Tour, mega gig at National Stadium for S'pore Chinese Orchestra

Going national and international: (from left) young assistant conductor-in-residence Moses Gay, general manager Terence Ho, music director Yeh Tsung and resident conductor Quek Ling Kiong.

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Chinese Orchestra is thinking big for its new season. First, the 78-member ensemble takes Singapore music on a tour of China next May.

A month later, it will bring together more than 2,400 musicians and singers for a giant performance, Our People, Our Music, at the new National Stadium at Singapore Sports Hub.

This will be a mega concert bigger than the show of the same title at the Kallang Theatre in 2004, which kicked off a month of National Day celebrations with a medley of songs such as Count On Me Singapore and Stand Up For Singapore

"I won't say how many musicians and performers we will have this time but it will be more, and the programme will definitely be different," music director Yeh Tsung, 62, said on Monday, during a season preview at the Singapore Conference Hall.

The repertoire for the orchestra's concerts in Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou next May is still being decided but will feature "Nanyang music", as well as collaborations with artists from China.

The tour is expected to cost the orchestra upwards of $250,000 and will also be the ensemble's first overseas performances since it played in the bilateral Singapour Festivarts festival in Paris in 2010. It last toured China in 2007.

Cost is a factor when planning tours, but just as important was "finding the right opportunity", said the orchestra's general manager Terence Ho, 44, pointing out that all stops at next year's tour are at the invitation of well-known halls or presenters.

The orchestra will perform at the Shanghai Concert Hall on May 17, as part of the long-running Shanghai Spring International Music Festival; at the Hangzhou Grand Theatre on May 20, and then on May 23 and 24 at the Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre to mark the 20th anniversary of the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park.

It will also hold a pre-concert performance in Singapore on May 10.

In spite of its overseas gigs, the orchestra plans 31 ticketed concerts and up to 80 non-ticketed outreach events next season.

In the 2012/2013 season, there were 42 ticketed concerts, attended by close to 24,000 people - 85 per cent attendance - and 70 outreach events that drew almost 150,000 viewers.

To help with the increased outreach, the orchestra has appointed conducting assistant Moses Gay its new young assistant conductor-in-residence. The 28-year-old will lead an outdoor concert on Oct 13 at the Botanic Gardens.

Highlights of the orchestra's new season include percussion concerts on Aug 16 and 17, featuring China-born percussionist Li Biao, who played at the closing of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

On Dec 7, well-known sheng player Wu Wei, who has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, plays with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra a concerto, Earth And Fire, specially composed for him by German composer Enjott Schneider.

Another fusion concert to watch out for is next July 5, featuring bluegrass fiddler Mark O'Connor, who won a 2000 Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album with his compilation, Appalachian Journey, featuring Yo-Yo Ma.

"The three main characteristics of this season are that we open and close with shining, great stars, crossover between tradition and modernity and make sure East meets West," said Yeh.

"Also, we are both national and international."