet familiar chorus of Howl’s Moving Castle echoed through the hall before the music settled into a more triumphant theme, highlighted by the bright sounds of the flutes. The song then moves into a more sensitive section featuring the woodwinds before ending with its familiar theme.
Before the final piece was performed, the emcees thanked Mr Lim for his guidance and support throughout the journey leading up to A Tempo, with a token of appreciation, a beautiful bouquet, handed to him by the Band EXCO.
“Rocky” by Bill Conti was the final piece of the night, a song composed for the sports drama movie of the same name. The song began with a strong fanfare by the brasses, which was repeated until it evolved into an electrifying rock rhythm.
The energetic percussions and electric guitar complemented each other to create an atmosphere which was both rousing and inspiring. The saxophones and high brasses also showcased their jazzy and hip playing which had the audience’s blood pumping.
But before the night could come to an end, shouts for an encore were demanded by the eager audience. This was something the Band had expected, and after enthusiastic cheering from the audience, the Band performed the true final piece of the night, “Takarajima”, by Hirotaka Izumi and arranged by Toshio Mashima.
The song started out with a percussion break, before transitioning into a rousing and inspiring tune. Following that was a moving saxophone solo which gave way to another unique percussion segment involving the clapping of the Band members. The song then ended with a combined resonant burst by all the instruments, ending the night on a high note.
As Mr Lim beckoned the various sections to stand and bow to the audience, resounding cheers hollered throughout the hall, an indication of the impressive performance the Band had put up that night.
After the final piece, the audience was reluctant to leave, but alas, all good things have to come to an end. As they made their way out, it was clear the performance had left a deep impression on them, with excited discussions breaking out amongst the audience as they raved about their favourite pieces.
“I really love how the climax of “Howl’s Moving Castle” came unexpectedly and “Starfall” was really unique. The overall performance was really wonderful,” commented audience member Ethan Yap (24S06K).
It is clear that all parties involved, be it performers or stagehands alike, had put in a lot of time and effort into their performance. As evidenced by this year’s stellar showcase, there is no doubt that next year’s A Tempo will be just as thrilling. See you then!
Interested to know about the efforts that made A Tempo possible? Read A Tempo 2023: Behind the Scenes for the Behind-the-Scenes coverage!
Watch interviews of the Band members, stagehands and teachers-in-charge here:
Raffles Symphonic Band
Cai Zhengxi (Vicky)
Hiap Xin Yi Darleene^
Low Rui Shyan
Alicia Wong Xinyi
Cao Xi En
Reanne Sim En Ru
Wang Kang En Ethan^
Wong Weng Lock Nathan
Anderson Teh (Zhang Ande)
Anzawa Makoto Rey Kwan^
Gabrielle Lim Hong En
Husnatul Nasueha Bin Abdul Jaleel
Joshua Kyle Lam
Loh Yu Chen
Nestor Nebojska Novakovic^
Sophie Tan Hwee San
Yasmin Binte Noh
Ethan Ong Yee Tern
Jamie Soh Kai Lin
Yoon Seo Jun
Geri Tan Yi Xin
Lim Shan Xing Marco
Yuan Hao Zhe
Cheung Tsz Yin
Chia Jin Shuen Jeremiah
Way Yan Win^
Cadence Zhang Yuxing
Randall Lee Kang Yang
Cheryl Tay Chung Ling
Tan Jing Han Jordan^
Loewe Lim Li Tong
Chan Heng Yi
Chin Kien Khai
Deng Shao Xuan
^ refers to Alumni players