SINGAPORE - For many members of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), returning to play at the newly refurbished Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is a homecoming of sorts.
The concert hall, previously called Victoria Memorial Hall, has been the performance space of the orchestra since 1979.
SSO co-leader Lynnette Seah describes the return as "an absolutely wonderful feeling of coming back home". She says the orchestra grew up in the hall and many like her have "fond memories of even our children growing up back stage".
Seah, 56, who likens the hall to a "grand old cultural dame", says: "This is where Singapore's history of classical music started."
The orchestra presents its first concert at the refurbished hall that is open to the public tomorrow. The programme includes Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante In B Flat Major, Op. 84 featuring the orchestra's principal musicians Seah (violin), Ng Pei-Sian (cello), 29, Rachel Walker (oboe), 43, and Zhang Jin Min (bassoon), 54, under music director Shui Lan.
Shui, 56, tells Life!: "It feels great to be back at the Victoria Concert Hall. This is where I first guest-conducted the SSO in 1993 before my first concert with it as music director in 1997. Being back on this stage brings back many fond memories for me."
On the group's homecoming concert, he says: "We will showcase Capriccio For Orchestra by Singaporean composer Kelly Tang, a work specifically commissioned for this occasion, as well as Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante, featuring four of our principal players."
In the second half, the SSO will perform Brahms' critically acclaimed First Symphony. As part of its homecoming season, the SSO will perform the Brahms symphony cycle over four concerts.
SSO principal oboist Walker adds: "I am delighted to be a soloist for such an important occasion. Not least because the Haydn Sinfonia Concertante is just as charming, elegant and pretty as the Victoria Concert Hall itself."
She speaks fondly of the time she has spent at the hall. "It was the only venue for the SSO when I first joined the orchestra in 2001. Esplanade was not yet built and it is where I auditioned for my job. So it is one of the first buildings I saw and got to know well in Singapore. I remember being quite bowled over by the history and its colonial charm even though we are so far from England."
She feels with its re-opening, the audience will appreciate the "lovely new seats" which she says are much more comfortable than the old ones.
"I think the restoration has added grandeur and opulence to the building, which will hopefully bring an even greater sense of occasion to each concert."
SSO HOMECOMING CONCERT: HAYDN'S SINFONIA CONCERTANTE
When: Tomorrow, 7.30pm. Pre-concert Talk at 6.30pm at the Victoria Concert Hall circle foyer
Where: Victoria Concert Hall
Admission: $20 to $72 from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)
This article was first published on July 15, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.