Organized by the Orchestra of Music Makers (OMM), this year’s edition of the annual OMM camp takes place at the School of the Arts (SOTA) from 1 to 10 December, with a finale concert presentation on 11 December at 7.30pm in SOTA Concert Hall.
First started in 2011 as a combined schools string camp, it has since evolved into an intensive orchestra training programme for like-minded young musicians to come together in music-making, and explore symphonic repertoire with guidance from OMM’s principal players.
“We have chosen to use the same format from past camps, with a similar number of rehearsals, tutor systems and sectionals, down to programming a major symphonic work and a concerto. Audiences can expect a similar performance experience to previous OMM camps. Despite these similarities, this year’s camp feels extremely different” said Seow Yibin, Associate Conductor of OMM.
“After COVID restrictions were lifted, this is the first camp where we’re back to “normal”, but as the participants and the student leaders running the camp are new, we needed to rethink and consolidate ways of running the camp that can retain what previously worked well, yet provide some fresh, new opportunities, in line with the changing times. After all, it’s the participants that are of greatest importance… and what’s entirely new for the team is working with a guest conductor, and we have benefited greatly from his leadership and knowledge!” he continued.
Despite the challenges faced preparing for each year’s camp, Yibin believes that such platforms for young musicians are important for the local music scene.
“I think we are quite blessed with many orchestras in Singapore. Compared to 20 years ago, it’s more possible for young musicians to find an orchestra to play in. But what I do appreciate very much about the OMM camp is the willingness of professional musicians to share their expertise and musicianship with the campers. It’s invaluable to observe how professionals organize a sectional, rehearse and perform, while sharing their techniques on how to overcome challenges with the music,” he said.
“In addition, this orchestra is managed by a student committee. The whole camp system, attendance, scheduling, program, etc. is run by them. Through this, they learn how to manage an orchestra and a concert. This is a crucial skill for any aspiring musician to learn. I trust that this unique co-working experience with professional musicians and student leadership will be inspiring and enriching for the participants,” he added.
Marking his first OMM camp, conductor Francis Tan feels positive with the collective and united creative energy from everyone involved in the camp so far.
“I have heard very favourable feedback about the OMM camp from past campers but I did not expect to be bowled over by the sense of creative unity and enthusiasm till I was personally involved in the camp this year. It has been invigorating working with everyone so far. I am deeply appreciative that everything runs like clockwork – from the dedication of campers as well as the organising committee at this orchestra camp. This is really testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of all. Everyone is there to enjoy music collectively so that passion multiplies manifold in every aspect of the camp, from the music-making to logistics!” he explained.
Working towards the finale concert “Roaring Contemporaries”, the concert repertoire features three distinct pieces selected carefully for the campers.
“There are a few classical music pieces well suited to engage young children (or the young at heart) such as the popular Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals. Three Bears by Eric Coates can very well be included in that list of classical works for children because of its vivid portrayal of the fable Goldilocks the Three Bears. First Symphony by Vasily Kalinnikov is very well received by many campers and a lot of us are surprised why it has not been programmed more often. It has beautiful melodies and the way the music is crafted also feels youthful,” he highlighted.
“The soloists of Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc are this year’s Yong Siew Toh (YST) Concerto Competition winners (Viona Sanjaya and Cheryl Pandora) so working with them on this project is a huge honour. The added dimension that I myself am a YST alumni makes this collaboration feel like a family affair,” he added.
14 year old Cellist participant Shavaun Toh, explained that she decided to sign up for the camp as he wanted to gain a new experience.
“Before the camp, I expected to learn how to play with an orchestra with players whom I have not met before. I also expected the OMM players to guide the players along the way, and for me to learn more about how a conductor will conduct a rehearsal. It has been a really memorable experience so far as I’ve learnt how to work together with my section more and give each other comments individually and as a section. I have also learnt quite a lot from our section teacher,” she said.
“I think as a section we face quite a few difficulties; not being together, intonation problems, not using the same part of the bow, not being able to follow the conductor, etc. How we overcome them is by constantly reminding each other about our mistakes. We’re all learning from each other and progressing individually and as a section, and this is our team spirit!” she added.
16 year old Trumpet participant Tobias Tan also shared about his camp experience, which has been an enjoyable one so far.
“I signed up for the camp as I thought it would allow me to be exposed to music by 20th century composers. Although the pieces are not that well known, I really enjoyed the sound and textures they provide. My favourite work would be Three Bears, which tells a story through music that I found was very engaging and entertaining,” he said.
“Through the games and rehearsals, it helps me bond with my campmates more, and I got to make many new friends in this year’s camp. Especially during the sectionals, I enjoyed the lessons from my section tutor, as he taught us new concepts on how to approach difficult sections of music. It certainly has exceeded my expectations for an orchestra camp, and I cannot wait to attend next year’s camp!”
“While I personally did not face many challenges while preparing for the concert, I felt that the biggest challenge was the time constraint that the orchestra had. We only had a week to prepare for the concert, and the pieces that we were performing were quite tough. However, I felt that we have come a long way, and I am really proud of the work we have accomplished. I am really appreciative of the OMM camp team for the experience they have provided us, and I look forward to the concert!”
As the OMM camp draws to a close on Sunday, conductor Francis Tan leaves some words of encouragement for its camp participants.
“The participants are very fortunate to work with some of the finest pedagogues and musicians in Singapore. I hope the participants leave the camp feeling inspired by these teachers. I myself learnt a great deal from these members of faculty,” he said.
“The other thing would be for the participants to leave the camp with a piece of that infectious OMM musical passion and share this with all corners of our society in their own spheres of influence!”
Sunday, 11 December 2022
SOTA Concert Hall 7.30pm
Tickets: $14, $9
A contributing editor at TBP.