Friday, August 30, 2013

Places: Sneak preview: The second weekend of Singapore Night Festival 2013

Photo taken during the media preview, 29 Aug 2013.
The Singapore Night Festival 2013 is back for its second weekend! Take a peep of some of the exciting highlights that this weekend has to offer: Places: Sneak preview: The second weekend of Singapore Night Festival 2013.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Places: The hidden gems of the Singapore Night Festival

This year's Singapore Night Festival is the largest night festival yet. Other than the popular blockbuster performances, there are many hidden gems to enjoy during this year's Singapore Night Festival. Here are my special picks of what I would consider The hidden gems of the Singapore Night Festival.

Monday, August 26, 2013

9 Jul 2013: The Guided City Tour of Vienna

Throughout the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival that took place in early July 2013, I have had the great privilege to immerse myself in various music related activities. From singing the Festival's anthem during the opening Ceremony, participating in the SCL Festival Competition, listening to the performances by other participants, performing in outreach concerts to rehearsing for the performances, I felt I have liberated myself to immerse in the world of music.

Volksgarten (The People's Garden), Vienna.

Striking a balance is always helpful in life. I felt thankful that there was half a day set aside for members of the National University of Singapore Symphony Orchestra (NUSSO) to be treated to a guided tour of the city of Vienna and the Schonbrunn Palace. I cannot imagine visiting Vienna without having caught a glimpse of some of the splendours of this city.

Volksgarten, Vienna.
In the distance, Monument to Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi).

During the city tour, our guide shared with us the history of Ring Street (Ringstrasse). It is a circular road surrounding the Innere Stadt district of Vienna. The Ring Street was built during the 1800s to replace the fortification which had been built during the 13th century.

Austrian Parliament Building, Vienna.
It is one of the largest structures on the Ring Street.

The guide shared with us that the water in Vienna comes right from the Alps. It is safe to drink direct from the tap. Once again I was reminded that it is safe to drink direct from the taps in Vienna!

I also learnt that if we were to see a white and red flag on a building in Austria, it is an indication that the building is a historic building. Please do not be surprised if I were to tell you that I was looking out for buildings with white and red flags throughout the city tour. My only setback was that I do not know how to read German and so could not decipher for myself what the buildings could be.

Taken on 7 Jul 2013.

The orchestra divided ourselves into two groups for the walking tours. My group's tour guide was Beatrice. She presented a nutshell of Vienna's history. What struck in my mind was the House of Habsburg. The names of the monarchs, Maria Theresa, Franz Joseph I, kept being mentioned at various points in the guided tour. There was a lot more that I would probably need to learn about Vienna's history. History itself is more complex that we were told. Maybe I would need a simpler introduction to the history of Austria and the rest of Europe?

During the tour, we visited Volksgarten. It is a public park in the Innere Stadt, the First District of Vienna. Although the park was famous for its rose gardens, my attention was for a brief moment focused on the horse-chestnut trees that were found on both rows of the paths of the Volksgarten. The tour guide shared with us that human-beings do not consider the fruits of the horse-chestnut trees sweet. However, the fruits of the horse-chestnut trees are popular with the horses because of the medicinal value.

One of our stops during the guided city tour of Vienna was the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule). I learnt that other than being the oldest riding academy in the world, it is also the only riding academy where the High School of Classical Horsemanship has been cherished and maintained for over 430 years. I do not know much about horses yet it was a pleasure to take a glimpse of beautiful horses.

Horses on the streets. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

I started to realize that there is so much to learn about Vienna. I felt thankful that we had arranged for a guided city tour of Vienna to get to know this City of Music better. The guide shared with us that the people in Vienna are proud of their culture and art.

Heldenplatz ("Heroes' Square) is one of the places that we visited. On this plaza, we can find two statues each of a rider mounted on a horse. One of the statue is that of Archduke Charles of Austria and the other is the statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy. I was told that many important events took place at Heldenplatz.

