New season with a touch of the old

New season with a touch of the old

Chinese chamber music ensemble Ding Yi Music Company will be launching its 2014 season this Saturday with its first concert of the year, Virtuosos Of Chinese Music.

The show at the Esplanade Concert Hall will kick off the 16-strong ensemble's season this year, which is centred on two themes: advocating traditions and developing creations.

General manager of the company Dedric Wong, 28, explains: "Our company is quite young, but we cannot say we don't want to learn the traditional parts and just play the contemporary. We need to keep a balance."

Two of the four main concerts will focus on traditional Chinese music, whereas the remaining two will be more contemporary.

Its first concert delves into the classical. This edition of Virtuosos Of Chinese Music is the third instalment of the annual series and will feature three performers from Beijing, Shanghai and the United States on the pipa, guzheng and huqin.

Mr Wong says: "This is a more traditional concert and they will be showcasing really classical pieces. At the end, the audience will also have a chance to see all three of them play together, which is rare."

The pieces to be played include the Beijing Opera standard Ye Shen Chen (The Deep Night) and Jackdaws Frolicking In Water, a popular tune from the Teochew region of China.

The second concert, Musical Tales: The Art Of Suzhou And Tianjin Narrative Song, takes place in June and is also of the more traditional ilk.

Two to three musicians from the Zhejiang Folk Art & Acrobatics General Troupe and the Tianjin Song Art Troupe will be playing improvised music and sharing stories the way they do in teahouses in China.

Mr Wong says that even there, the tradition of these narrative songs is dying out. "We also want to promote this form to people here in Singapore," he says.

He adds that the concert will be interesting as the musicians have to improvise as there are no scores for them.

"They're telling their life stories, and as it's all improvised. It can be 10 minutes or half an hour. The whole thing is very free and easy," he says.

The first of the contemporary performances is Voices Of Tomorrow, in August. Mr Wong says it will showcase "experimental" and not just contemporary music, such as the world premiere of the commissioned piece Nataraja (Lord Of Dance), composed by local composer Phang Kok Jun, and the traditional dizi melody Meeting At The Broken Bridge.

The concert will be helmed by dizi player Tan Qing Lun. Mr Wong says: "He will be playing jazz music on the Chinese flute and he will also be playing the Chinese flute with accompanying Indian music, although there will still be some traditional pieces."

Ding Yi's final concert of the year, Of Poetry And Music, will take place in November. For the show, the group will be collaborating with the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts' chamber choir and Mr Wong says it will be a "multimedia presentation with projections of Chinese literature, with the chamber choir singing the lyrics".

Aside from its four main concerts, Ding Yi will also be performing overseas. It has been touring actively over the last five years.

In June, it will be attending festivals in Malaysia and, in August, it will be going to Taiwan to perform with the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, a 13-year-old ensemble which has an active YouTube channel with more than 1,000 subscribers.

Mr Wong says of this year's programming: "The first thing that we want to find is a unique voice for the ensemble, and it is only after that then can we get to know whether we can find a unique voice for Singapore."

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