Arts Review: Sharing the Journey: At Home with the Classics

Often, people associate classical music with boring and mundane, but to music aficionados, it is much more than that.

Enter the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO)’s Sharing the Journey: At Home with the Classics series, aimed at debunking the misconceptions that classical music is dull and can only be enjoyed by those with profound knowledge in music.

In collaboration with Temasek as part of their 40th anniversary, SSO held performances in the heartlands over the weekend (Aug 1 to 3), with hopes of getting locals to give classical music a chance (or listen).

After all, this gesture saved ordinary folks the hassle of having to dress up fancifully or heading down to the Esplanade Concert Hall, home to majority of SSO’s concerts. $10 also seemed like a good steal for an hour-long concert by a world-class orchestra (complimentary refreshments included)  perhaps explaining why their recent concert at the ITE College (Central) auditorium was almost sold out.


Upon receiving the program booklet, one may feel daunted by unfamiliar names such as American composer Leonard Bernstein or Austrian composer Johann Strauss II. Fear not, as conductor Jason Lai enlightened the audience with brief stories behind each piece before they were played, warming up those new to the genre.

“Please feel free to stand up and dance,” Lai quipped, establishing the candid atmosphere of the concert from the get-go.


The vitality of the first piece “Overture to West Side Story” gave a thematic overview of the concert set list. Based on a story about the rivalry between 2 gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, the build up in tempo right as the piece began cleverly evoked the scenario of an actual shark approaching its target.

And as if to depict the calm waters after the ‘attack’, the music became less intense with the gentle bowing of the string instruments, consisting of mainly the violin, viola and cello. It didn’t last though, as drums rolled and cymbals clashed to end the near 5-minute piece with a bang literally.

“This music really brings out the drama of that wonderful musical,” Lai remarked.


The 5 numbers that make up “Carmen: Suite No. 1” from the opera of the same name by French composer Georges Bizet, offered a diversity of music styles for the audience to choose from. For example, “Aragonaise” was an opportunity to put the harp and flute in the spotlight in an otherwise string-dominated ensemble, and the musicians for the respective instruments delivered effortlessly on their trade.

However, it was the final piece of the suite “Les Toréadors” that resonated best with the audience, as one would probably have heard it in one of the many commercials that the piece has been featured in.

With the auditorium abound with families that night, humorous Lai also got the younger audience to guess the pieces embedded in Kelly Tang’s “Sketches of Singapore”, much to the excitement of the children who enthusiastically screamed the answers, only to be busted for referring to the program booklet. From “Stand Up For Singapore” to “Rasa Sayang” and “Di Tanjong Katong”, the collection of local pieces highlighted the objective of this concert once more – to infuse classical music with familiar tunes that the locals could enjoy.

The concert came to an end with the “Main Title from Star Wars Suite”, delighting fans of the space opera film. With an intense and dramatic mood that emulated that of the opening piece, it was indeed worthy of the 2-minute ovation after the final note was played. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to induce the orchestra into an encore performance.

Our verdict? If the orchestra itself can comprise of both young and old musicians, there is no reason why classical music can’t be enjoyed by both the young and old audiences either.

Rating: 3.5/5


1. Leonard Bernstein – Overture to West Side Story
2. Johann Strauss II – Voices of Spring, Op. 410
3. Georges Bizet – Carmen: Suite No. 1
4. Edward Elgar – Salut d’amour, Op. 12
5. Kelly Tang – Sketches of Singapore
6. John Williams – Main Title from Star Wars Suite

Photos Courtesy Of Temasek