As West Winds turns 25 this year, the band will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee in a concert this Sunday that expresses gratitude to all who have contributed to their success.
“We owe our existence to many people and institutions, all of which have in one way or another made West Winds what she is today. It is impossible to name them all or to give more significance of one or the other, as each of them had made in indelible imprint on the band. I think the biggest regret of the band is that the person who supported the start of West Winds – the late Dr Ong Chit Chung, could not see the fruits of his labour,” said Tan Ailin, who has been with the band since its formation.
To represent the three aspects of West Winds’ values – Music, Friendship and Community, the repertoire for the concert has been carefully curated by resident conductor ME6 Philip Tng.
“We wanted to express our gratitude to late Dr Ong through 1812 Overture, a work that he loves and wanted us to perform at one of our concerts but we could not do it because we were not musically ready then. As we have now grown from strength to strength as a band, we have decided to perform this major work, conquering something we never had enough courage to pursue before,” said Gena Ng, West Winds secretary.
Featured in the concert are works from composers whom the band has worked closely with over the past few years; Prateep Suphanrojn, Benjamin Yeo, Ito Yasuhide, just to name a few. The band will also perform Winds Beyond The Hills, specially written for this occasion by Ng Ting Hsiang, to express the journey of the band from its humble beginnings till who they are today, from his perspective as a member since 1999.
“We will be showcasing our local talent with the intent to inspire and to give these passionate musicians our support. Having worked with voices for some of our past concerts, we wanted to present the different genres that we were able to do and this time, we are really fortunate to work with Cherise Tse on the world premiere of I Shall Love But Thee for wind band by Jan Van der Roost,” Gena continued.
Making his appearance in the concert is Assistant Conductor Francis Tan who will lead the band with Daisuke Shimizu’s Song of Gaia and Masanori Taruya’s Jubilation.
In Shimizu’s own words, Song of Gaia is a love song of the people. Although the idea of expressing love in music is hardly an original one, Francis expressed that he particularly enjoy this unabashedly Neo-romantic work that speaks of that big-hearted love relationship between Gaia (Mother Earth) and humans.
“I immediately thought of this piece when I was asked to choose a piece to conduct for West Winds. West Winders are known for their generous acts of love and kindness for one another and it would be easy for me to coax that expression out of the music. The rehearsals have indeed proven me to be quite right!” Francis said.’
“I also chose Taruya’s Jubilation as the work details the intense feelings of great happiness and triumph very effectively. I thought, what better way to celebrate our 25th anniversary than to share with our audience the joys of happiness through this piece!” he added.
Since its inception in 1993, West Winds has invoked some of the fondest memories for its members, which was are mostly personal recollections of individuals who have touched and have been touched by the band.
“As a pioneer member, it has been a very rewarding experience. We had our fair share of ups and downs but when I look back, these challenges shaped the band and made us stronger as a group you see today. I am filled with pride, having witnessed what the band had accomplished and I reckon it’s like watching your child grow, knowing that good values and principles had been instilled in him/her which will help them in what lies ahead of their journey in life,” Ailin said.
“I remember how we started in the basement civil defence shelter with only 18 members! We then moved to the fourth level of the community club when we grew to 40 strong – we had to go through an obstacle course which comprised mutes, stands and percussion instruments to get out of the room during rehearsals just so we can use the restrooms. Soon enough, when we were 60 strong, we moved to a glass multi-purpose room, also known as the fish tank, and finally, to our present recital studio. where we grew to the strength of 80 and more. I remember how the community club’s representatives jokingly reminded us that if we continue to grow, we may end up rehearsing on the rooftop!” recalled Ailin.
Apart from personal favourites, West Winds also saw some of its key milestones occur in its history. They include the band’s first formal concert in January 1995, just barely 2 years after the band started, keeping in mind that they were still a young band, facing difficulties with membership and were not financially stable at that time.
The next would be in 1996 when then Band Director, Dr Lee Tian Tee strongly encouraged them to participate in the Singapore International Youth Band Festival which showed its players that the band had potential to achieve more.
The third would be the recruitment of current Band Director, ME6 Philip Tng, whose mild-mannered and patient ways were the stabilizer and reassurance that the band needed as she experimented and charted her musical direction.
The fourth would be in 2000, when the band suffered a huge financial loss from a concert and lost her right to self-manage. This taught them an important lesson about concert programming, prudency and perseverance in gaining the CC management’s confidence, allowing them to self-manage again.
The fifth would be the band’s study tour to Osaka, where the players studied with members from the then Osaka Municipal Band. This experience changed the band’s sound concept and inspired many of its members to strive for musical excellence and advancement.
“As for our recent milestone, it would be the concert collaborations with Esplanade, where we were given endless opportunities to explore. With their support and encouragement to be more creative in our programming and to work with guest conductors and soloists, West Winds’ confidence boosted to embark on a bigger, more ambitious and varied programming.” Ailin added.
“We certainly hope that for the next 25 years, the younger generation of West Winds would continue to strive and chart new milestones for the band.”
West Winds 25th Anniversary Concert
Gratitude – Celebrating 25 years of Music, Friendship and Community
Sunday, 21 January 2018
Esplanade Concert Hall, 5pm
Tickets from SISTIC
A contributing editor at TBP.