The upcoming concert by NUS Wind Symphony, InTempo’22: Musical Escapades will feature two pieces newly-commissioned by NUS Centre For the Arts (NUS CFA), namely Emergence and anew, composed by local composers Gu Wei and Lee Jia Yi respectively, made possible by the Ho Hwee Long Music Score Commission Fund.
Established by NUS CFA in honour of Associate Professor Ho Hwee Long, who is a strong advocate of Singapore’s local school band scene, the fund aims to provide new and high-quality compositions which can be performed by all Singapore school bands for free, hence creating a meaningful and accessible library of contemporary works.
In addition, this project also supports local composers who are willing to share their stories and experiences through their music and compositions.
“The two commissioned pieces that will be featured in this year’s instalment of InTempo are very dear to our hearts, as they explore the multitude of feelings as we journey through the pandemic – the uncertainties and worries, as well as the resilience and optimism that we can brave through this storm together,” said the NUSWS committee.
“We believe that these works are also very relatable to our younger counterparts in the school band scene, who had to constantly adapt amidst the constant changes in restrictions. Just like these pieces, the fund seeks to build an ever-growing collection of new and relatable high-quality repertoire for the school band community in Singapore.”
“This will hopefully benefit young musicians and band members in terms of their musical learning and journey, through providing them diverse and unique scores to explore.”
The piece ‘Emergence’ is composed by local composer Gu Wei in response to the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He defines ‘emergence’ as a natural phenomenon where complex structures and behaviours spontaneously arise from a collective of relatively simple elements, symbolising how the “small” and “insignificant” things that we do, are in fact essential for the existence of our society. His idea of ‘emergence’ also extends to the actual action of emerging from something, as he wrote this piece when the world was facing difficulties emerging from the pandemic.
Devastated about the cancellations and restrictions related to music-making, he wrote this piece to signify his optimism and hope for Singaporeans to stay strong as we attempt to emerge from this pandemic. Gu Wei hopes that the audience can feel a sense of musical satisfaction and be inspired to keep fighting and going forward.
Jia Yi wrote the piece ‘anew’ during the circuit breaker period in Singapore, and wished to reflect the uncertainties of the pandemic situation at that time. The narrative of the piece follows the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and eventually its co-existence in our daily lives.
She hopes that the emotions associated with these events – anxiety intertwined with acceptance and hope to adapt into a new normal – can resonate with the audience.
“While this piece was commissioned in 2020, it was unfortunate that NUS Wind Symphony was unable to premiere anew earlier, due to Covid-19 related cancellation of our show. Nevertheless, mirroring the spirit of anticipation and optimism reflected in the piece, we are proud to finally premiere it this year.”
“NUS Wind Symphony has been working closely with the composers of the pieces, continuously offering and receiving feedbacks, in order to ensure that the pieces are accurately portrayed to our audiences, and reflect the feelings and emotions intended by the composers.”
The concert preparation has inevitably been an arduous yet meaningful experience for many of NUS Wind Symphony – the members, the planning committee, the Music Director – Mr Francis Tan, as well as all other stakeholders involved.
“There were lots of anxieties when restrictions were tightened, and countless sighs of relief when various pieces of good news came. While it was rather challenging and uncomfortable in the beginning, we constantly strive to adjust to the new normal in band rehearsals and performances.”
Despite the pandemic, NUS Wind Symphony continued to allow its members to pursue musical excellence and develop holistically, with all these done in a safe and controlled manner. Rehearsals and trainings had to closely follow the latest National Arts Council (NAC) guidelines. Members were grouped into smaller bands in order to observe the current restrictions, with minimal contact among members in different bands.
“Our members also had to follow safe-distancing guidelines of 2 metres, which unfortunately made rehearsals quite challenging as members usually rely a lot on listening to others while playing. Rehearsal duration also had to be kept short in order to minimize the duration of unmasking, and also to allow all the different bands to rehearse. As a result, greater emphasis had to be placed on self-practice and sectional tutoring sessions. Hence, members had the chance to work more closely with our sectional tutors, in order to ensure musical excellence in their playing.”
“Through this experience however, we learned to take things day by day, constantly adjusting to new circumstances as they come, and to be realistic yet optimistic when preparing for the concert.”