Friday, January 3, 2014

Macau Chinese Orchestra Traditional Quintet (15 Dec 2013) in Review

Andrew Xiao attended the last day of the Ding Yi Chinese Chamber Music Festival and returns with this report. My apologies to Ding Yi for the late update:

Organized by Ding Yi Music Company, the Ding Yi Chinese Chamber Music Festival is the first Chinese Chamber Music Festival organised in Singapore. The festival showcased three different chamber groups from China, Taiwan and Macau, playing alongside with the Ding Yi Music Company on three different days.

The last day of the festival featured the Macau Chinese Orchestra Traditional Quintet, performing traditional Chinese instrumental music for quintet called Wu Jia Tou (五架头 ) which comes from the Canton region. This style of music is originally called San Jian Tou (三件头) because the music is in trio form. The three instruments are Canton hu (粵胡), better known as Gaohu. According to the Gaohu-cum-erhu musician Zhang Yue-Ru who heads the quintet, the style of playing the standard orchestral Gaohu and Canton hu are completely different though they are basically the same instrument. Orchestral Gaohu playing does not use the legs and a cloth to hold the instruments while playing, whilst Cantonese style does.

Besides using Canton hu as its primary instrument in the trio, the other two instruments are Yangqin (杨琴) and Qinqin (秦琴) in which their main function is to accompany the Canton hu. The decision to use these instruments to form San Jian Tou is because the Yangqin is very popular in Guangzhou, and Qinqin is used because of its sound matches the colour of the Yangqin, though it is primarily used in Teochew traditional music. Later other instruments namely Dong Xiao (洞箫) and Yehu (椰胡, literally Coconut hu because its base is made of coconut) are added to make up the traditional quintet of Wu Jia Tou.

The Macau traditional Cantonese music quintet is made up of Gaohu-cum-erhu musician Zhang Yue-Ru, Zhonghu-cum-Yehu musician Li Feng, Dizi Dong Xiao Qian, Qin Pipa musician Miao Xiao-Zheng and Yangqin musician Chan Hio-Long. The works performed were all well known traditional music works such as A Walk in Gusu《姑苏行》,Autumn Moon Over the Calm Lake《平湖秋月》 and Drought Thunder《旱天雷》 . The musicians did a splendid performance and there was thunderous applause after the concert was over. I did take a glance on the concert audience and it seemed to be around 85 percent full with important guests such as the Singapore Chinese Orchestra General Manager Mr Terence Ho.

The showcase by Ding Yi Music Company featured two new works composed by Malaysian born composer Chow Jun-Yi, who won First Prize in the First Chinese Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition organized by Ding Yi Music Company, and Singaporean composer Phang Kok-Jun who is currently Ding Yi's Composer-in-Residence.

Jun Yi's 7 minute work, called Momentum《炎之舞》 is an interesting work. Before the performance, conductor Mr Quek Ling-Keong gave a short introduction of the work. The composer basically uses minimalist styles to compose this work and the main theme is just a few notes. The music started off with a canon and then slowly developed. The beauty of the work was the dance like momentum that led me to imagine the scenes of the dance and what the composer is trying to say through this artistic work.

As for Kok Jun, his work titled Ripples《水戏》 is another work that I should say is really worth the ticket to come and listen. The work is played by Chua Yew-Kok, winner of numerous Pipa competitions for young people, accompanied by a small ensemble. The piece draws out sound images that represent water ripples from the pipa. Through the wonderful playing of the soloist, the audience can imagine water rippling around, and through the colour and textures, the scenes and mood behind it.

In short, the performance is an overall success and I enjoyed the music thoroughly and I hope to listen again to such concerts if there is a chance. Well Done, Ding Yi!

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