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MCI (P) No. 020/09/2017 Newsletter of the SSO Community Outreach Department

May-Aug 2018


Contents 03 07 08 10 12 15 16 17 18

VCH Open House

Cover Story Fun Facts Getting to Know You Fun & Games Piano Tuning Process Tips! Ask Auntie Melody Music Jokes SSO Recommends

Editorial Team Senior Manager, Programmes: Kua Li Leng Editor & Coordinator: Kathleen Tan Vanessa Lee

SSCC Auditions

Wed, 23 May 2018 8.30am onwards Victoria Concert Hall Tickets available via SISTIC. For more information: please visit:

SSCC Experience Join us for an unforgettable day of choral music-making through workshops conducted by our Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir (SSCC) conductors! Participants will experience a day in the life of an SSCC singer and perform on stage at the Victoria Concert Hall at the end of the day.

Mon & Tue, 3 & 4 Sep 2018 9am - 6pm Sun, 23 Sep 2018 10am onwards For more details, please visit:


Participant’s Presentation 5.30pm - 6.30pm Victoria Concert Hall For more information, please visit:

cover story

Concerto Music

What is a concerto? A concerto is a piece of music in which one player (the soloist) performs the melody while being accompanied by an orchestra. The concerto soloist is the star and everyone in the orchestra, including the conductor, must follow him or her. The average concerto lasts about thirty minutes. Concertos almost always have three movements — fast, slow and fast — separated by pauses. This gives the soloist the chance to show off his amazing technique through fast virtuosic passages in the first and last movements and also show emotional and soulful depth in the middle.

SSO performs a concerto with pianist Serena Wang


cover story

Concerto Music What does it take to be a concerto soloist? Concerto soloists are the rock stars of classical music and are usually top-tier musicians. Concertos are considered the aspirational peak of performance for any musician and extremely difficult to perform. Soloists need to know their parts very well and they always play from memory. On top of this, they need to listen out for the orchestra and make sure that they fit together musically. Many audience members go to a concert to witness the soloists' flashy technique and flair, be swept away by their outpouring of musical passion and at the same time check out their performance outfits! Soloists are paid handsomely — some even command up to $100,000 per performance! Some concertgoers buy a season ticket just to have the chance to hear a famous soloist. Some famous soloists are household names, and even people who do not regularly attend concerts would have heard of them. Do you recognize any of the names below?

Pianist Lang Lang


Violinist Itzhak Perlman

Cellist Yo-yo Ma

What exactly is a cadenza? Near the end of every movement of a concerto is usually a moment where all the musicians stop playing except for the soloist. The soloist will give a flashy performance, lasting anywhere from ten seconds to five minutes. It’s called the cadenza: a moment devised by the composer for the soloist to show off his skill on the instrument.

Part of the cadenza from Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor

Did you know there are also concertos for orchestra? Concertos for Orchestra are showpieces that typically feature various instruments and orchestral sections (principal players) in a virtuosic manner, taking turns to bring each instrument into the spotlight throughout the piece. The idea for Concertos for Orchestra is largely related to that of the concerto grosso (Italian for ‘big concert’), which is a form of baroque music for a group of soloists accompanied by an orchestra.

TIP: If you’re going to an orchestra concert that includes a concerto, buy a seat a little to the left of centre. The soloist almost always stands or sits just to the left of the conductor. If it’s a piano soloist, sit even farther to the left. The piano will be situated with the keyboard facing the left and you’ll have more fun if you can see the pianist’s hands!


Read on to find out more about the Concertos for Orchestra that these prominent composers have written!

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) Commissioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary in 1941

Béla Bartók (1881-1945)

Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994) Lutosławski’s concerto won state awards and secured him the position of the greatest living Polish composer at that point.

Photo Credit: Hoebermann

Photo Credit: Karol Langner

Bartók’s five-movement work was completed in two months despite being hospitalised due to his illness in 1943.

Steven Stucky (1949-2016) Concerto for Orchestra No. 1 Commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra for the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution in 1988.

Tan Dun (b. 1957) Written with his opera in mind where Marco Polo took three different journeys – geographical, musical and spiritual.


