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Guest Conducting the Taiwan Youth Festival Choir

English text below.

有幸被福爾摩沙合唱團的藝術總監蘇慶俊教授邀請當台灣節慶青年合唱團的客席指揮,與他和來自美國的 Matthew Oltman 同台演出。

  • 指揮台灣最傑出的青年歌者。有多傑出?請看上面在國家音樂廳彩排的摘要! 🙂
  • 與心思細膩的音樂家,教育家和藝術工作人員一起工作,奮鬥。
  • 七天內學會了二十多首不同作曲家,編曲家運用不同的語言和方言的合唱曲。
  • 四個城市,四個美麗的音樂廳。
  • 到了不同地方授課。
  • 當歌唱比賽評審。
  • 遇到馬來西亞的老朋友。
  • 吃到超級無敵讚的美食(岡山羊肉,台中燒烤)。
  • 《八陣圖》終於獲得發表,受表演者和觀眾熱烈的反應。

感謝大師蘇慶俊和所有福爾摩沙和台青的工作人員。這位客席指揮從你們身上學習到好多東西,也因你們得到許多的啟發和感動。請繼續這個培養下一代的神聖音樂教育工作。台灣加油!

“只求音韵撩心弦,合唱群艺得知音!”

– 鄭維誠

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岡山舊市羊肉, 高雄 has some of the BEST mutton dishes and soups I’ve ever tasted!

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Taichung’s Kawahara Crazy Barbecue is one of the best BBQ restaurants I’ve had!

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Rehearsals and performances at various places.

I had the good fortune of being invited by Professor Julian Su, Artistic Director of the renowned Formosa Singers to guest conduct the Taiwan Youth Festival Choir and share the podium with him and Matthew Oltman (Music Director Emeritus of Chanticleer) and oh my was this a fantastic experience!
A summary:

  • Conducted some of the finest young singers of Taiwan; Don’t believe me? Listen to their rehearsal at the National Concert Hall above!
  • Got to work with and observe the work of really meticulous musicians, educators and arts administrators;
  • Learnt over 20 beautiful choral compositions written by various composers and arrangers (some Singaporean) in various languages and dialects in 7 days;
  • Performed in 4 cities in fab concert halls;
  • Attended (and gave) music workshops;
  • Adjudicated a singing competition;
  • Met an old friend from Malaysia;
  • Tasted some REALLY HEAVENLY FOOD;
  • “Eight Trigrams” is premiered to appreciative audiences and performers who responded enthusiastically to it (really can’t imagine the same with Singaporean audiences).

Thank you Maestro Julian Su and your fantastic team from Formosa Singers and the Taiwan Youth Festival Choir. This is really one of the most inspiring and touching experiences I’ve had in a long while and I know your work will have a great impact on the next generation. Taiwan gambatte!

Addendum – here are some of the recordings of our performance below! One of my favourites, 阿爸的心肝寶貝 also below:

Music Review of 新高采烈 Asian Cities Choral Exchange

Just heard about this and got my hands on a fab music review of the December 2015 concert I guest conducted in Taiwan! Thank you Xiao Jing Wen for the wonderful review!
1封面封底-P1P10(新高采烈)-01
音樂的心靈盛宴/蕭靜雯
2015的平安夜過得很幸福,因為在高雄市最美麗的大東文化藝術中心聆聽【新高彩烈 — 天生好友城市交流 (一): 新加坡】音樂會。指揮鄭維誠Albert Tay、唐天鳴與天生歌手合唱團將音樂做了最動人的詮釋,讓演藝廳裡迴盪著充滿情感的音符。誠如匈牙利作曲家&民族音樂學家&音樂教育家Zoltán Kodály柯大宜的信念:「音樂是每個人都能享有的財富,要將最好的音樂帶給最多的人。」,身為聽眾的我確確實實感受到最美麗的聲音,最好聽的音樂。
這場音樂會中曲目安排是多元文化的精彩,有靈性的「歌唱讚美主」等聖歌、俏皮的閩南歌謠「乒乒乓乓娶新娘」、抒懷療癒的「朋友」、驚喜互動的「相思」等等作品,透過情感豐沛的演唱,直接感受到不同文化的流動,多了一份對人的理解,更能感同身受。
指揮 Albert 和天生歌手合唱團的默契非常好,在他的引領中,團員將每首曲子詮釋得絲絲入扣,而且能夠享受在舞台上分享音樂的喜悅,也可以觀察到他是以最好的教學法來教授音樂和唱歌,將渴望得到更好的音樂的熱忱傳達到團員的心靈。很特別的是,雖然他不認識觀眾,卻能瞬間以幽默的口語表達、創意的教學技巧,成功帶動所有人參與了「相思」的演出,彷彿大珠小珠落玉盤的雨聲和天生歌手合唱團交織成最美麗的篇章。
這是音樂的心靈盛宴,領略多元文化的精采、感受靈性與寧靜的能量、溫暖療癒生命的缺和、平靜與狂喜的交疊、輕鬆自適享受參與的快感。在天籟樂音中興高彩烈,帶著溫暖、祝福與力量的禮物離開音樂廳。

