Paying tribute to its late Music Director, Adrian Tan, the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra led by Taiwanese conductor Apo Hsu returns to Esplanade Concert Hall on 11 September.
“We were all saddened and taken by surprise with the great loss of Adrian who passed away so suddenly last July. Unfortunately, it was also during the pandemic that we couldn’t do anything for him. So when the orchestra was able to come back together, everyone has been talking about doing a memorial concert for him, and we finally have a date to perform this year. It is important that we bring everybody back to perform because this is what his legacy will be,” Apo said.
“This orchestra is what Adrian inherited from Mr. Yan, and has brought them up to such a vibrant, healthy state. It’s important that we continue to keep it going, and with the repertoire that we select for this concert, it has gone through a lot of discussions with many people who have worked with Adrian before – composers, arrangers, musicians, including myself,” she continued.
Adrian, who became music director of the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO) in 2012, has transformed the community orchestra over the years by bringing fine local musicians together and creating innovative programmes. With him at the helm, the orchestra actively staged regular concerts, each one featuring at least one Singaporean composer.
“Every title in our concert repertoire has a special meaning to Adrian, when he was music director of BHSO,” said General Manager Go Ling Hong.
Opening the concert is one of the best-known compositions in classical music and more frequently played symphonies – the iconic and monumental Beethoven Fifth Symphony.
“This work is such a fateful piece of music. We live in a world with the pandemic and all of these other things – you do not know what’s going to happen to you at any moment, so it’s about seizing the moment and doing the best you can, right? This music is something we all know – the life struggles that everyone has; with this piece of music, it kind of shares that intensity and spirit. It is so fitting for who Adrian is and for us, for everyone in this world, how we want to live our lives and how we want to grasp what we can and make the best of it,” Apo said.
The second half begins with Brahms Piano Concerto No.2 in B♭ major, Op. 83: III. Andante, featuring Professor Albert Tiu as soloist. This work was performed by BHSO in 2019, and was his last performance where Adrian was the conductor.
This will be followed by the world-premiere of Song for Adrian for string orchestra, composed by Low Shao Suan and Low Shao Ying, in memory of their dear friend and talented conductor. Written in Rondo form, and is hymn-like, where the opening few notes of the motif can be heard throughout the piece. Passion and intensity are injected amidst the calm and the piece ends with a grandiose which celebrates the legacy that Adrian had left behind.
“I remember meeting Adrian for the first time in 2009, at the Sydney Conservatory where he was a graduate conducting student and my assistant conductor. We had a very good working relationship, and continued to stay in touch, discussing about the programme and ideas of further studies and all that. After many years, he invited me to conduct the Singapore Wind Symphony and then gradually brought me to BHSO. It’s important for me to be here because he’s such a close friend. The last two or three times I came to visit, I stayed with him and his mother,” Apo said.
“We will be performing Elgar’s Enigma, a title that is commonly played during memorial services. It is a piece that people can meditate, remember and reflect internally. I think it will be very challenging for musicians to play it when you really put your heart to it, it’s not going to be hard but all very meaningful.”
Fondly remembered as a strong advocate of the works of Singaporean composers, Adrian commissioned BHSO resident arranger Mohd. Rasull to arrange ‘May You Achieve Happiness‘ for the orchestra. This work was originally planned for the 2020 season, but did not happen due to the pandemic. By including the work as part of the repertoire, and featuring The Joy Chorale, it is a realisation of his wish.
“I could feel that when we’re working together for this concert – the choir, the orchestra, people travelling from afar like Sydney; everyone knows it’s so important to be here although we cannot believe that he’s not here anymore. It’s unfortunate, but at least it propelled, encouraged and inspired us to do this concert. And I’m really hoping that this commitment and excitement can carry on and that BHSO continues to grow despite this pandemic and the absence of Adrian. So I’m happy to be here to help push it towards that direction with the help of everyone,” Apo said.
One such player is double bassist Christy Smith, who is thankful for the opportunity to be part of BHSO once again.
“I met Adrian on a bus to Malaysia many years ago as I was scheduled to do concerts while he was going to do conductor workshops. He recognized me, and we had a five hour ride talking about music. I told him I had some orchestral experience in college with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in California, and we started talking about Beethoven Symphonies and composers that would write good material for double bassists to work hard. He then invited me to join BHSO for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – I was elated and our friendship built from that day on. Since then I’ve done as many concerts as I possibly could with BHSO, and anything with Adrian. When I wrote a message to thank him for the opportunities, he would say – no need to thank me, I was merely recommending the best person for the job. I cherish his words till today and I hold a place deep In my heart for him. I am so elated and gratified mentally, spiritually, musically, to be a part of this tribute and memorial concert.”
Wrapping the concert is Dick Lee’s evergreen ‘Home‘, featuring the choir.
“Audience could be part of it, and I’m sure many of them will be Adrian’s friends, students, family and relatives, which will be very touching,” Apo said.
“We hope this brings people together, and that the music community will continue to thrive. This concert will serve as a closure for some people, but also inspiration for a lot.”
Sunday, 11 September 2022
Esplanade Concert Hall, 7.30pm
Tickets available here
A contributing editor at TBP.