Monday, March 2, 2015

International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium 2015

Small group Big dreams

Siong Leng has always had the pioneering spirit to venture into new grounds, be it in interacting with other music genre or in venturing to new areas. So, to the people who know Siong Leng, it is not much of a surprise that Siong Leng decided to organise an international Nanyin Youth Concert and Symposium. A race against time and resources, with a small team, it went ahead in planning and organising the event.

In a short space of time, Siong Leng has invited Nanyin youth groups in China and Taiwan to join in this event. As the host, Siong Leng has to consider accommodation, site for the concert and symposium as well as the artistic creation of the opening night incorporating the different groups to perform together as one show.

As the theme of the symposium was about traditional music, Siong Leng invited the Gaguk Inheritance Centre of Korea and Ono Gagaku Kai of Japan to come and perform. Music is the main medium of communication where the verbal might hit obstacles.

The very same small team of organisers were going about organising as well as preparing to perform. Thanks to supporters and volunteers, there was just enough manpower to manage all aspects of the event, from meeting the visitors at the airport to seeing that they settle down comfortably in the hotel and rushing them for rehearsals.

The main groups arriving on 22 Jan 2015 went straight to Drama Centre after checking into the hotel. There was something like twenty-four hours before the show! The performance on 23 Jan night, entitled “The New Romance of the Lychee and the Mirror” was to be performed by all participating groups to this event. The beauty of Nanyin is that many of the very traditional music and songs, passed down from ancient time, have been preserved and regardless of where the Nanyin groups might be, be it in China, Taiwan or Singapore, or for that matter any country, they remain the same. In this respect, the participating performers were ready and would only need some final adjustments to mix the new additions of the Chinese orchestra in this performance, and the sequence of steps and positions. Siong Leng took another bold step in adding the operatic part depicting Chen San Wu Niang in modern times with the rest of the other performers dressed in ancient time.

The audience, ranging from Mr. Tian Qing from Beijing to Mrs Kenneth Dean were all praises on the bold move that seemed to weave the story so smoothly.

To add into the air of ancient music at the start, Japan’s Gagaku Kai and Korea’s Gagok opened the show with their very traditional music that are very rarely heard in Singapore.

The three members of the Japan Ono Gagaku Kai had only a limited time to be in Singapore for this event. They flew in on the overnight flight arriving in the morning. After joining the welcome lunch, they went straight to Drama Centre for their rehearsal. And on the final night on 25 Jan 15, after their performance in the Soul Journey, they had to rush to the airport to catch their flight back. A tough journey for these performers who were here in Singapore for the first time, they have added a different dimension to the show. We hope that they would come back again, perhaps with the complete troupe.

On the second day, 24 Jan 15, the Symposium on Traditional Music was held at the Concert Hall of SOTA at 3pm. There was a panel of speakers from China, Taiwan and Singapore. Prof Kenneth Dean, the new Head of Chinese Studies in the National University of Singapore was the moderator. Unknown to most of us, Professor Dean has known Nanyin for a long time. He and Mr. Chen of Quanzhou were surprised to meet at this forum, reconnecting back from their first meeting some 30 years ago.

It was an interesting exchange of ideas from the panel speakers. During the break, the participants had the opportunity to watch the performance by Gagok Inheritance Centre and Ono Gagaku Kai. When it came to questions and comments from the participants, many interesting questions and views were raised. The session went into overtime and many were left having to keep their burning questions for the next time. It was a good burning start.

In the evening, it was a Nanyin Gathering night where all visiting Nanyin groups show their best performance. Every performance was impressive.

The grand finale was the banquet at the RWS Ballroom. Unknown to most people, the participating groups were at the RWS in the morning to prepare for the grand finale performance. The most challenging must be the item entitled Soul Journey. Based on its original composition, the visiting groups were invited to participate in various part of the Soul Journey. The most challenging could well be that of the Korean and Japanese group where they were to jam their part into the complete piece. Soul Journey already has its other components such as the Tabla. It was one huge fusion with all participants trying to bring some “sense” into the jam. The visitors, especially the Japanese and Koreans worked hard to come up with a match to the existing piece. The result was, fantastic! The audience could not believe that they could do this within one day and doing it so well! This must have capped the climax of the three day event, especially, to the visiting groups who worked hard to bring finesse to their performances.

Kudos to the visitors for their participation and performance showing what the young people could achieve with this ancient Nanyin. And to the small team of organisers and performers at Siong Leng, they pull out all stops to achieve another huge success, with yet another feather in their cap. Vice Chairman, Pheck Geok said that Siong Leng has achieved what it has set out to do. She was appreciative on the efforts put in by Siong Leng members and supporters and volunteers. And the great support given by the music and Nanyin titans of China and Taiwan.

When asked from across the ocean, Prof Dean replied, “I truly enjoyed the performances and thought the level of muscianship, the quality of the staging and art direction, and some of the comments of the experts were all at a very high level.”

To the Japanese and Koreans, they were very impressed by the high degree of professionalism and skills shown by Siong Leng members and the visiting groups. When asked if they could like to come to Singapore again for a similar event, the response was a resounding Yes!

[Acknowledgements: Photos thanks to Luke. More pictures can be seen at his facebook photo album]

2015..International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium..Day1
2015..International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium..Day2
2015..International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium Day 3