NAO – The Storytelling Orchestra

Presented by the NUS Alumni Orchestra (NAO), ‘Bach to the Future‘ is a classical performance through time.

The project was formed from the concept to explore how music has transformed and progressed, and how composers’ motivations have changed over time. With the power of storytelling through skits, and music from featured composers who have written music that is distinctive of their musical eras, the orchestra will bring the audience on an engaging and educational journey.

“Humans are storytelling creatures – this is something one of our music teachers taught us. Just like how folktales can help children gain life lessons through exciting stories, we hope that by weaving music and a captivating storyline together, we can help our audience learn about classical music in a simple and fun manner. There is absolutely no music theory training required!” said the NAO committee.

“And for those without musical background, this is your chance for a crash course in the key musical eras – Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary/20th Century. The musical journey with NAO will be a Short and Fun Ride in a Fast Machine!”

During the repertoire selection process, the committee thought about key prominent composers associated with each era, and the composers that wrote in styles typical of each era, as they wanted to show what was mainstream in those time periods.

“We picked pieces which are easy to digest, easy to appreciate, and perhaps even recognisable to many (but they never knew the titles!). For example, influenced by the political and social unrest of the time, music in the Classical Era was centered around themes of nationalism. Beethoven was moved by democratic ideals, which manifested in his Egmont Overture, about a Count who supported a peasants’ uprising against the nobles.”

“In contrast, Holst’s Jupiter from the Planets showcases the huge expanded orchestra typical of early 20th Century music when improvements in instrument building technology allowed composers then to do so. Unlike previous periods, this era was without a dominant style, with composers experimenting with erratic rhythms, unusual instrumentation, and expanded tonality.”

Unlike other general classical concerts, NAO concerts have always been an immersive experience for the audience.

“We always try to make our concerts accessible to people of any musical background. There will be no emcees reading off scripts in a monotone – our actors will bring the audience on a journey through the music, built around the main theme or message for each concert.”

“We also do not follow the typical fixed format for classical concerts: overture, concerto and symphony. We mix and match the pieces that lend themselves to helping our audience understand the theme the best!”

Monday evening’s concert will showcase the carefully woven narrative and repertoire that will help the audience understand the 5Ws and 1H for each piece; who wrote what piece, why, where, when, and most importantly, how.

To NAO, sharing the ‘how’ is the most important part that sets them apart. With knowledge of how composers portray certain ideas, the orchestra hopes audience members will be able to pick these up when they listen to other pieces in the future, helping them to appreciate the pieces better, and in time, adding to their own playlist of enjoyable classical pieces.

“We liken it to giving spectacles to a short-sighted person – now you can see what makes this previously hazy piece of music distinctive, beautiful and special!”


Join the NUS Alumni Orchestra in ‘Bach to the Future’ at Singapore Conference Hall, 5pm on 12 August, Monday.
Tickets: $19, $17 (group booking of 4 tickets and above in a single transaction)
Available from https://bit.ly/BachtothefutureNAO

The NAO committee:

President – Koh Swee Jin
Vice President – Michelle Tan
Secretary – Shen Xichen
Treasurer – Li Xiaoxi
Logistics – Gareth Lee
Music and Production – Tan Xiao Rong
Publicity (collaterals) – Rose Marie Tan
Publicity (social media) – Elizabeth Low

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