As a recipient of the National Arts Council (NAC)‘s major grant, the Singapore Wind Symphony (SWS) embarked on another prestigious project featuring newlyweds Steven Mead and Misa Mead in a Christmas concert.
Following the previous successes of acclaimed concerts with the appearances of artists Joseph Alessi and Joe Burgastaller, this event proved to be another milestone in the wind band calendar.
“I enjoy coming to Singapore. I met Adrian Tan in March this year and we discussed the possibility of doing a Christmas concert. As the project developed, there were many new pieces, and to be here with my wife Misa, I am very excited,” said Steven, on how the concert came about.
Introducing the concert was a familiar work – Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival, accompanied by Singapore’s only independent handbell ensemble – Ministry of Bellz under the tutelage of Mr Damien Lim. This was then followed shortly by the first appearances of Misa and Steven Mead respectively in the world premiere of Otemoyan Fantasy and staple Euphonium repertoire Gypsy Airs (Zigeunerweisen).
Rising young conductor Ignatius Wang then took the wind symphony through a little history with Steven Mead’s virtuosity playing in Variations on Rule Britannia.
“It has been an incredible experience working with Steve and Misa, with their extremely inspiring virtuosity and energy!
With the special appearance by my euphonium teacher Mark Glover and fellow Singaporean Kang Chun Meng, a “Euphonium Extravaganza” was well and truly under way! I am extremely grateful to the Singapore Wind Symphony and the soloists for their kind support and friendship, and look forward to working with them again in the near future,” Ignatius reflected.
The Euphonium duo then performed a surprise Solfège duet before wrapping the first half with Mohd. Rasull‘s A New Carnival of Venice arranged for four parts, featuring also Euphonium teacher Mark Glover and his student Kang Chun Meng.
Opening the second half was Malcolm Arnold’s A Grand Grand Overture, with the four Euphonium players on three vacuum cleaners and a blender, all in turn polished off by a firing squad comprising of Ignatius Wang and conductor Adrian Tan himself. At this time, it was clear that the concert has changed its tone to entertaining the audience.
Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO)‘s principal tubist – Hidehiro Fujita, then took centre stage with Gabriel’s Oboe – Theme from the film “The Mission” and Arthur Pryor’s Bluebells of Scotland before a joined duet with Steven Mead himself in Steve’s Last Night in Town, showcasing the two lower brass in a rock and roll theme.
The Euphonium duo was then re-introduced with Philip Sparke’s Two Part Invention, followed by Til’ Death Do Us Part by Singaporean composer Terrence Wong. The world premiere work, dedicated to the Meads as a wedding gift, celebrates the blossoming of feelings, courtship, and the wedding ceremony as portrayed by the various percussion effects and dialogues between the instruments.
Closing the concert was Bizet’s Carmen Fantasy with Steven Mead showcasing his virtuosity in the truly unique beauty of the Euphonium tone, followed by an encore of another young Singaporean composer Jinjun Lee‘s piece Variations on Chan Mali Chan.
As Adrian jokingly puts it, “Euphoniums do what they always do – taking a piece originally for the trumpet and then making it sound better!” And that was indeed the best way to end the concert.