Sunday, August 26, 2007

Performance Afterthoughts

It has been a hectic week preparing for this performance. Not a traditional classical music setting, but playing live music for storytelling. In fact, it was the first time I was playing for a storytelling performance, and at the same time, premiering a composer's new work with a strange mix of instruments comprising of the piano, oboe and guitar.

In the midst of working intensively with such professional artistes of a very different nature in the past week, I have gained lots of invaluable lessons, not only in storytelling, but in theatrical art in general as well. The talented and passionate artistes form a small, close-knitted community which respects and holds their art in the highest regard. Combining storytelling with live music, which can be loosely termed as programme music, is a relatively new concept locally. For this year's two-week festival, I'm honoured to be working with the composer Kah Chun and the storytellers for the opening two days when local storytellers takes centre stage.

It was my first time playing in the Arts House. I never knew we had such a charming and intimate performance venue locally. I had taken a few photos of the venue and its vicinity throughout the four performances these 2 days.

The Arts House Building. Sweet charming architecture which stands besides the Padang. Thanks to PY, I've caught her bug of taking snapshots of corners of Singapore.

The Arts House Entrance

The Auditorium. I took this when I reached the venue early, when no one else had arrived yet. It's actually the Old Parliament House.
That's our performing platform. The musicians, excluding me who was taking the photo of course, were deep in conversation with the artistes.

Here's a snapshot of what everyone was doing before the performance. There we have our makeup artist, Caroline, looking into the mirror. Lovely lady who rendered her professional services for free to them annually for the festival.

That's another snapshot I took while taking a break from the book I was reading in my free time between the concerts. That was Dolly in white on the left and and Rosemarie on the right. Far back the room was Sheila. I love the way they were on stage! Such passion!

Of course, besides sitting behind backstage during the free time, I took a walk around the vicinity.

The Singapore River. There's something nostalgic and poetic about this shot.

The Padang on the left and the distinctive skyscrapers in the background. The latter forms much of the city skyline locally.

And here's Raffles City, one of many large shopping complexes in the city area locally.

Not forgetting the exotic mix of musicians. Kah Chun the composer-conductor standing behind. Edward the pianist on the left, though he's trained in the violin professionally. Justin the oboist on the right. I truly enjoyed playing with them.

Monday, August 13, 2007

On Playing in a Group that Isn't So Good

For me it’s simply playing my best. I don’t attempt to play the group’s best. Believe it or not, that’s an easy thing for us to do sometimes. (Now if the group is better than I am, I definitely work at playing their best!) Playing less than one’s best really drags a person down, and can lead to some very bad habits. So I attempt to play my best.

Taken from oboeinsight. Read the full article there.

My sentiments exactly. Having played in amateur school ensembles a couple of times, I realised that playing at a lower level, especially for long periods of time, often desensitises me. Especially when it comes to simple mistakes which are more commonly made, resulting in everyone having to repeat the same passages ad nauseam. It certainly takes more effort, in fact much more effort, to brace oneself and play at his or her best, in the midst of the the less blessed musicians around. And note the way Patricia put it - "So I attempt to play my best", with the reiteration of that difficulty at the end of her article...

On the other hand, playing in a superior chamber group, ensemble or orchestra will catapult one higher musically, if the musician has some pride in his or her music that is.

So you see the contrast? Ideally, I'm sure one would choose to be in the latter scenario, but alas, that isn't the case all the time, due to financial, obligatory or other reasons...

I see such instances whereby one is engaged to play in a still-maturing group as a mirror of his or her values as a musician. Most, sad to say, often fall short of the level they usually perform at in those cases. If they have a perfectionist streak in them naturally, it somehow just doesn't seem to show up in those practices. The right way to resolve this isn't to reject engagements by such groups, as what most would do, but in fact to reflect on one's values as a musician, followed by accepting such engagements as far as one's schedule would allow. Playing in such groups might not make one improve musically or technically, but it does mould the musician spiritually and mentally, if he or she goes for practices with the right perspective.

I guess it's time for me to evaluate my values as a musician too...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Special Mention

This evening's performance was by far the most enriching and special artistic performance which I've gone to this year. I shall talk about this in my upcoming post...

However, it wasn't the performance that captured my heart this evening. It was the company I had. The performance opened my eyes to the value of the arts. The companionship, however, made me understand myself more than any arts performance would.

Thank you.

Let this be an evening to remember for the years to come, just as the last one we had together more than three years back...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Der Ring des Nibelungen

*Note: This is not a review or an attempt at that. Just some personal opinions from a greenhorn to the Wagner scene.*

This grand opera of Wagner for the Bayreuth Festspiele '07 ends this evening with Götterdämmerung.

I have to admit that this is the first time whereby I've sat through the entire Ring cycle within a span of less than a week. What a journey!

I have listened to different sections of the entire cycle on records every now and then, and I have to admit that this year's production of this trilogy doesn't speak to me. Judging from the lukewarm applause upon the closing of this evening's Götterdämmerung, I believe that many of the people there felt the same. I can't deny that several segments of this entire cycle do shine, but on the whole, there's still something lacking, and I can't exactly put my finger on it.

This similar production, thankfully traditional, will run for the upcoming few years until 2010. On their side, there'll probably be quite some more fine-tuning to do to bring this trilogy to a higher level. Hopefully by then, I would have acquired more knowledge to fully appreciate this masterpiece by the greatest opera composer.

Tomorrow's the last opera for this year's Bayreuth Festspiele, Parsifal. I'm looking forward to it, not the end, but to indulge in another masterpiece by Wagner...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Quirky Quote

First of all: I am not a fan of Regietheater: I firmly believe that it is 1% ignorance and 99% exibitionism.

But the case of Kathi is slightly different: perhaps her mix is 30% smartness and 70% exhibitionism (and this was perhaps also the ratio applause/boos after her debut).

Read it all here.

Daland carries on by giving his opinions on Kathrina's production of Meistersinger on the opening day of Bayreuth. A break from the all-so-similar reviews out there.

A true Wagnerite! How I pale in comparison to him and the others out there!


Design and Realisation of Card Courtesy of Ivan Lim