ACSO: Promoting Asian Symphonic Works

Formed in early 2016, the Asian Cultural Symphony Orchestra (ACSO) seeks to present a vast array of Asian Symphonic Materials to Singapore audiences.

“Performing Asian Symphonic compositions is a journey of discovery for us, as we wanted to provide these quality works a chance to stand against the test of time – a true hallmark of any music composition. The history of Asian symphonic music is relatively new compared to its western counterparts and we want to begin the cycle of promoting Asian symphonic compositions. We hope that these works will be celebrated as much as its western counterparts in a century’s time and believe that it important for orchestras (particularly in Asia) to do so.” said Tham Jiang Jun, one of the orchestra’s founders.

Asian Cultural Symphonic Music, as defined by the group, are symphonic works that are written by Asian composers, which also includes Thailand, Indonesia, Japanese and Korean music.

“The common trait of all the music that we wanted to market and perform, stemmed from the origins of the symphonic composition; an Asian composer. While we will never know what quality Asian Symphonic compositions are, the expertise of our conductors and our mission to give the composition a performing chance(s) is all that is enough for us.”

Since its inauguration in 2016, the orchestra has put up two annual concerts that target symphonic enthusiasts who are willing to keep an open ear into exposing themselves to unfamiliar music territory.

Their first concert, Butterfly Lovers & the Yellow River, presented the very best of Chinese Symphonic Music alongside Singaporean symphonic works. Premiere, their second concert featured the both the erhu and sitar with symphony orchestra.

“The fact that these Asian Symphonic Works can reach a popularity as much as its western counterparts validates to a certain extent, that there is more potential for a greater number of Asian Symphonic Compositions to reach that level. We believe that there are many hidden gems of Asian Symphonic Compositions waiting to be discovered and revealed!”

In its upcoming concert this Saturday, the orchestra will present Oriental Winds, a concert that intends to educate audiences about the development & influences of Singaporean Symphonic Music by performing works from several generations of Singaporean composers all in a single setting.

Flutist Dr Cheryl Lim will be performing Japanese composer Hisatada Otaka’s flute concerto, Concerto pro flauta, op.30a, and Dizi soloist Ng Hsien Han will be performing Chinese composer Yang Chun Lin (杨春林)’s dizi concerto entitled Everlasting Sorrow (长恨绵绵). Both concertos will be local premieres in Singapore.

The concert will also amalgamate the Ethnic flutists from the Chinese, Javanese, Indian and Japanese Cultures through Asian Cultural Commissions by Eric Watson, Sulwyn Lok and Wang Chenwei. This will also be complemented by soloists from the Dicapella Dizi Ensemble and the Flute Association (Singapore). The concert will also feature Bernard Tan‘s Can Do! Overture and Kelly Tang‘s Sketches of Singapore.

“Our music was decided based on two conditions; the concert’s theme and its extent to feature Singaporeans – composers & performers alike.

After collaborating with Singaporean Sitarist Krsna Tan and local Erhu Soloist Wong Qinkai in 2017, we felt that exploring symphonic repertoire featuring oriental instruments was a unique idea and  decided to execute through instrument-based concert themes.”

“For every project, we question if our programmes are necessary; is it meaningful enough to execute given that there are so many other arts performances nowadays, and whether it value adds to the Singapore music scene. With our focus to promote Singaporean composers and performers, we believed that this was a programme worth executing.”

By satisfying the two conditions, the artistic committee would internally discuss plausible programme pieces with logistical and financial considerations. Key considerations include, whether composers could be commissioned, if soloists had the time to participate in the programme, if they could perform the piece, keeping in mind the preference of both soloists and composers and the availability of scores.

Looking ahead, the orchestra’s vision is to gradually promote Asian Cultural Symphonic Music to be regarded as equals to Western Symphonic Music.

“There would be no such thing as Asian Cultural Symphonic Music if there was no Western Symphonic Music. We cannot, and should not deny the fact that western ideologies have influenced Asia in many ways; the clothes we dress, the language we speak, our taste and preferences for food or the arts. We can, and should, celebrate the benefits that such ideologies have benefited our lives.”

“In the realm of symphonic music, we should continue to appreciate Western Symphonic Music and simultaneously celebrate what it has evolved to; Asian Cultural Symphonic Music – a genre morphed from Western Symphonic music but is capable of being distinctive on its own.”


Oriental Winds

Saturday, 10 February 2018
SOTA Concert Hall, 7.30pm

Tickets: $20, $25
Available from https://goo.gl/forms/rucfNFP8Q1XCPEk72

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