(cover: Music Video for one of the music <It’s Here I’ll Stay>)
With the nation’s golden jubilee approaching, the SG50: Festive Music for Bands project will be launched officially on 9 July.
In this pre-launch period, The Band Post speaks to the composer behind the project – Kahchun Wong, and his ideas behind the music that would be made complimentary between now and 31 December, without any cost involved, for download, rehearsal or performance.
What is this SG50 project about? How was it planned so that it is on schedule for release before NDP itself?
This project is about providing access and support for wind orchestras and bands in Singapore to a set of local music that is suitable for functions such as school ceremonies such as Speech Day and National Day celebrations. After some research, we found out that the most useful musical resources would be a fanfare, a functional parade march meant for uniformed groups such as NCC and NPCC to march to the beat of, a symphonic and majestic work that is meant for the concert hall, as well as a community song, inspired by the popular New Sounds in Brass series from Japan, that bands can play.
As early as last year, discussions have already started between the Ministry of Education (MOE) and me on how a project like this could support the local school scene, and we worked together to fine-tune objectives, beneficiaries as well as the mode of distribution, so as to enrich our wonderful band tradition. With the support of Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and the SG50 Celebration Fund, the music is recorded by a project wind orchestra, formed by the best local musicians, and the music uploaded and distributed through our website.
Did you have any considerations when writing the music for the project (instrumentation, difficulty, etc)?
Instrumentation and difficulty are key factors, alongside how meaningful the music would be to local audiences.
In order to make the music available and accessible to as many bands as possible, the orchestration follows recent Japanese music publishing trends, where instruments such as bassoons, oboes and contrabasses (some of my personal favourite sounds!) are made optional, so that schools without the necessary manpower can still perform the music.
In fact, the size of the project wind orchestra which recorded my music is only 20 musicians in total!
The level of difficulty is also very carefully considered:
The Parade March <Stars of Tomorrow>, which can be performed on the parade ground, meant for real-time marching, is first and foremost functional, with a constant bass drum beat, and at the Grade 2 level, meaning that even lower secondary junior bands can take them up with ease.
Rehearsal time is of utmost concern – there might be perhaps just a few practise sessions before NDP ceremonies, and therefore the difficulty level must be reasonably practical.
The Fanfare <Merlion Rising>, noted at Grade 3, will still allow most bands to perform for Guest-of-Honours and begin award ceremonies with ease.
The Symphonic March <It’s Here I’ll Stay> as well as the Song for Singapore <SG50: The NEXT> are more challenging, at around the same level of symphonic pieces and Japanese or American Graffiti series.
What were the most difficult part of the planning process? Was the recording session up to expectations?
In the entire process, I have not found any specific aspect to be difficult at all! Of course, each component must be ideal and as perfect as realistically possible.
To achieve this, my belief is that as long as you work with the very best, dreams will happen. Along the way, the project was supported by the best administrators from MOE and MCCY, the best recording team, the best musicians and the best logistical personnel.
The recording day was astoundingly positive – the musicians were emailed the music only 5 hours before the start of the session, and it was the first time for them to work together, but in mere hours, we were able to record 4 pieces – with the Symphonic March <It’s Here I’ll Stay> and twice, because we also required minus-one, karaoke versions for our singer to sing along afterwards!
What do you feel is the most unique part of this project?
The most unique aspect of this project is that we have a singer to sing with <It’s Here I’ll Stay> and <SG50: The NEXT>!
While these two pieces of music are real and honest symphonic music, they have also been written in a way they can become accompaniment, like pop song backing tracks, to a singer or chorus!
Stay tuned for the Music Video to <SG50: The NEXT>, next week!
A contributing editor at TBP.