Thursday, July 25, 2013

7 Jul 2013: The Festival Competition

Wienner Musikverein.

On 7 July 2013 (Sun), it was the moment that our orchestra has been working towards for. Hours, weeks and months that have been spent on good practising have been put in so that each of us can do our very best to perform in Vienna's magnificent Wiener Musikverein. The National University of Singapore Symphony Orchestra was taking part in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival Competition 2013 in Vienna.

The concert hall, the Wiener Musikverein, contains the world-famous Golden Hall. It is the centre of Viennese musical culture. It is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world.

If there is a prize that I was hoping to secure, it will be the opportunity to play music in this world-famous Golden Hall. I am thankful that I have done so, and this shall be my prize.

Before the festival competition, our orchestra had a rehearsal in the morning. The most exciting part about making music is the act of surrendering to whatever music that may be produced. There is an uncertainty of what will really happen during the actual performance although we may have some clues. Even during rehearsal, I cannot exactly imagine how we would sound during the competition. I could at best use the rehearsals to prepare myself mentally, emotionally, physically and so forth.

Many thanks for the loan of double basses.

Loading the instruments up and down the bus took some effort and it was all worthwhile. When our orchestra reached Wiener Musikverein, there was a representative from the festival who welcomed our orchestra, and directed us according to the respective holding areas to wait for our turn to perform for the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival Competition. While moving the instruments, I had some opportunities to get to know the festival representative who was in charge of our group. She has been very helpful to allow us to feel at ease while waiting for our turn to perform.

It was only a matter of less than a few hours that our orchestra had spent at Wiener Musikverein yet the entire experience there felt like memories that would last for eternity. Perhaps I was having positive memories of the entire experience despite feeling a bit anxious, though it was soon eased, while waiting for our turn to perform for the competition.

It was a pleasant surprise to meet a fellow double bassist, YR, at Wiener Musikverein. He happened to be in Vienna to take a flight back to Singapore and he came by to watch the competition upon realizing that he has friends taking part in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival 2013. Many thanks to YR for lending a double bass stopper to one of the double bass players in our orchestra.

The moment came for us to perform. Perhaps playing music is like making an offering with love (for music)? That was how I had felt then. The acoustics of Wiener Musikverein is remarkable. I could hear my playing on the double bass well. By the end of our performance, I sensed that the members of the audience and the jury have been touched by the music that we have performed. Somehow, the favourite appeared to be "Dance of the Yao".

Wiener Musikverein.
Courtesy of Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival 2013.

I felt thankful that there were several friends and family members of a few of the orchestra members who were present to support us. Their encouragements and support mean a lot for us performers in a foreign land.

After we have presented our performance at the festival competition, our orchestra was given the opportunity to discreetly be seated in the audience seats to listen to the performance by another orchestra. I had the privilege to do so after I have kept the double bass that I was using and load it up the bus. These are the behind-the-scene work that many would not have known. If you had been listening to the festival competition that day, I hope you were not surprised to find an empty seat next to you surprisingly being taken up by a double bassist without her instrument in her hand!

When it was time to pack the remaining instruments to leave Wiener Musikverein, the members of our orchestra must have fallen deeply in love with Wiener Musikverein and Vienna itself that we were taking countless number of photographs at the location to capture our moments of excitement and zeal. To document that our orchestra has taken part in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival, our orchestra took a group photograph at the front of Wiener Muskikverein. This shall be a memory to last for a lifetime.

Photo courtesy of Terence Low.
Musikvereinsplatz 1
1010 Vienna

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Read: Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits

Image source:

Title: Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits
Author: Philip A. Fisher
Publisher: Wiley, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

This year, I set for myself a challenge to learn more about value-investing which is relatively new to me. It is through learning that we each grow better as a person. To learn more about this subject, I set myself a goal to read at least four books that are related to value investing this year. This book by Philip A. Fisher became the third book related to value investing that I have read. The choice came about because it was a book that was available for loan from one of the public libraries that is located near my home.

This book was first published in 1958. Given that this work was written a few decades before I was born, I thought it was pretty accessible for a book that was published in the 1950s. While it took me a while to get used to the writing style, there was wisdom in every chapter from Philip A. Fisher. It was touching to read the author's son Ken Fisher writing the extended preface and introduction for the edition of the book that I was reading.

This book offers jewels of wisdom for people who are interested in the qualitative aspect of analyzing and identifying whether a company is an outstanding one. The author also offers an investment plan that was derived from his personal experiences. This book also discusses the method of "scuttlebutt".

Perhaps the only weakness of this book is that Fisher's method of "scuttlebutt" may not be easily achievable for the individual retail investor. This is so since "scuttlebutt" requires talking to employees, key staff and management of the company that one intends to invest in.