I am thankful that one of our stops during the guided city tour of Vienna was the monument of Mozart. Vienna is the final resting place of Mozart. We did not get to visit his grave however. I later learnt that although historians could trace the approximate location of Mozart's grave (i.e. Vienna's St Marx cemetery). the exact location of where he was buried was unknown. This was contributed by the funerary practices in eighteenth century Vienna where it was common for a few deceased to be buried in the same plot, and subsequently have their remains re-interred.

In essence, I am grateful to enjoy a guided tour of the city of Vienna. Many thanks to our tour guide, Beatrice, for showing us around the city. Our next destination was the Schonbrunn Palace. More about Schonbrunn Place in the near future.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Places: Singapore Night Festival 2013, the weekend of 23 and 24 Aug 2013

The Magic Melody. By Tigrelab. Singapore Art Museum facade.
Photo courtesy of Jinha Kim Photography.

Have you attended this year's Singapore Night Festival with your families and friends? If you have yet to, here is my report of this weekend's Singapore Night Festival: Places: Singapore Night Festival 2013, the weekend of 23 and 24 Aug 2013. May it fill you in with the latest happenings in Singapore.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jeff Bradetich's Double Bass: The Ultimate Challen...

Less than a week ago, I have had the great privilege to attend a masterclass conducted by Jeff Bradetich, one of the leading performers and teachers of the double bass in the United States today. I was so inspired by his teachings that I subsequently got myself a copy of Jeff Bradetich's Double Bass: The Ultimate Challenge.

I strongly recommend that every teacher and student of the double bass should read this: Jeff Bradetich's Double Bass: The Ultimate Challenge. You will be pleased to have read this book, especially if you read English.

Places: A Sneak Preview of the Singapore Night Festival

Onmoonbeings by Singapierrot.
Photo courtesy of Jinha Kim Photography.

The Night Festival is back again. This year, it is renamed the Singapore Night Festival to garner more international attention. What are some of the worthy performances and exhibition for this weekend's Singapore Night Festivall? Find out more here: Places: A Sneak Preview of the Singapore Night Festival.

Fri 23 and Sat 24 Aug 2013,
Fri 30 and Sat 31 Aug 2013.
7.00 p.m. - 2.00 a.m.
Free Admission

Sunday, August 18, 2013

8 Jul 2013: The performance at Bad Tatzmannsdorf

After more than an hour of travelling on the coach and a stop-over for dinner at Restaurant Weinstadl, the NUS Symphony Orchestra reached the Bad Tatzmannsdorf Open Air Pavillon, 7431 Bad Tatzmannsdorf, Joseph Haydn-Platz. The performance that we put up was a part of the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival's series of concerts.

Photo courtesy of Cherry Chan.

When we reached the performance venue, my first instinct was to prepare for sound-check. At times I think I could do myself a big favour by not taking myself too seriously. Then again, it is a matter of being disciplined so that I could get myself ready to play in the performance. I love the idea of performing at an outdoor venue which is somewhat sheltered. The experience was as if we could interact with the world at large that surrounded the performing space. It was our last official performance in Austria and I was glad that it took place at a beautiful venue. There was natural air to provide ventilation!

Double Basses that were loaned to the orchestra.

One of the loveliest aspects of summer in Austria is that the sun would set much later. That meant more hours of sunlight. At 7.30 p.m. Austria time, it was still bright when the performance started. It also meant that there was no need for powerful streets lights for the audience to watch the performance.

The programme for the performance was:
1) Beethoven: Symphony No. 1, 4th movement
2) Low Shao Suan, Low Shao Ying: Danses Joyeuses
3) Brahms: Hungarian Dance No.1
4) Strauss: Voices of Spring
5) Dvorak: New World Symphony, 4th movement
6) Liu Tieshan, Mao Yuan: Dance of the Yao

I am thankful for the friendly and appreciative audience. The orchestra received heart-warming applauses between each repertoire that we played. Dance of the Yao appeared to be the most well-received. I wondered if this was due to the recency effect since it was the last item in our programme? Then again, given its style of writing, perhaps it was a refreshing piece of music for our audience in Bad Tatzmannsdorf?

