The weather was perfect, the music was good, and the crowd that filled almost every inch of the lush space surrounding the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage wanted more, even as the voice of up-and-coming vocalist Amni Musfirah trailed away at the end of the encore performance of what is arguably the nation’s favourite song, “Home”.

The two-day concert event, entitled “Temasek Presents Jubilee at the Botanics”, was held from May 30 to 31 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens to an enthusiastic crowd. It was fronted by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) on the first day, and the Singapore Symphonic Orchestra (SSO) on the second.

The event, sponsored by Temasek Holdings, was organised as part of Temasek’s 40th anniversary, and builds upon last year’s collaboration between Temasek and the two orchestras. It is also an SG50 initiative to celebrate the nation’s 50th birthday.

Orchestras walk down memory lane

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The SCO took the spotlight on Saturday, May 30, under the baton of conductor Moses Gay.

Playing a selection of local favourites, the SCO took the audience down memory lane with a medley of TV series theme songs and a rearrangement by composer Tan Kah Yong called the “Unforgettable ’90s”.

The day came to a nostalgia-tinged end after a performance of the popular National Day Parade (NDP) song, Home, sung by vocalist and host of the day, Tay Kewei. It was a moment to behold as many sang along and reminisced in what was probably one of the most iconic songs in Singapore’s history.

The next day, the SSO took over to perform musical classics such as Henry Mancini’s Moon River and Les Miserables’ I Dreamed A Dream. It was a stunning display of mastery as the orchestra wowed with its arrangements and dexterity in executing the complicated scores.

The SSO, who played under the baton of associate conductor Joshua Tan, was also graced by the presence of prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, who arrived in a surprise visit with his wife and Temasek chief executive officer, Ho Ching.

Joshua said to Popspoken that PM Lee’s attendance gave him and his orchestra a boost.

“The response was also unbelievable. There was also a lot of energy from the audience as it was one of the largest turnouts we’ve ever had. Having a response from the audience was also a highlight for us,” said Joshua.

As we sat down with our picnic mats at the Botanic Gardens watching the performance, we were heartened to watch the SSO collaborate with the Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO), giving budding youth talent the chance to perform on the same space with the professionals.

Playing with the pros

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Gloria Parn, 20, Erlene Koh, 19 and Katherine Lau, 14, were chosen out of a total of 180 members of the SNYO to play in the last three songs of the concert series with the SSO, which was I Dreamed a Dream, Count on Me Singapore and Home.

Pang Siu Yuin, the deputy general manager of the SNYO Integration Office, told us that the girls were chosen for their exceptional playing skills, perfect attendance, as well as their exemplary conduct.

Popspoken found out Gloria and Erlene have both been accepted to study in the Cleveland Institute of Music in the United States, while Katherine is a Secondary 2 student at Methodist Girls School.

Gloria said that the trio were only given scores to the music pieces one week before the concert, and only had the chance to practise in one full dress rehearsal with the main band the day before.

However, Gloria said that it helped that the pieces were “not challenging” and “manageable.” She is thankful for the privilege to perform with the pros.

The crowd: first-timers but music-lovers

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Attendees young and old alike were seen settled on mats placed atop the lush grounds of the Botanic Gardens, or the stone benches ringing the waters of the Symphony Stage.

Some had arrived as early as 4 pm, (two hours before the start of the show!) just to make sure that they get the best seats available in the house. Now, that is dedication.

Attendees we spoke to told us that they had heard about the event from the range of online media channels such as Facebook, YouTube or media partners, and wanted to come down for the event despite them not having heard the SCO or SSO play before.

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24 year old Fransiskus Bhismobroto, who was at the Gardens with his mother and brother on May 31: “I heard about the event online, and am looking forward to everything.”

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Tow Siew Pheng, who said it was their first time listening to the SSO, had also heard about the event online on YouTube, through Facebook. She was there with her husband and two children.

Others, like 23-year-old Jeremy Tan, a Singapore Management University (SMU) undergraduate, praised them for the spectacular performance after the show.

Even so, most of them said that they enjoyed themselves and would want to listen to them again. And why not, when music transcends all boundaries? Classical or otherwise, it was the heart and soul of the event that was felt by attendees and the many songs that brought attendees back to the heydays were a throwback to memorable events and cherished memories.

That is the power of music.

Photo credit: Temasek

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