Concerto for Orchestra No. 2 This composition won him the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

fun facts

Concertos Turning Pages Beethoven did not have enough time to write down all of the piano part for his Piano Concerto No. 3 before its premiere. Performing as soloist, Beethoven had to play most of the concerto from memory. He also had to nudge his friend, Ignaz Seyfried, to turn the pages of his incomplete music scores! Beyond Earth Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos were deemed such an important artistic achievement that they were featured on the “Golden Record”. The Golden Record was sent on the Voyager Interstellar Mission in 1977 and launched into space for extraterrestrial life to chance upon it. Single-Handedly Paul Wittgenstein was an Austrian concert pianist who lost his right arm during the First World War. He commissioned the well-known Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major by Maurice Ravel and personally performed it with his remaining hand. Unique Entrance Swedish composer Jan Sandström wrote Motorbike Odyssey — a concerto for solo trombone where the soloist arrives on stage on a motorbike and imitates the sound of the engine! Photographic Memory In 1999, Argentinian pianist, Maria João Pires, was scheduled to play a Mozart Piano Concerto in Amsterdam with Riccardo Chailly conducting. When the orchestra began playing, she immediately knew she had prepared the wrong piece. Incredibly, she managed to join in with the correct concerto without missing a single note due to her excellent photographic memory.


getting to know you

Joshua Tan, SSO Associate Conductor


Hi Joshua! Tell us about how and when you decided to become a conductor?

What is it like conducting in front of an orchestra? Do you get stage fright?

I decided to take conducting classes to help me understand orchestral music better and also to give me an edge during my audition to become a violinist in an orchestra. Even after I got into the orchestra, I continued my conducting lessons and eventually decided to become a conductor when my mentor suggested that I should fully concentrate on conducting instead.

Yes, I do get stage fright! However, I believe that the day that I do not get nervous before a concert should be the day that I should stop conducting. I try to be as prepared as I can and say a prayer before I go on stage. Thankfully it has turned out well so far!

What is the biggest difference between conducting a concerto and a symphony?

What happens when there are unexpected changes in the soloist’s playing?

My former teacher once said that the best way to identify a great conductor is by the way he conducts concertos. With a symphony, there is more freedom for interpretation and the orchestra will follow the conductor closely. However, with a concerto, a conductor has to follow the soloist’s interpretation very closely. Apart from keeping the whole orchestra together, one also has to make a strong case for the interpretation.

A conductor has to be highly alert when conducting a concerto. You never know when something unexpected will happen. In such an event, my responsibility is to ensure that the orchestra is aware of what is happening, stays together and reacts accordingly.

Do you have any favourite concertos that you love to listen to? Are they different from your favourite concertos to conduct?

What do you like to do in your free time if you are not in rehearsals or concerts?

I love Brahms’, Elgar’s and Mozart’s violin concertos. For piano concertos, my favourites are by Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart. So far, those that I really enjoy listening to are also my favourite to conduct, although they may not necessarily be the easiest.

Elg a

Bee t


Bra h


Mo z

I try to exercise five to six times a week as it helps me to de-stress. I also love watching football, cycling and flying my drone on weekends!

ven ho



fun & games

Pictionary Did you know that composers such as Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev composed music that were inspired by or created for timeless fairytales and folklores? Let’s see if you can guess the music from the illustrations and stories below.

Tchaikovsky’s This classic ballet is a tale of a young girl, Clara, whose grandfather gives her a very special gift for Christmas which eventually comes to life. The story is filled with magical and mysterious characters such as a Mouse King, Toy Soldiers and a Sugar Plum Fairy. Mendelssohn’s Mendelssohn composed music for this famous Shakespeare play which tells the story of two lovers who ran away into an enchanted forest filled with elves and woodland fairies. Prokofiev’s Perhaps the most familiar scene in this fairy-tale is when the main character leaves behind her precious glass slipper at the ball as she was running when the clock struck midnight. Stravinsky’s Based on a Russian folktale, Prince Ivan encounters a magical glowing bird, falls in love with a princess trapped in a forest, and defeats the evil sorcerer with a wave of the glowing bird’s feather. Mozart’s Mozart’s famous opera tells the story of a bird-catcher, an evil queen and a prince who wants to rescue a captured princess. The prince was given a magic flute to protect him from danger.



The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cinderella, The Firebird, The Magic Flute ANSWERS:

Choose from the list of answers below!

Piano Tuning Process What has eighty-eight keys but no locks? Uncle Hock Seng, who has been a piano tuner for thirty-five years, will show us the insides of a piano and give a step-by-step guide on how to tune a piano.

Step 1: Prepare a set of specialised piano technician tools which include a tuning hammer, mutes and a tuner or tuning fork.


Step 2: Every key has two or three strings. For every key, tune one string at a time by placing mutes to silence the other strings.

Step 3: Strike the key repeatedly and wench the pin with the tuning hammer clockwise very slightly until the pitch is in tune.

Repeat step 2 and 3 for each key and once an octave (thirteen keys) is completed, use this as your reference for the rest of the keyboard.

After the piano is tuned, it is time to check the piano’s mechanism!

