Established as one of the pioneer community bands in Singapore, Sembawang Wind Orchestra (SWO) is a platform for people from all walks of life to gather and fulfil their musical aspirations, and to pursue their passion for music beyond the academic environment of a co-curriculum activity.
Since its inauguration in 1992 by the former MP for Sembawang GRC and the incumbent President of Singapore, Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam, the band has grown a lot over the last 25 years. Members have come and gone, but today they are a very diverse group of both young and older musicians.
With continued support from the People’s Association and Sembawang Grassroots Organisations, SWO is very involved in community events and has performed at various community spaces such as the National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Conference Hall, Woodlands Regional Library, Wisma Atria and Northpoint Shopping Centre.
The wind orchestra has also released multiple recordings and clinch awards in international music festivals under the baton of its Music Director Mr Desmond Ng, who has been with the band since its formation.
“Recently, we had the privilege to perform at National level events such as the Istana Open House and Prime Minister’s Chinese New Year Garden Party. We will be collaborating with Suntec this December for their upcoming “Joy of Music” series of performances as well,” said Orchestra Manager, Yeo Cheng Fu.
As SWO is the ambassador of Sembawang Community Club, it continues to widen its outreach, deepening its engagement within the community and groom the next generation of musicians.
“We often take part in grassroots activities such as visits to nursing homes, community concerts and masterclasses for various schools. We also try to engage the general public and spread an appreciation for music to them,” said Gerald Lim, Principal Clarinetist, who has been with the band since 2008.
A longtime clarinetist with SWO also added that the camaraderie amongst the members has encouraged opportunities to explore musical ideas and challenges, bringing music making to a higher level of enjoyment.
In general, SWO performs a lot more classical repertoire and has premiered various new works. Therefore it is an avenue for the younger generation of players to try out new and challenging music, and to grow in their musical journey.
Some local premieres include classical transcriptions and wind band music such as Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5 “Emperor”, Per la flor del Iliri blau by Joaquín Rodrigo (The Blue Irish Lily Flower), The Valencian Widow by Aram Khachaturian and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.
In its upcoming concert on 4 December, SWO celebrates their Silver Jubilee by performing a set of repertoire that is of significance to its growth.
Concert attendees will hear Alfred Reed’s Symphony No. 5 “Sakura” and Singapura Medley, a familiar work based on the local tune of Chan Mali Chan. Together with its music director Mr Desmond Ng, the band will also be joined by guest conductor Mr. Philip Davis (former Head of Performance Music at Redlands College) from Australia who will be conducting the band for their performance of Johan de Meij’s T-bone Concerto.
This concert is not just a celebration of 25 years in music making, but also to acknowledge the many individuals and organizations who have put in resources and opportunities needed for the group to grow.
“Through more community concerts and programmes, the band hopes to prepare our musicians for the ever-changing landscape in the music scene,” said Jackson Neo, Concertmaster of SWO.
“SWO will remain steadfast as a band where young musicians pursue their interest and aspirations would be grown as they give back to the community,” he added.
To learn more about the Sembawang Wind Orchestra, visit their Facebook page!
A contributing editor at TBP.