The Singapore Percussion Ensemble Festival (SPEF) is an international percussion festival founded in Singapore in 2014 and organised biennially by the award-winning Singapore Wind Symphony Percussion Ensemble (SWSPE).
SPEF is one of the biggest events in SWSPE’s calendar, and now in its third edition, a cumulative total of over 30 musicians have taken part. The showcase concert for SPEF 2018 will take place at NAFA Lee Foundation Theatre on 1st July 2018.
“SPEF has always been something that we have been pretty passionate about since its inception. It’s basically in line with what we have always believed in as an ensemble: developing as an ensemble also means doing our part for the community – to nurture budding percussionists and build the scene for percussion ensemble music to flourish”, said Daniel Ho, Assistant Manager for SWSPE.
The heart of SPEF is the SPEF Ensemble, an educational program featuring some of the top percussionists in Singapore as faculty, and fostering young musicians. The festival has established itself as a niche platform for young percussionists to explore their passion in percussion ensemble music.
Auditions were held early this year for anybody who was interested in participating in SPEF 2018. The selected participants were chosen for the fine level of musicianship they showed in their playing and, more importantly, the zest and eagerness to learn from one another.
In the past two months leading up to the concert, the participants have been attending weekly ensemble rehearsals with members of the SPEF faculty. They also will be attending workshops conducted by Mathias Friis-Hansen (Denmark) and Dr Lin Wei Chen (Taiwan) on 26 June, and the fruits of this learning will be showcased in the concert this weekend.
In line with the idea of learning from not only local but also international artists, talent from abroad is brought in for the festival to share their knowledge and expertise. The 2016 SPEF was joined by David Herbert (USA), Dirk Wucherpfennig (Germany), as well as the Percussion Ensemble of the National Symphony Orchestra (Malaysia).
This year, Dirk will once again grace the festival with his presence, together with Chia Cheng Kok (Malaysia), Mathias Friis-Hansen (Denmark), Lin Wei Chen (Taiwan) and Toolbox Percussion (Hong Kong). SWSPE is tremendously grateful to its international friends for believing in its goal to promote contemporary percussion ensemble music in Singapore to a wider audience, as well as to provide a platform for budding percussionists to explore their passion in percussion ensemble music.
“I like the ensemble very much, and I know everyone a little bit now, so it’s really like coming back to friends. I’m completely looking forward to seeing how the pieces develop, because I know this ensemble, and I know what it is capable of,” Dirk said, on his return for SPEF 2018.
Since the first SPEF in 2014, the festival keeps getting bigger with every edition, with more participants, more guest artists, and more ambitious pieces. This year’s concert promises an exciting, jam-packed 3-hour aural spectacle of percussion ensemble music. In the first part of the show, the festival participants will showcase the cumulation of their hard work over the past two months.
Aside from expanding in size and scope, SPEF also seeks to shine the spotlight back onto its own as well: one of its previous participants, Arnav, will be performing Ney Rosauro’s Concerto for Marimba and Percussion with the festival participants. Subsequently, a repertoire of contemporary percussion ensemble music will be presented by Toolbox Percussion, coming all the way from Hong Kong. One particular piece that would definitely stand out would be Rounds for Mahjong by Fung Lam, featuring a mahjong table with four players. The concert will then be concluded by some percussion orchestra music by SWSPE.
Audience members are going to be in for a treat with an opportunity to hear what 18 percussionists on stage can do, with pieces like Jacob Remington’s Collide as well as Scott Weatherson’s percussion ensemble transcription of Mars by Holst. SWSPE will also be presenting a specially commissioned work by Rafael Amaral, titled Fearless Caboclo, as well as a double concerto with guest artists Wei Chen and Mathias.
A staggering amount of administrative work has gone into planning and executing the festival. Most of SWSPE’s members also hold down full-time jobs on the side or are full-time students, and it has been challenging balancing their commitments. Nevertheless, every member of the ensemble contributed in their own way, from liaising with transport companies and managing its social media channels (check out its Facebook and Instagram pages), to simply just buying takeout dinners for those rushing to rehearsal from work.
The festival would also not have been possible without the support of others. SWSPE would like to thank the National Arts Council, YAMAHA, and the Singapore Wind Symphony for their support, as well as the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts for sponsoring the concert venue.
Contributors: Daniel Ho, Low Xing Ern
Singapore Percussion Ensemble Festival (SPEF) 2018
1st July, Sunday
NAFA Lee Foundation Theatre, 4 – 7pm
Available from tinyurl.com/spef2018
A contributing editor at TBP.