Bravissimo! May 2020

SSO Flautist Reaches Across Borders From Home

With the phased reopening of the country from June, it is still uncertain when audiences would be able to attend live concerts again in Singapore. Meantime, our musicians have been making the most of the Circuit Breaker and bringing music to us from their living rooms.

One such musician is Roberto Alvarez, SSO’s Assistant Principal Piccolo and flautist who has been putting together ensembles and editing performance videos to be shared online. A member of the SSO since 2007, the Spaniard teaches at Singapore’s School of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and is a familiar tutor to the SSO-affiliated Singapore National Youth Orchestra.

Roberto speaks to us about his “PFH” (Playing From Home) projects and self-care during the circuit breaker.

Which was your last SSO concert before the circuit breaker?

My last SSO concert before the circuit breaker was at Gardens by the Bay on 15 March. It was a bittersweet experience. Usually from the stage, we see big crowds for our outdoor free concerts. But this time, because of the security distance, the audience was limited to a small number. It was also the farewell concert to our French horn Principal Han Chang Chou, and live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube. There were definitely many emotions going on that day.

What new projects have you been working on during this time?

I’ve done a few videos with friends from different countries, and it has been really fun to record with them despite the difficulties of working from home and far from each other. With one group, we recorded Opus 1A by renowned flute master Trevor Wye and shared it on SSO’s Facebook.

Roberto and friends from round the world perform Trevor Wye’s Opus 1A. Click on image for video

Right now, I’m finishing a project with my dear friend Kevin Loh. We have made a beautiful recording in which we invited a few SSO musicians, and we’re now taking care of the last details. Look out for this recording of flute and guitar.

I am participating in a digital concert for the National Gallery Singapore. This concert was programmed earlier, but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. It’s taking a great effort from everybody involved, and the result will be totally worthy. I have been recording the repertoire for flute and guitar by Celso Machado and Máximo Pujol with guitarist Hunter Mah, and the digital concert will be broadcast online on Facebook Live at the Gallery’s Facebook page on 30 May, 2.30pm and the recording will be available at the Gallery’s YouTube channel after the release.

I have also been participating in Symphony of Motherhood, a beautiful charity project organised by Iryna Vokhmyanina. It’s a concert and poetry reading event specially crafted for families, expectant mothers and parents with young children.

A performance of Por Una Cabeza, with SSO musicians (Roberto, top right, led the recording and editing the clip from home). Click on image for video

What’s your day-to-day like in this Circuit Breaker?

During this Circuit Breaker I have kept quite busy with multiple activities. Of course practising the flute is a very important part of my day-to-day, but also teaching online — which although is a challenge, is working better than expected. Technology is helping us very much to continue working to a certain degree, and our students have benefited greatly from it.

I try to balance all my activities as much as I can — practising, teaching, reading, listening to music and exercising a bit are the main activities keeping me busy these days.

Learning a little bit about home audio and video editing and online teaching has been very interesting. I’ve been cooking a bit more during these days and the good news is that my paella skills have been upgraded!

How do you stay in touch with loved ones and keep sane while the concert halls are closed?

I have been in touch with family and friends regularly. Technology is fantastic these days and because of that we catch up regularly. It is a bit strange to have an online drink with friends, but definitely better than nothing!

I try to keep as organised as possible during these days, and I believe that it’s important that we exercise our patience and mental flexibility. Focusing on the present is a great way to keep sane until the situation improves. I’ve been trying a little bit of meditation lately and it helps a lot!

Stay Home with the SSO
Head to our website for a handy list on what you’ll find in the SSOPlayOn! digital series. All performances are free to stream at your convenience while you #stayhome.

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