Pleasing paean to the Year of the Pig

REVIEW / CONCERT

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR CONCERT

Ding Yi Music Company/

Chinese Cultural Centre Theatre/

Last Sunday

One simply cannot escape the various shades of crimson that formed the backdrop to Ding Yi Music Company’s annual Chinese New Year concert, the chamber counterpart to Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s musical festivities.

Young conductor Dedric Wong Deli led the raucous but pleasing proceedings with works which could be sub-divided into three genres: festive music coloured with local, popular or modern influences; spectacular concertante works; and gaudily orchestrated pop songs.

The first group needs some getting used to.

For example, the ubiquitous Xi Yang Yang hardly gains any traction in the guise of bossa nova despite some fine playing from the suona family.

Similarly, Da Di Hui Chun becomes a parody when Malay and Indian drumming dominates the rhythms.

The exception was Yu Le Fu’s adaptation of Cantonese tune Yu Le Shen Ping (Joyous Celebration), with Chin Yen Choong and Fred Chan on the rarely heard zhutiqin and erxian respectively, which provided a rousing prelude.

Here, even the pop drum-set injecting a more contemporary feel did not get in the way of its fulsome felicitations.

More satisfying were the concertante pieces featuring Ding Yi’s members as soloists.

Chua Yew Kok on the pipa in Jiang Ying’s Limitless was a slow boil, building up from its ethnic tribal flavoured opening, full of calm and contemplation, to a rugged and spirited close.

Not to be outdone, Jacky Ng’s suona soared in Phang Kok Jun’s arrangement of the familiar classic, Hundreds Of Birds Paying Homage To The Phoenix.

When one thought heights of virtuosity could not be further scaled, the improvisatory reed hit stratospheric reaches with eardrum-piercing volumes to match.

Coming back to earth, guzheng exponent Yvonne Tay was just as excellent in Liu Chang’s Rippling Brook Capriccio, a fantasy on the popular Yunnan love song, Xiao He Tang Shui.

All this did not seem the least bit surprising, as the audience was witnessing some of the nation’s best young soloists.

The third and final genre was the realm of popular songs, in which Ding Yi provided sympathetic and classy accompaniment to two local Mandopop stars.

Jarrell Huang was a veritable livewire in Lee Wei Song’s Soaring Against The Wind, FIR’s First Day and Sandy Lam’s Love Never Leaves, swinging and air-strumming his microphone stand with wild abandon, while egging on the audience to clap along.

Somewhat more subdued was Bonnie Loo, who helmed a Jay Chou Love Suite, a medley of songs which included Rainbow, Love Confession and Starry Mood.

Then, she switched to the Minnan dialect for Call My Name by Eric Moo, which no doubt gave Hokkien speakers in the audience some smiles.

The final song, seasonal supermarket staple Bai Nian, was sung by both singers, closing the concert on a prosperous and satisfying high.

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