At the end of our performance, a gentleman stood up from the audience seats and asked for a violin case.

In my mind, I was wondering if he had wanted to autograph one of the violin cases to congratulate the orchestra for a successful performance at Bad Tatzmannsdorf. When one of our orchestra members presented the gentleman with her violin case, I was wondering to myself what would happen to the violin case.

The next thing we knew, I heard from the orchestra's members sitting nearby me that the gentleman had placed some cash into that violin case and many members from the audience followed suit! It was beyond our expectations that the audience responded to our performance with heartfelt appreciation and with tips too.

It was possibly my first time playing for an outdoor orchestral concert whereby the audience responded in such unexpectedly generous manner. The orchestra members responded by thanking the audience and playing an excerpt from Dance of the Yao.

Photo courtesy of Jess Lim.

After playing the excerpt, while I felt that I would like to continue performing for the appreciative audience, all things had to come to a beautiful end at some point in time. Instinctively, each of us orchestra members bowed and expressed our words of gratitude once again to our audience.

Parting the beautiful town of Bad Tatzmannsdorf and the friendly audience was not easy. Although we were aware that our coach was possibly waiting for us, a number of us continued to exchange conversations with some of the members from the audience while others started to take photographs against the lovely stage as a memento. Subsequently, after the concert, we learnt that one of the members of the audience was so moved by our performance that she teared while listening to us performing.

That shall be one of my most memorable performances thus far. I am thankful that it happened in a beautiful town of Bad Tatzmannsdorf.

Bad Tatzmannsdorf.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"What is essential is invisible to the eye" quoted in a Singapore film

Today, I watched the Singapore comedy-musical film, That Girl in Pinafore (我的朋友, 我的同学, 我爱过的一切), directed by Chai Yee-wei, starring Julie Tan, Daren Tan, Jayley Woo, Hayley Woo, Kenny Khoo, Seah Jiaqing and Kelvin Mun. This is the first Singapore film in 15 years to celebrate the success of 'Xinyao', the popular 90s Singaporean folk music movement.

Watching the film evokes a sense of nostalgia. Even though 'Xinyao' was not my main staple of music during the growing up years, I was delighted to listen to the songs that were popular during my childhood and teenage years.

I was pleasantly surprised and moved to see a quote from one of my favourite chapters (Chapter XXI) from Antoine de Saint Exupery's The Little Prince being shown for a few split-seconds in That Girl in Pinafore.
Now here is my secret, very simply: you can only see things clearly with your heart, what is essential is invisible to the eye.
What a lovely quote to mention for a film that celebrates friendship, the Xinyao folk music movement, and more.

Perhaps it is when we see with our heart that we could see clearly what is essential. This is such a lovely quote to remind us that beyond the superficial and the material, there are deeper meanings behind what is 'invisible to the eye'. Relationships matter and their meaning can only be felt with the heart.

Interestingly, one of my posts that mentioned the quote "What is essential is invisible to the eye", has one of the highest page-views on this blog.

The next surprise when I was watching That Girl in Pinafore was to see the building of my alma mater. I recommend this movie to you especially if you have at least heard a Xinyao song in your lifetime. It is available at Golden Village, Shaw and Filmgarde.

In the meantime, I shall end this post with a link to a YouTube video posted by hotciderfilms, 细水长流 XiShuiChangLiu 我的朋友家,我的同学我爱过的一切" 电影原声带 That Girl In Pinafore Soundtrack

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

8 July 2013: On our way to Bad Tatzmannsdorf

After the SCL Festival Workshops, there was some time for members of the orchestra to take a break for lunch and to explore the city of Vienna on our own. More about our free-and-easy time exploring Vienna in another post. In this post I shall focus on the more official aspects of the orchestra's tour to Vienna.

