Neglected instrument takes the spotlight

Neglected instrument takes the spotlight
The Resonance ensemble will play a mix of popular pieces and traditional Chinese music on the sheng.

SINGAPORE - Hear music from the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies played using only the sheng, a Chinese wind instrument, at a concert in the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Sunday.

Resonance, an ensemble comprising entirely of sheng musicians, will present Soundscapes - A Remix Of Popular Classics.

The hourlong concert will feature a mix of instantly recognisable tunes such as In The Hall Of The Mountain King as well as traditional Chinese music.

The ensemble, which is made up of musicians aged 14 to their 20s, was founded in 2011.

All the musicians are united by their love for the sheng, a Chinese wind instrument made up of bamboo pipes attached to a metal chamber.

While the sheng is taking centre stage in this upcoming concert, its role in a regular Chinese orchestra is usually in a supporting role.

Music director Yang Jiwei says: "Not only in Singapore but also around the world, the sheng as an instrument is largely neglected.

Its role is usually to serve as an accompaniment, and rarely can you play it by itself.

"So I thought creating this ensemble will give the instrument new life and also showcase what it is about."

He says that while the sheng is often overlooked, it is unique among its counterparts in the Chinese orchestra.

"This is the only wind instrument in the Chinese instrument family that is capable of producing more than one note at the same time. It can do chords, it can do harmonies."

This is Resonance's second concert since their debut last year, and Yang says they have stuck with the same playlist of popular melodies and traditional music.

"The sheng ensemble felt that in order to connect with younger audiences and to let more people know about the instrument, it would be a good idea to play pieces that they can relate to," he says.

"So the audience can expect to hear very non-traditional Chinese music. Out of six or seven pieces, one is traditional Chinese because we still want people to know what a traditional Chinese piece sounds like."

The pieces they will be playing on Sunday include movie music Circle Of Life from The Lion King (1994) and A Whole New World from Aladdin (1992).

All the pieces the ensemble play are arranged by members of the orchestra, as there is very little music written specifically for the instrument.

Yang hopes this concert will be a small step in popularising the instrument.

He says: "With this concert, we hope to highlight very, very good sheng players, and of course we want people to know more about this neglected instrument, and to encourage more people to take up Chinese music, even if it is not the sheng."

SOUNDSCAPES – A REMIX

OF POPULAR CLASSICS

Where: Shaw Foundation Symphony

Stage, Singapore Botanic Gardens

When: Sunday, 6pm


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