Philharmonic Wind Orchestra (PWO) celebrates its 20+ years of music making with a long-awaited Gala Concert on 30 October at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

On the theme of the renewal of our planet and the human spirit, the gala concert presents an exciting evening programme which features four conductors, marking PWO’s relaunch as the world emerges from the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The music of the gala was confirmed probably around April or May. Planet Earth was the first one we decided to do. It was not a hard decision; it was something we had wanted to do but COVID had something to say about it then. It’s a perfect piece to do now not just because of the environmental issues but also a symbol for us; and for everybody who has had to put away, cancel, postpone things in their lives due to the pandemic. It is a renewal and a rebirth of Philharmonic Wind Orchestra getting back onto the stage,” said Tay Kai Tze, Principal Oboe, and Head of Artistic Planning of PWO.

The first half of the concert will feature two wind band works – Three Portraits by Dr Kelly Tang and Gloriosa by Yasuhide Ito, conducted by Dr Zechariah Goh (conductor of Philyouth’s inaugural concert, and guest conductor of Philwinds on numerous occasions) and Dr Robert Casteels (Founding Artistic Director of Philwinds) respectively.

The significance of programming the two works is a meaningful one, as they were the pieces that PWO used at their Gold-medal winning participation at the World Music Contest (Philwinds with Gloriosa – Gold with Distinction) and the Singapore International Band Festival (Philyouth with Three Portraits – Gold).

Conducted by ME4 Ignatius Wang, who played Euphonium with Philwinds and guest-conducted on several occasions, PWO will present the World Premiere of Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad by George Butterworth in an arrangement by Alexander Oon, PWO’s very own horn player. This piece provides an intimate reflection of the last 20 years of PWO while at the same time, looks forward to the future.

“As someone who is passionate about history, literature, and music, this has always been one of my favorite pieces since I first came across it a few years ago. Composed shortly before the outbreak of the first World War, Butterworth’s setting captures the irony, frustration, and (cynically) naïve hopefulness of youth, giving A.E. Housman’s words a new dimension. I love this cycle because it is so nuanced and complex. Alexander’s arrangement took this to a new level, and hearing it with all the colours of a wind orchestra adds so much to this piece,” said soloist Corey Koh.

The second half of the programme will feature the epic Symphony No.3 Planet Earth, by Johan de Meij.

Having programmed many major works such as the Marco Polo Trilogy over the last decade, PWO is no stranger to such masterpieces on a similar scale.

“Planet Earth seeks to complete the unfinished compendium of planets in Holst’s work, but with a twist – drawing attention not to the mythological personification of the planet itself, but to the evolution of the planet and anthropological changes caused by its human inhabitants. Planet Earth will also be performed with a 50-strong women’s choir with a film specially produced by Johan de Meij’s wife, Dyan Machan, to accompany the piece,” said Music Director Dr Leonard Tan, who will be conducting this centrepiece.

Written in three movements, the symphony narrates both the beauty and plight of our only home planet.

“Adding a choir to the wind orchestra can be as simple as adding just another layer of colour and texture. However, in the right hands, the use of the voice in this piece takes the musical lines, harmonies, and counterpoint and gives it a human touch. The hymn, sung by the choir at the end of the symphony becomes a plea or a prayer! The film is filled with such beautiful visuals and both film and music fit to become a whole that we couldn’t imagine doing the concert without the film,” Kai Tze described.

“Ending on a hopeful note, it sends not only a message of preservation and sustainability of our home but symbolically, a message of renewal of not just our orchestra but everybody who has lost something during the pandemic,” Kai Tze continued.

“It is our re-birth back on stage.”

Planet Earth: 20+ Anniversary Gala Concert

Sunday, 30 October 2022
Esplanade Concert Hall, 7.30pm

Tickets: $48, $35, $25
Available here


Written By Editor

A contributing editor at TBP.