That day, on 8 July 2013, we have official duties to fulfill. We were to perform in Bad Tatzmannsdorf. It is a municipality in Burgenland in the district of Oberwart in Austria, according to Wikipedia.

On the way from Vienna to Bad Tatzmannsdorf, we could see rolling hills and this was a lovely visual treat for my eyes. The coach ride took more than an hour. I was doing my very best to stay awake throughout the journey so that I could enjoy the beautiful views on the way to Bad Tatzmannsdorf. At the same time, there was a conflicting wish to steal some time to rest so that I could feel refreshed during the upcoming performance.

We were slightly behind schedule. We reached our dinner place, Restaurant Weinstadl, later than the scheduled time. Nevertheless, it was one of the more memorable dinners that I have had in Vienna. The restaurant's personnel were attentive and friendly. They were very kind and generous. When they learnt that a few of our members were vegetarians, they cooked vegetarian meals specially for the few of them. As for the rest of us, we were treated fish fingers and many more. I was particularly fond of their selection of salads. I love vegetables!

Restaurant Weinstadl. Bad Tatzmannsdorf.

The opening air concept of the restaurant against a countryside landscape provided a very welcoming ambience. Dinner company was great too. This was possibly one of my most memorable dinners in Vienna. It was summer and the sun does not set until close to 9 p.m. I felt thankful for a dinner in a very friendly setting.

Inside Restaurant Weinstadl. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

Restaurant Weinstadl. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

Near the Restaurant Weinstadl. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

To end the meal in a sweet fashion, we each had a treat to ice-cream. Many thanks to our group's manager for her generous treat!

I was a bit nervous after the dinner. We were slightly behind the schedule. My body seemed to be very aware of this lag in time. Perhaps I could give myself more assurance that we had enough buffer in actual fact. Thankfully, we reached our performing venue with sufficient time to set up before the actual performance. It was a memorable performance to come.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Read: Manuscript found in Accra

Title: Manuscript found in Accra
Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers

This book is considered a gift from a friend. I decided to choose this book because I was eager to read Paulo Coelho's latest book. Although I had bought this book in May this year, I had only started to read this book in July.

Compared to Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist and Aleph, the element of story-telling in this book is considerably of less importance. While there is a story that weaves through the book, the plot was rather plain. I have found that the focus of Manuscript found in Accra was in sharing a record of the human values that have endured throughout time based on what were answers made by a wise man many centuries before our time. Essentially, this book is more like a book of quotable quotes to me.

There are several noteworthy quotes. The book seemed rather deep for me to appreciate its fine nuances fully. I would do it greater justice to re-read it several times.

In the meantime, this is a link to a review of this book on Reuters:

Thursday, August 08, 2013

8 Jul 2013: The SCL Festival Workshop

The Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival is a very thoughtfully planned festival. Other than the opportunity to perform in Wiener Musikverein, participants have the chance to take part in workshops to enhance our musical knowledge. The workshops are conducted by members of the festival's jury.

In the morning of 8 July 2013, members of the National University of Singapore Symphony Orchestra found our way to the University of Music Vienna to take part in the festival workshop. I felt thankful that the organisers of the festival have considered the logistical aspects of the moving of bulky instruments. That has certainly made it easier and faster to move the bulky instruments to the venue of the workshop. Our orchestra was ushered to the Öhlberger Studio.

Before the start of the workshop.

In the Öhlberger Studio, our orchestra took part in two interactive workshops. The first workshop was conducted by Christoph Ehrenfellner and the second workshop was conducted by Aleksandar Markovic.
During the workshops, we learnt about the results of the festival competition. Our orchestra was awarded a second place in the Symphony Orchestra category with excellent success. Christoph Ehrenfellner shared with us the jury's comments and suggestions for improvement for our orchestra. The orchestra was given positive comments for good ensemble playing and a good free sound.