作者:蕭靜雯(教育電台高雄分台主持人)
1.第46屆、第47屆廣播金鐘獎藝術文化節目獎入圍
2.第14屆兩岸新聞報導獎廣播專題報導獎佳作
3.全國社大人文課程特優:古典文學與心靈成長

4.全國親子教育教案設計佳作

 

A Musical Feast for the Spirit by Xiao Jing Wen (Translated from the above original text)
2015 Christmas Eve was a happy affair, because of the Asian Cities Choral Exchange (Singapore) at Kaohsiung’s finest Dadong Cultural Centre. Conductor Albert Tay, Tang Tien Ming and the Natus Cantorum created some of the most moving of musical interpretations, making the concert hall resound with their emotive notes. True to the Hungarian composer, musicologist and music educator Zoltán Kodály’s philosophy “music should belong to everyone and one should bring the best music to the greatest number of people.”, sitting amidst the audience I did indeed felt the most beautiful of voices and the most soothing of music.

 

This concert was full of exciting multi-cultural elements – ranging from various sacred music like “Laudate Dominum”, to cheeky Hokkien folksong “乒乒乓乓娶新娘”, to a sentimental song that seeks cartharsis for one’s sadness in “Friend” to the surprising audience engagement of “Longing” “相思” etc. All these were presented through emotionally charged performance, displaying the confluence of cultures, affording us a glimpse and  greater understanding to different people.

 

The camaraderie between Albert and Natus Cantorum was fantastic. Under his leadership, the choristers neatly and meticulously nailed the intricate interpretative details, their joy of being onstage and sharing music was evident. One can also observe that he used the best pedagogy to teach music and choral singing and helped inculcate a greater desire for better music in his singers. Of note, he did not know the audience but could in a manner of seconds, using humorous communication and creative pedagogy, successfully engage the audience in the participation of the performance of “Longing”. The marriage of Natus Cantorum’s singing with the sounds of raindrops big and small was one of the most beautiful chapters of this concert.

 

This was a musical feast for the spirit, showcasing the beauty of multi-culturalism, giving us a chance to feel the power of spirituality and tranquility, sentimental songs that seek cartharsis for one’s sadness, a meeting of peace and ecstatic joy, of relaxing carefree participation. One can’t help but feel that the heavenly music gifted us with warmth and well-wishes as we left the concert hall!

 

Author: Xiao Jing Wen (Kaohsiung Education Radio Host)
1. 46th and 47th Broadcasting Golden Bell Awards Nominee for Arts and Cultural Programmes
2. 14th Cross Straits News Prize Broadcasting Focus Topic Commendation
3. National  Society Humanities Distinctions: Classical Literature and Spiritual Growth
4. National Parent-Child Education Plan Merit Award

A Review of “Honestly! 3 Operas, One Hour.”

A review of “Honestly! 3 Operas, One Hour.”
L’arietta Productions
02 April 2016, 7pm
10 Square, Orchard Central.

The Gentlemen’s Island
Music by Joseph Horovitz (1925 – ), libretto by Gordon Snell

Window Shopping
Music by Chen Zhangyi, libretto by Jack Lin.

