Student Conductor, Section Leader, Double Bassist
Ho Swee Tze
Section Leader, Clarinettist
Nanyang Concert Band
With many members not having much experience due to eCCA, our journey was filled with doubts and uncertainties. In addition, this was the first time the whole band was on stage together in a performance since 2019 and were not confident of how well we could play. The path ahead of us was definitely a rocky one.
Though our band began preparing possible choice pieces in August, we were unsure of which to perform and were working on three pieces at the same time, only deciding on one at the beginning of this year. However, perhaps due to school reopening and the focus going back to academics, the band was somewhat unmotivated and did not realise how near SYF was. In fact, it was only in late March, after many heart-to-heart talks, reprimands, and mass reflections did we snap back into reality.
Our set piece journey wasn’t much better. With many details being left out and band members being unsure of what their roles were, the piece seemed impossible to execute well. I remember trying to get the melody at the start to speak well while also being afraid of standing out or squeaking, and even getting sent out of the band room to work on a problem I hadn’t noticed.
On the other hand, as a double bassist, we had to play the lower melody in the Chan Mali Chan part. However, because of the many details such as accents, slurred bows and clear notes, we faced slight difficulties in bringing out the melody. In the end however, we still managed to pull through and make the most beautiful sound.
Nearing March, many changes were made to the parts. But because of the flu, attendance was inconsistent and the information was not relayed to those absent, resulting in time wasted on clarifying and everyone feeling frustrated. The soundcheck too was demoralising, with many mistakes being made and realising how much more effort we needed to put in and how much more improvement was needed. For me, the soundcheck revealed all the flaws in my playing I thought I had overcome.
Personally, I felt that one of the major turning points in our attitude, confidence, and playing, was our band exchange in early March. It really felt like our hard work paid off when presenting our piece, and I was proud to be part of Nanyang Concert Band. Hearing how the other bands interpreted their pieces also helped me see things differently, and interacting with their clarinetists really motivated me as it felt like we were all in the journey to improve and do our best together.
As we began nearing SYF, our band finally stepped up our efforts. On top of three practices a week, we started to have an additional two morning practices. We began to see improvement in our playing and with everyone having learnt their part, rehearsals were less tense and more productive. One thing that stuck with me was when our conductor instructed us to play without him conducting, as we really had to listen to each other closely to be together during tempo changes and transitions from one section of the music to another. We also had a rehearsal with all the lights except those above our conductor turned off, which not only encouraged us to listen to each other and watch the conductor instead of staring at our scores, but also helped us to focus on and connect with the music and one another.
On the actual day, we all went into the band room determined to perform to our best ability. Before departing for SCH, together as a band, we did a centering exercise, which calmed us down and prepared us mentally for playing on stage. Before the performance, we had a short practice in the tuning room, but instead of the conventional run-through of the pieces, we sang our parts out loud. Although it did not sound the best, it is no doubt a memory all of us will treasure.
Walking onto the stage, there was the occasional flutter of nerves, but when we lifted our instruments, we were all focused on playing our best and presenting all our hard work to everyone listening, showing the effort we had put in together as Nanyang Concert Band. It was truly a moment of pride, hearing each painstakingly fine-tuned detail and realising how far we had come, from a disorganised mess to a performance we would certainly remember.
Besides our own efforts, there are definitely also those of our conductors, teachers, and section tutors, who have given us the knowledge and encouragement to complete this journey. To our instructors, thank you so much for your dedication and care given to us. To everyone who has supported us on and off stage, we really appreciate the support and encouragement, no matter how small it may seem. We could not have done this without all of you.
SYF has certainly been a memorable experience, with all its ups and downs, tears and triumphs, frustrations and satisfactions, and moments of pride. To us, what we treasured most throughout our journey would be the fleeting moments during rehearsals and the performance itself, when we were all working together and giving our best, and the sense of connection that came with it. It is these moments that truly makes us feel our hard work has been worth it.
With our one year left in band, we hope to apply and pass down the knowledge we have gained throughout this SYF journey. Hopefully, by the end of my journey in Nanyang Concert Band, we can focus less on comparing the final results and instead realise the progress made and knowledge gained. To the many journeys yet to come, cheers to Nanyang Concert Band, where the passion lives on!