The Asian Cultural Symphony Orchestra (ACSO) celebrates its 5th anniversary this year and will present a concert on 30 August featuring new local works by Singapore composers in celebration of its anniversary.

Since its inception, ACSO has prided itself as a Singapore-based Symphony Orchestra that champions Asian Cultural music and Symphonic Works. It sees itself as a driving force in promoting these works, which help to introduce and educate audiences on the appreciation and awareness of Asian music, and hopes to find partner supporters who will help support their journey. 

ACSO also strives to offer instrumental talents from Singapore (and Asia) to showcase their talents as soloists, and to foster community bonding through a common platform for diverse arts groups to collaborate, including community outreach to the masses.

“We have collaborated with over 50 instrumental soloists & vocalists, plus commissioned more than 50 new works and arrangements by local composers, such as Phoon Yew Tien, Eric Watson, Phang Kok Jun, Syafiqah ‘Adha Sallehin, Terrence Wong and many more.

The last few years have been nothing short of rewarding for all of us, as we have managed to keep things running even while Covid has been down. Covid times may have hampered our ability to do live performances, but we have kept ourselves as busy as possible with digital productions and small-scale live performances with limited audiences. We are grateful to have made it through the difficult times and look forward to presenting more great Asian Symphonic works to the public.

We believe that our existence can contribute to the development of a stronger identity and arts ecosystem not only in Singapore but throughout Asia.”

Joining ACSO on stage are some of Singapore’s most celebrated instrumentalists, such as Govin Tan (Tabla), Ralph Emmanuel Lim (Clarinet), Yvonne Tay (Guzheng), Niranjan Pandian (Bansuri), Jacky Ng (Suona) and Azrin Abdullah (Oud).

“Actually this is almost just like a reunion with old friends on stage. Having had successful collaborations with them previously, we thought that it was only fitting that we get them back onstage with us for this 5th-anniversary concert.”

The orchestra, led by conductors Adrian Chiang and Dedric Wong, will present a diverse repertoire that includes ‘Confluence’ by Wang Chen Wei, ‘As Thus’ by Wang Dan Hong, ‘Triple Concertino with Orchestra’ by Edmund Song, ‘Kaleidoscope, Fantasy for Clarinet and Orchestra’ by Germaine Goh, and ‘Dialogue for Tabla and Orchestra’ by Eric Watson.

With this concert programme, the ACSO seeks to foster Singapore’s multiculturalism through multiculturalism music; strengthen Singapore’s national identity and pride by featuring Singapore’s Cultural Medallion winners, in this case with composer Eric Watson and singer Rahimah Rahim; and promote inclusiveness and harmony between the different cultures.

“Commissioning new works at every concert is something that we have undertaken consistently, and are proud to have created many works as a result that showcased the many beautiful sounds of Asia within a western context.

Likewise, this concert will feature representative works of the five notable composers, and the inspiring stories of the two Cultural Medallion winners would also be shared to inspire our audience by our youth ambassadors before the concert at the exhibition area. 

We hope that through these (and future) concerts, we can continue the legacy of these Singapore influential artists that have shaped the Singapore music scene. These composers of various backgrounds and races will definitely have inspiring stories that can be and should be promoted to the public.”

Going forward, ACSO hopes to achieve its vision of becoming a premier ensemble representing Asian culture and sounds.

“The ACSO was founded in 2016 as a result of a similar SG50 project and is led by Dedric and me with the assistance of an executive committee of enthusiastic volunteers. Previously managed as an interest group under the People’s Association, it is only this year that ACSO was formally incorporated and registered as a non-profit arts company. We have since formed a Board and are working towards obtaining Charity and IPC status, which is a step to further push the envelope in our mission,” said Adrian Chiang.

“We also intend to continue our efforts to inspire, educate and communicate through music, by cultivating the interest of the public and enhancing their appreciation of Multiculturalism music by performing at suitable school auditoriums or community places. By bringing our music to people from all walks of life, we hope to feature more familiar local and heartland tunes, with a different flavour to the community, showing how some music can be rearranged to showcase a mix of racial diversity via the usage of the different ethnic instruments.”

As the Singapore music landscape continues to grow, ASCO’s aim to create a cultural authenticity is relevant and important.

“Singapore has had solid cultural strengths, manifested separately in each race and different nationalities within Singapore. We sincerely believe that music can be this binding glue to meld these cultural strengths as a solid Singapore cultural strength.”

“As Singapore approaches our 60th birthday, it is about time Singapore creates its own cultural authenticity too. ACSO is the only Western orchestra in Singapore (and Asia) that focuses on Asian Symphonic Music, especially music that features Multiculturalism. While Multiculturalism Music may seem like an artistic daydream of musical expression that goes beyond the typical, ACSO has been working fervently since 2016 to develop a Uniquely Singaporean voice in the arts. We also aim to be an inspiration for Singapore arts, going beyond technical mastery of conventional art forms, and creating a new musical form.”

“The Multiculturalism in our music was conceived with our aim to preserve our heritage and educate the next generation, by bringing Singapore’s composers and instrumentalists to the fore, and by celebrating their contributions to the Singapore Arts scene. With the artistic usage of diverse ethnic instruments (either as soloists or playing together) together with the western orchestra, ACSO has also created new authenticity in its new works that were born out of a combination of different cultural authenticities.”


Tuesday, 30 August 2022
Victoria Concert Hall, 8.15pm
$28 – Available here


Written By Editor

A contributing editor at TBP.