LonDali Bridge

LonDali Bridge for 6.5 Equal Voices

I was very inspired by the myriad of sounds and sights whilst having a quiet tea break with my friend Debbie Gan at the Saint Andrew’s Primary School canteen in late 2008.

Children were playing ‘catching’ on the rugby field, taunting one another, parroting each other’s speech in a bid to out-irritate each other, discipline master walks in and shows off his excellent projected voice and as the playing gets more intense, recess time is soon over with children scattering in different directions, with a silly day-dreaming boy who realizes (very late) that he is late for class… all these things were happening in the picturesque school where one can find a beautiful bridge that joins the Junior and Secondary School with its Junior College campus. On good weather days (and nights), the still waters become a beautiful mirror that paints the bridge and sky.

Sitting calmly in the midst of this ‘chaos’ was absolutely surreal… it was like living inside one of Dali’s paintings! I thought it would be interesting to capture the essence of this scene within the music.

“ne ne ni bu bu” [nɛ nɛ ni bu bu] is a nonsense phrase used by children to taunt their ‘catchers’ in the game of ‘catching’ (e.g. police and thief). At bar 37, the text declaimed by the soloist may be substituted with any signature one-liner used by the resident discipline master or any other colourful person of authority when disciplining students. Bar 38 *gasp* is a crisp, audible inhalation of air – do look and convey a sense of surprise here, as if London bridge really started collapsing in front of you. In true Dali-esque fashion, a confluence of Indian classical music elements can be found in various places, e.g. Bar 78 “te ge te ge” [tɛ gə tɛ gə] is onomatopoeic nonsense that simulates Indian Drums. A ‘final pose’ of individuals making different monkey faces at each other in the last bar of the piece is strongly encouraged.

Written for the hyperactive cambiata voices of the Saint Andrew’s Secondary School TTBB choir, the work was premiered on 23 April 2009 at the Victoria Concert Hall (Singapore) during the Singapore Youth Festival Choral Competition. “LonDali Bridge” has proven to be a most endearing and effective work for treble choirs. First performed by the Methodist Girls School (Secondary) Choir on 29 May 2010 at the MGS Auditorium, it has since been performed by many conductors and choirs in concert halls worldwide.

This work is dedicated to mentor Dr. Kelly Tang who taught me how to trick and tease the ear.

Albert Tay
Revised 15 February 2015

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