Clans combine for concert

Two talented classical music clans in Singapore are coming together in one concert.

Six members of the family of well-known violinist Chan Yoong-Han will perform with four musicians related to renowned conductor Lim Yau in an evening aptly dubbed A Tale Of Two Families.

The concert at the Esplanade next week will feature Yoong-Han, 39, and his siblings: violinist Si-Ning Chan Gelok, 30, and cellist Si-Han, 27. The Chan clan will also field Si-Ning's husband, saxophonist Dan Gelok, 31; their uncle, cellist Chan Wei Shing, 48, and his wife, South Korea-born soprano Jeong Ae Ree, 45.

They will share a stage with Lim Yau's children - oboist Veda Lin, 30, and cellist Lin Juan, 29 - and their cousin Lim Yan, 34, and his wife Koh Jia Hwei, 35, both pianists. Violinist Lim Shue Churn, 48, who is not related to either family, will make a special guest appearance. The two families have crossed paths many times over the years but this is the first time they are having a joint concert.

The Chan family patriarch, violin teacher Chan Yong Shing, 63, first met conductor Lim Yau, 62, in the early 1970s while studying under the late composer Leong Yoon Pin.

Si-Ning and Veda have known each other since they were nine, after performing in the Singapore National Youth Orchestra under Lim Yau. And Lim Yan, Chan Yoong-Han and Chan Wei Shing are part of established piano quintet Take 5, formed in 2006.

The idea of a combined family concert was mooted by Si-Ning and Veda in 2012, when they performed in the Singapore Lyric Opera with their brothers Si-Han and Lin Juan.

"They have pianists and we have more string-instrument players on our side," says Si-Ning with a laugh. "Each of us fills the gaps for the instruments the other family does not play."

On playing with her siblings again, she says: "It's fun and we'll always go for supper after, so we spend a lot of time together. This is something I miss a lot when I am in the States."

Now based in Texas, she is a freelance chamber and orchestra musician who will be joining chamber orchestra Mercury Baroque for their 2014 to 2015 season later this year. She and her husband have three kids aged 10 months to seven years.

She performs with her brothers when she returns, in orchestras such as the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra.

Yoong-Han plays full time for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, while Si-Han plays part time with the likes of the Singapore Lyric Opera. If not for a family mandate from their late grandfather, the three siblings might not have become professional musicians.

Back in the 1950s, banker and amateur cellist Chan Chong Hian set a rule that all seven of his children had to learn an instrument. Second son Yong Shing picked the violin, Wei Shing chose the cello and their two brothers the viola and violin. One sister learnt the piano, while two sisters turned to the violin.

Four of them are now professional musicians, while the others have given up performing.

Yong Shing's children, Yoong-Han and Si-Ning, picked up the violin when they were four; Si-Han started learning the cello at seven.

Meanwhile, the four musicians from the Lim family will be reuniting in recital, having previously played together in a 2011 concert, A Musical Reunion, along with three cousins.

Second cousins Veda and Lim Yan got to know each other 10 years ago, after Lin attended a Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert that Lim Yan played and Lim Yau conducted.

"Our families did not stay in close contact all this while and it was music that finally brought me and Lim Yan together after so many years," Veda says.

Both nights of A Tale Of Two Families will feature a different selection of chamber and solo numbers.

Tuesday night will have a more classical and romantic programme. It includes a Singapore premiere of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata For Cello Quintet and Dohnanyi's Serenade For String Trio.

The second night will showcase works from the 20th century to the present, with a premiere of Britten's Phantasy Quartet and Copland's Sextet.

Both families are grateful to be able to do what they love most with people closest to their hearts.

Veda says: "Sometimes you don't realise how lucky you are to have something like this and it's easy to take it for granted. I have so much support from my family and it's very special to be able to share the same stage with these same people."

This article was first published on June 29, 2014.
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