To the triumphant strains of music from the classic film Ben Hur, 20 fighter jets roared across the evening sky over the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
With the F-16s forming a giant "50" to mark Singapore's upcoming birthday, it was a fitting climax to an hour of music and celebration.
The public Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) performance, which was played in front of an audience of 10,000, was the first concert to be hosted by the Gardens since it was named a Unesco World Heritage Site earlier this month.
It was also part of a series of events to mark The Straits Times' 170th anniversary, which falls on Wednesday, with Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) sponsoring the concert under its Gift of Music series.
The concert, part of the SSO's Classics in the Park series, also coincided with a preview of the upcoming National Day Parade, which marks Singapore's 50th year of Independence, at the Padang.
Patriotism was in the air at the Gardens, with the crowd greeting the jet formation with cheers. A surprise encore of Stand Up For Singapore was met with the same enthusiasm, with the audience humming and singing along to the classic. The orchestra was led by SSO associate conductor Joshua Tan, who said he was honoured to conduct the first SPH Gift of Music Concert at the Gardens after the Unesco accolade.
Said Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez: "It's wonderful to see so many happy faces, enjoying the music and this beautiful park after last week's news that it is now a World Heritage Site. Even our friends from the RSAF seemed to want to join the party."
Families sprawled on picnic mats, sat on foldable chairs or stood at the edge of the Palm Valley, enjoying the waltz from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and the suite from Ben Hur.
Some were using the ST170 commemorative picnic mats that had been handed out, including couple Don Lim and June Gao, both 31. "Being outdoors, it's an opportunity to have a picnic here and relax," said Ms Gao, a civil servant.
On Friday, the free Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow exhibition opens at ArtScience Museum. Front pages of Straits Times issues, videos and photos will showcase the major stories that have shaped Singapore and the region.
This article was first published on July 12, 2015.
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