In the workshop with Christoph Ehrenfellner, I greatly appreciated how he highlighted the relationship between the various instruments, especially how the cellos and double basses could relate to the first violins during the start of the fourth movement of Beethoven's First Symphony. It is fascinating how understanding the relationships between various instruments could help make the music come more alive!

When it was our second workshop, Aleksandar Markovic lent us insights to the performance of a waltz. The selected workshop piece was Frühlingsstimmen by Johann Strauss. As best as I have remembered, I learnt that essentially Viennese Waltz is elegant and airy in style. It was fun to work on a waltz! I felt I could dance all day and night with the music.

In summary, I have had a fruitful learning experience at the SCL Festival Workshop. Many thanks to the people who have made the workshops possible.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Places: The Ramadan Trails at Sultan Mosque 2013

Yesterday, I went for the Ramadan Trails organised by Sultan Mosque. Many thanks to the Sultan Mosque for the insightful presentation on Ramadan, the guided tour about the mosque and the memorable experience breaking fast with the Muslims. Here's a link to my account: Places: The Ramadan Trails at Sultan Mosque 2013.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

7 Jul 2013: Performance at MuTh

7 July 2013 was a rather eventful day. Other than taking part in the Festival Competition of the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival that took place at Wiener Musikverein, our orchestra was to perform at MuTh.

MuTh, also known as Musik und Theater, is Vienna's new venue for music and theatre. Opened in Dec 2012, it is also the Vienna Boys' Choir Concert Hall in Augarten. Augarten is a public park situated in Leopldstadt. I read that the park was designed in the French Baroque style. Having known this piece of information, I realized that I have been too focused in delivering the performance at MuTh that I did not make time to see the park and smell more flowers!

The festival organisers have been very thoughtful. They arranged for heavy and bulky instruments to be given a faster route, with minimal stairs, to access to the back of the stage. Such arrangements helped make the loading and unloading of instruments much easier.

At the backstage, we waited patiently. Perhaps I was getting thirsty from the long day, while waiting for our turn, I felt thirsty. In my efforts to find a way to quench my thirst, I asked one of the crew members if there is any place to get water. The reply that I received revealed to me that the source of the water in Vienna is from the Alps! I could drink water directly from the tap in Vienna! I went to get water from the tap. The water tasted good!

The National University of Singapore Symphony Orchestra was scheduled to perform at MuTh at 5.00 p.m. local time. Before it was our turn to perform, we had the pleasure to sit in the audience seats to listen to Menlo Park High School Choir (South Africa) conducted by Jeanmari van Papendorp. The hall was intimate and the acoustics was good. The choir was outstanding.

Menlo Park High School Choir performing at MuTh, Vienna.
Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

When it was our turn to perform, the responsiveness of the hall must have a positive effect on me. I was feeling a little tired from that long day and yet I felt full of energy when I was playing on the stage. Every single note that was produced sounded clear on stage! The hall at MuTh has good acoustics although I have yet to figure out the science behind.

Photo by Festival Organiser.

Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

Looking back, I am thankful to have performed at both the Wienner Musikverein and the MuTh with the orchestra. The opportunity to travel and play with an orchestra is a special and meaningful one. There is a lot of work behind-the-scene to make it possible for an orchestra to travel to Europe. Many thanks to the Centre for the Arts, the orchestra's management, executive committee and all members for making this trip to Vienna possible.

Another exciting and memorable day shall await us the next day.

That evening, I was too much focused on performing that I have missed enjoying the beauty of Augarten. The lesson learnt, the next time when I perform at a venue that is new to me, where feasible, I shall make some time to explore the nearby vicinity or at least smell the flowers that are nearby the concert venue.

MuTh - The Vienna Boys' Choir Concert Hall
Obere Augartenstrasse 1E
1020 Vienna

Also see:
The Vienna Boys' Choir
The Blue Danube: Vienna's drinking water comes directly from the Alps
Vienna's Water Supply - The Journey of Vienna's Drinking Water