Overall, I think this book has merits in presenting wise ideas related to investing in quality companies. Considering that it was first published in 1958, I think that the author has written a book whose relevance still stood the tests of time. It is no surprise that Warren Buffett "was impressed by" Philip A. Fisher and his ideas.

Please also see this review which summarises some of the key essence of the book, and this book by Fisher is worth many good reads:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summa Cum Laude Festival Opening Ceremony 2013

St. Stephen Cathedral.

In July 2013, I have the great privilege and pleasure to participate in the seventh Summa Cum Laude International Music Festival as one of the members of the National University of Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

This global festival aims to realize two main objectives: 
1) To provide a unique platform for the world's most talented youth choirs, bands and orchestra to perform in Vienna's magnificent Musikverein
2) To set new standards in the festival arena.

The SCL Festival Opening Ceremony was held at St. Stephen's Cathedral on 6 July 2013. The Cathedral is the most important religious building in Vienna and is a symbol of Austrian identity. The Cathedral is built of limestone. I learnt that this cathedral bears witness to countless historical events in Vienna and Austria. I was personally mesmerised by its Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

Before the start of the Festival Opening Ceremony, our orchestra explored the nearby areas of the cathedral. We saw participants from other participating groups. One of the groups from South Africa was singing in high spirits outside the cathedral. I was impressed by the group's unity and high morale. Everyone was carrying a flat in their hands. 

When the Festival Opening Ceremony was about to start, all the participants were ushered into the cathedral. Members of the public who had wished to witness the ceremony could do so by entering via the main entrance of the cathedral.

The magnificent organ of St. Stephen's Cathedral.
Photo courtesy of Swee Jin.

Our orchestra's President giving an introduction of the orchestra.
Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

During the Festival Opening Ceremony, the organisers welcomed all the participants. Representatives from each of the participating groups took turns to introduce their respective groups. Participants were treated to several performances in the cathedral. I remembered one of the representatives from the festival's organising committee encouraging the participants to interact with one another. During the ceremony, we were led to learn to sing the festival's anthem. So we sang, "Musica Nostra Anima, Summa Cum Laude Pro Musica...".

Festival's anthem. Photo courtesy of Swee Jin.

Interior of St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna.
Photo by Festival organiser.

After the Festival Opening Ceremony, we travelled to Vienna's City Hall to have dinner at Wiener Rathauskeller. This place is known for serving Vienna cuisine. We met participants from the other participating groups at Wiener Rathauskeller. The organisers have been thoughtful to welcome all the participants with an opening ceremony followed by a dinner. Admittedly, I was a little more on the reserved end and interacted very minimally with participants from other groups. Thankfully, this sense of reservation seemed to ease a bit towards the end of the festival.

Interestingly, because it was summer in Vienna in July 2013, the skies looked bright even after we finished our dinner at 7 p.m. I took time to appreciate the wonders of having a late sunset. There was no sunset yet! There skies are clearly bright! Dinner and the earlier opening ceremony seemed to have lifted everyone's moods. Everyone appeared excited for the rest of the festival that would come. Our orchestra took a joint group photograph with participating members of the Singapore Management University Symphonia.

Before we knew it, we were reminded that it was time to travel back to the hotel. There was a rehearsal that evening when we were back in the hotel.

Vienna's City Hall.
Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

Many thanks to the organisers of the festival for a memorable and meaningful festival opening ceremony.

Please also see:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Xue Gang - The Fire of Youth

Xue Gang - The Fire of Youth 
6 August 2013 (Tue)
7.30 p.m. 
Kallang Theatre
1 Stadium Walk
Nearest MRT station: Stadium

Sin Sai Hong Hokkien Opera Troupe
Xiao Kee Lin Hokkien Opera Troupe
Sio Gek Leng Hokkien Opera Troupe
Aixin Lovely Opera House
Bukit Panjang Government High School Dance Ensemble
Xinghai Arts Centre Martial Arts Troupe
Yilin Music Studio Choir Gordon Choy Aerobatics
Bedok CC Lion Dance
Official Conductor: Wang Ya Hui
Composer: Chua Jon Lin

Ticket Prices: $98, $72, $58, $38, $22
Ticketing Hotline: 91339683

This year, I have found myself getting reacquainted with Chinese Opera. About a month ago, I attended the Opening Ceremony of the Teochew Cultural Festival at Teochew Building and was treated to a series of Teochew Opera performances.

Next month, it will be Hokkien Opera Gala performance, Xue Gang - The Fire of Youth. Presented by the Bedok Community Centre and The Chinese Opera Institute, this grand production features 120 performers and musicians, 3D animated backdrops, English subtitles and newly made-to-measure costumes in the Tang style. My humble role in this production would be to provide the background music with the other musicians in the team. It has been an enriching and humbling experience witnessing how the production is being put together.

For more information, you may visit the event's Facebook page: