Under the leadership of Artistic Director Alan Choo, Red Dot Baroque (RDB) is currently an ensemble-in-residence at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YST), whose mission is to spread awareness of early music to the wider community of Singapore.
The formation of RDB in 2018, was inspired by several musicians who were doing their degree studies at YST at that point of time, where they were given the opportunity to participate in an exchange program with Peabody Conservatory which had an early music program.
“Many ensembles were offered then, and one of which was a baroque orchestra – Baltimore Baroque Band, where many of our musicians got to play in and experienced historically-informed performances,” said Brenda Koh, member of RDB.
“We played on period instruments and did a wide range of baroque repertoire, and upon coming back to Singapore, we discovered that there were others (Singaporeans) who also studied historical performance in Europe!” Brenda recounted.
Baroque music is generally less known in Singapore, as it is music from the period of 1600-1750, and historical performance is the movement where musicians play baroque music on period instruments in a historically informed manner.
“This means that we use instruments that are close to what musicians in the 17th and 18th century may have used to play, for example gut strings on violins without a chin rest or shoulder, played with a baroque bow,” Brenda said.
“…and for the traverso, we play on a one-keyed wooden flute!” Rachel added.
Despite a few of its members having their own period instruments, the search for early music musicians and instruments still remained challenging as some musicians had to re-setup their modern instruments into baroque instruments.
“We started with an ensemble with relatively simple instrumentation (strings, harpsichord, voice and baroque flutes), and have since added more special baroque instruments like the viola da gamba and theorbo. There are still instruments that we lack here in Singapore, so when we need for example baroque trumpets for a certain program, we will have to hire musicians from overseas to perform with us,” Brenda explained.
Besides organizing several concerts during each year, RDB also curated and created digital content during the COVID pandemic to keep the music alive.
“With our residency at YST, we have organized an inaugural Baroque Week and have coached students to play alongside us in various concerts such as JS Bach’s St John’s Passion and most recently Handel’s Messiah. Through these initiatives, we have seen an increased interest in early music from musicians and audiences alike as they are able to immerse themselves in these baroque music experiences. We hope to reach out to an even wider audience to share the beauty and sublimity of baroque music,” said Rachel Ho, another RDB member.
To end off 2022, Red Dot Baroque will be presenting a Christmas Concert titled Il Dulci Jubilo, featuring singers like Teng Xiang Ting, and David Charles Tay with a small ensemble of instruments.
“We will be performing a mix of traditional folk tunes and lesser known baroque Christmas repertoire from Germany, France, and Italy that are popular in Europe but probably less frequently heard of in Singapore, as well as lesser known Christmas season repertoire from the Baroque period, including pieces by Buxtehude and Corrette,” Brenda said.
Audience members can also listen out for interesting baroque instruments like the viola da gamba, theorbo and baroque guitar, which are part of RDB’s unique interpretation, improvisation, and rearrangement of instrumentation on the traditional European folk tunes.
“It is probably Christmas music that audiences in Singapore are not familiar with, and we hope to expand the Christmas repertoire that local audiences are familiar with through this program!” she added.
With its concerts and outreach programmes, Red Dot Baroque hopes to shine new light on baroque music and share the essence and spirit of baroque music on baroque instruments.
“In addition to curating fun and accessible programs that showcase familiar baroque repertoire as well as music that are less familiar with local audiences, we also incorporate different disciplines into our programs through cross-genre collaborations (e.g. poetry recitations, lighting designs, baroque dance) that allow audiences to understand and appreciate baroque repertoire through different lenses. We also have outreach programs that are specially designed for younger audiences which we hope will help to educate and nurture future patrons of early music,” Brenda said.
“Through these initiatives, we have seen an increased interest in early music from musicians and audiences alike as they are able to immerse themselves in these baroque music experiences,” Rachel added.
“We hope to reach out to an even wider audience to share the beauty and sublimity of baroque music!”
Christmas Concert: IL DULCI JUBILO
Saturday, 17 December 2022
Chamber @ The Arts House, 5pm and 8pm
Tickets: $30, $15