Best known for his contemporary transcriptions of orchestral and anime music such as Der Vogelhändler, Die Fledermaus and Howl’s Moving Castle, renowned Japanese composer Eiji Suzuki makes his first trip to Singapore to conduct a concert with West Winds, the band of Bukit Batok Community Club.
No stranger to such collaborations, West Winds has had the privilege to work with many guest conductors and composers over the years. The list includes James Swearingen, Yasuhide Ito, Eric Whitacre, Jacob De Haan, Satoshi Yagisawa, COL Prateep Suphanrojn and Virginia Allen.
“This time round, we have our dear friend Mr Benjamin Yeo to thank, as he was the one who introduced us to Eiji Suzuki. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity to work with sensei and the rest is history,” explained president James Chua on what initiated the partnership.
Eiji Suzuki will make his appearance in the second half to lead the band in presenting a fine selection of his compositions, some of which are lesser known in this region.
“Meeting Suzuki sensei in person is a very refreshing experience for me as it is my first time playing his orchestral works. Even though there was a language barrier, it did not hinder music making. At first, I was anxious for the section, worrying that we may not be up to his standard; after all since he is a well known conductor and composer. However, this anxiety was relieved after our first rehearsal as Mr Suzuki is a very down to earth and encouraging person. He is humorous in the way he conveys his music interpretations, and at the same time is also open to our suggestions.
Though the time spent with Mr Suzuki is short, his passion for music is very contagious and has left a lasting impression on me. He has been such an inspiration,” reflected percussion section leader Ng Zhen Ning.
Written for the 23rd National Senior Games in Ishikawa Prefecture in 2010, the band will open with ‘March Silver Spirits’, a processional march with dignified and mature sounds. The trio section of the music will portray memories of warmth, separation and fulfillment.
Audiences will then get to hear the Suzuki’s rendition of Pietro Mascagni’s ‘Cavelleria Rusticana’, and his ever popular arrangement of selections from Franz Lehár’s ”Merry Widow’.
“It has been a wonderful and joyful learning experience under Sensei’s baton. In his rehearsal approach, sensei balances both technical and musical demands well. The love of music and zest for life is always evident. Sometimes in rehearsals – the desire for precision and perfection often get in the way of making music. In some instances, a musical idea is all you need to really change the tone colour.
A take-away watching Sensei rehearse – having a strong concept of the piece and introducing a simple over-arching idea to the ensemble helps greatly with rehearsal. This simple idea greatly reinforces and aids memory of the finer details, whether in subsequent rehearsals or performances.
Sensei also shared secrets during the concert band arranging workshop, such as the need to understand the harmonic series in both playing in the band and composing for the band, and of course the all important pyramid of instruments. A good piece understands these elements and can make any band sound good,” said double bassist Darren Sim.
Completing the evening’s repertoire is a carefully chosen trio of Suzuki’s original band compositions. These include ‘Soaring Freedom Bell’ and ‘Cantos Sonare’ for Wind Ensemble. Suzuki’s charming ‘The Land of a Great Promise’ will also tell the stories of the founder of Mongol Empire – Genghis Khan.
“I have enjoyed the atmosphere and the rehearsals with West Winds. I have only been here for a week but I already feel like I am part of the band family and have known them for a long time. They are so friendly to me!” said Eiji Suzuki on his stay here.
“Every band has their own sound, and West Winds has a big beautiful sound. The harmony is great and the band sounds very tight together, like a family. If we can perform like this at the concert, it would definitely make the audiences happy.”
West Winds in Concert 2017
30 September (Saturday)
SOTA Concert Hall, 7.30pm
Tickets: $15, $12 (Students, NSFs & Senior Citizens)
Tickets available from SISTIC (Limited Tickets left)
There will be an autograph session by Mr Eiji Suzuki in post-concert.
A contributing editor at TBP.