Step 4: Play through every key and check if any of the hammers have slow, jerky action.

Step 5: Check for any loose screws and tighten them.


Step 6: Check the hammer’s felt for wear and tear. File or change the felt if necessary.

Step 7: Loosen the felt using a picker. The tone of the piano will sound better afterwards.

Here is Uncle Hock Seng and the tuned piano! If you have any questions about piano tuning, send them to and we will ask Uncle Hock Seng for you!



Transitioning Voices Calling all boys out there: Some of you may have begun experiencing hoarseness and a change in your voice. This period can be full of discomfort especially when you love to sing. We sought advice from Low Xu Hao, choral instructor of the Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir’s Boys’ Ensemble, on how to cope with these changes.

When you feel tension in your face and adam’s apple, relax and gently wiggle your lower jaw, ensure your tongue is flat and not pulled back. When gradually gliding up the scale, sing with an even tone while keeping your volume constant concurrently. Use narrower vowels like ooh [u] or oh [o] to help you through the range where the shift from chest to head voice occurs to enable more control. Keep singing in your head voice and falsetto lightly. This aids in the transition to your maturing voice as both use a common portion of the vocal folds!


Ask Auntie Melody Do you have any burning questions about music? If your question is featured, you will win a surprise gift! Why is the saxophone not part of the orchestra? – Mirabelle Dear Mirabelle, The saxophone is not part of the traditional symphonic orchestra as it was invented in the 1840s where the instrumentation of orchestras has already been established. As a relatively new instrument, composers started writing parts for the saxophone only in recent years. Though it is not a regular part of the orchestra, there are symphonic pieces that call for the use of a saxophone, such as Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suites and Ravel’s Bolero. What is the difference between a violin and a viola? – Ying Ying Dear Ying Ying, From far you may not be able to tell the two instruments apart, but if you have the chance to look at them closely, you will notice that the viola is bigger in size than the violin. The violin plays the highest notes in a piece, whereas the viola plays notes that are a little lower in pitch. Winners will be notified by email. All questions are subject to editing for clarity.

Email your questions to


music jokes

Mistaken Identity

I’m not the musical one. You must be thinking of my brother over there.


SSO Recommends If you are interested in these articles and would like to find out more, why not check out some of these concerts?

SSCC 12th Anniversary Concert: Timeless Splendour Sun, 27 Apr 2018, 4pm Victoria Concert Hall

SSO Gala•Kavakos Plays Shostakovich Sat, 5 May 2018, 7.30pm Esplanade Concert Hall

SSO Chamber Series: The Glory of Baroque Fri & Sat, 18 & 19 May 2018, 7.30pm Victoria Concert Hall

25th Singapore International Piano Festival Thu-Wed, 7-13 Jun 2018, 7.30pm Victoria Concert Hall / Esplanade Concert Hall For more information, please visit:


All SSO events are supported by the National Arts Council and local schools are eligible for up to 50% claim/subsidy from the Totalisator Board Arts Grant. For more information, please call us at 6602 4200 or email us at

Upcoming Events MAY



Discovering Music: Everyone’s a Soloist! Tue, 1 May 2018, 4pm Victoria Concert Hall

VCH Organ Series: Celestial Pipes Sat, 16 Jun 2018, 4pm Victoria Concert Hall

SSO on Campus @ Paya Lebar Methodist School (Secondary) ^ Fri, 13 Jul 2018, 7.30pm Paya Lebar Methodist School (Secondary)

VCH Presents: La Voix Humaine Sat, 12 May 2018, 7.30pm Sun, 13 May 2018, 4pm Victoria Concert Hall VCH Open House Wed, 23 May 2018, 8.30am onwards Victoria Concert Hall


SSO Lunchtime Concert ^ Wed, 11 Jul 2018, 12.30pm Victoria Concert Hall SSO on Campus @ Victoria Junior College ^ Thu, 12 Jul 2018, 7.30pm Victoria Junior College

^ These concerts are free and seating is on a first-come-first-served basis. Information correct at time of print and is subject to change without notice.

SSO @ Botanic Gardens ^ Sun, 29 Jul 2018, 6.15pm Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, Botanic Gardens Car-Free Sunday ^ Sun, 29 Jul 2018, 10am & 11am Victoria Concert Hall Atrium @ L1


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DEC 2018

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SSO rhapSSOdy May-Aug 2018  

rhapSSOdy - Our magazine for young people. Learn more about our latest and upcoming events! This enjoyable read is packed with music informa...

SSO rhapSSOdy May-Aug 2018  

rhapSSOdy - Our magazine for young people. Learn more about our latest and upcoming events! This enjoyable read is packed with music informa...