A Hand of Bridge
Music by Samuel Barber (1910-1981), libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007)

Honestly! is L’arietta’s first full length production and oh boy was this a fun night! Opening with Horovitz’s 1958 opera “The Gentlemen’s Island”, Reuben Lai (Tenor) and Brent Allcock (Baritone) were an absolute joy to watch and listen to. Both artists were evidently comfortable in their comedic roles, with beautiful individual musical touches to their lines (turtle souPP and juuicy oysters anyone?). Do not however, mistake this one-act comedy opera to be musical fluff! Horovitz’s work while tonal in nature was nonetheless difficult music even though Lai and Allcock sang it with aplomb, making it sound a lot easier than it really is. The libretto was a cutting commentary on social classes and rules… two shipwrecked ‘gentlemen’ ridiculously refusing a rescue ride on ‘convict class’ and disassociating themselves from undesirable characters? While hilarious, the underlying message was certainly not lost on the discerning audience who chuckled at various other innuendoes in the text. While there were the one or two occasions when the duo’s phrase endings could be more together, it hardly mattered – Lai and Allcock’s engaging performance brought us all on a 30 minute journey that passed in the blink of an eye.

After a much too short 10 minute intermission (there’s good wine set up outside mind you!), Young Artist Award winner, Singaporean composer Chen Zhangyi’s “Window Shopping” was performed.

“Set in a high-end shoe boutique, the opera opens with the entrance of a woman in her mid-late thirties who wanders around the store with nostalgia, reminiscing about a part of her past with each pair of shoes she sees. As she lives through her memories, a younger woman in her early twenties marches into the store with life and vigour, as if on a shopping mission. (…)

The existence of the blue heels arouses different reactions from the two characters, one of dismay about a difficult past, the other about a bright future ahead where the sole (soul) of the shoe has a new story to tell(…)” (Source: Programme notes)

Window-shopping is a subject matter that resonates with Singaporeans-at-large. Ably performed by Angela Hodgins (mezzo-soprano) and Akiko Otao (soprano) the darker, brooding music of the older protagonist as sung by Hodgins was well-contrasted by a more upbeat, lively music brought to life by the bubbly performance of Akiko. The final juxtaposition of musical ideas that represent the two protagonists made for a very interesting fare for the ear. The two women never interacted nor addressed each other directly but eventually ended up moving their scarves in exactly the same manner at the very end. Are the two women really one and the same person? Schizophrenia? Future self lamenting the consequence of one’s choices on hindsight ? Regardless, this is certainly one opera that deserves a second (or third) hearing!

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(From L-R): Brent Allcock (Baritone), Reuben Lai (Tenor), Akiko Otao (Soprano), Angela Hodgins (Mezzo-Soprano), Wayne Teo (Pianist)

A second intermission while unusual might have worked better though as a breather between the second and third opera. Although the stage crew were speedy, perhaps excited anticipation made the wait feel long despite the soothing vocals of Ella Fitzgerald setting the stage and playing from a gramaphone in the background.

It was exciting to finally see all four soloists coming together for “A Hand of Bridge” where each soloist is showcased with an arietta that reveals the inner (unfulfilled) desires of each individual of the two married couples which ranges from ‘a hat with peacock feathers’ to lying on the beach with ‘20 naked girls and boys’. The short 10 minute opera was a fun end to the evening.

Special mention must be made of the pianist Wayne Teo who negotiated the oft musically complex accompaniment with great finesse, providing excellent support for the soloists in his unobtrusive manner. The interludes between the recitatives and arias could afford to be more extroverted although I suspect this might in some ways, due to the very dry acoustics of the hall as well as the piano’s upstage left position.

Also deserving mention is Director Jameson Soh’s excellent staging, creative use of lights to create boundaries, shining shoes and having desert island rocks transform into shoe racks.

Going by the full-house turnout and audience reactions tonight, Singapore’s opera audience have definitely come of age – all three operas were works by 20th/21st century composers and rather far from the saccharine melodies and harmonies.

I saw (and heard) tonight, fantastic singing and music-making; excellent staging and use of lighting; programming was thoughtful, provocative and quality repertoire that certainly deserves to be heard more. What I love most was how L’arietta did not attempt to ‘dumb down’ the approach to such ‘difficult music’ and instead, let the music, libretto and drama speak for itself… challenging the audience to go beyond the well-known and conventional favoured by opera dilettantes! The inclusion of a Singaporean opera by Chen Zhangyi in L’arietta’s inaugural full-length production is also significant and speaks volumes about its direction and commitment to local composers and arts.

I have not enjoyed an evening at the opera like this in a long, long time and am personally looking forward to many more equally top-notch productions from this company in the future. Make no mistake, L’arietta is THE opera company to watch out for! Stay tuned!

Review by Albert Tay, a Singaporean composer-conductor who had just fallen in love with opera (again) after attending L’arietta’s outstanding production.