Published on 08 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the Singapore Symphony Orchestra revenue, donation and sponsorships losses of more than S$1.5 million.

Since March, cancellations of concerts in view of public advisories have resulted in a loss of S$450,000 in ticket revenue. The orchestra also had to call off its annual fundraising gala in April, while corporate sponsorships and donations plummeted due to the uncertain economic outlook.

To try and make up for some of the loss, the Singapore Symphony Group (SSG) which manages the SSO, has launched a special appeal on its website and on, urging the public to make a donation. Ticketholders to cancelled concerts were also encouraged to donate the ticket refunds back to the orchestra. To date, the campaign has raised just shy of S$75,000.

In the meantime, SSO concert recordings are being offered online every week.

“Since April, we’ve launched our SSOPlayOn! series,” said Chng Hak-Peng, CEO of the Singapore Symphony Group. “These include video and audio concerts across our online platforms, showcasing newly recorded concerts, performances of works by Singapore’s home-grown composers, as well as never-before-released recordings from our archives.”

“Music, and the arts as a whole, has always been an important part of people’s lives,” he added. “And in the current climate of uncertainty, we’ve seen people turning to our music, more than ever — be it as entertainment or as a source of comfort.”

The online offerings are free and do not bring in any revenue for the Group.

In an open letter, SSG Chairman Goh Yew Lin said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way we bring music to you; it will also impact us financially.”

Mr Goh said, “I am very grateful to all the ticket holders who have chosen to forego their refunds and make a donation instead…. We recognise that many are going through a difficult time, and we are deeply humbled by [their] continued faith in the SSO despite [their] own business and personal challenges.”

“As Singapore’s national orchestra, the SSO will do everything it can to bring joy, solace, inspiration and hope through music.”

Online viewer and SSO donor Dr Faith Chia shared a note of appreciation for the digital season, “A group of us enjoyed Mahler last Saturday with Lan Shui and chatted with wine over Zoom after the concert, trying to recreate our usual concert outings!”

An arts charity, the SSO comprises 90 full-time musicians. Each year, it plays around 60 concerts at the city-state’s iconic Esplanade and Victoria Concert Halls — as well as 50 free performances and events for the community. It is part of the Singapore Symphony Group that also manages the Singapore National Youth Orchestra, three choral groups, and various music competitions and festivals. The annual budget for the group is $22 million, where fundraising and ticket revenue make up about half.

While the national orchestra is poised to launch its 20/21 season in July with new SSO Chief Conductor Hans Graf, the staging of concerts at full capacity after Singapore’s circuit breaker — slated to end on 2 June — remains uncertain. SSO’s last concert with a live audience was at the Gardens by the Bay on 15 March — a free concert with a reduced audience capacity.

Singapore tax residents may qualify for 250% tax deduction for donations above $50. Details on donors’ benefits can be found here.

For every dollar donated, the SSO will receive another from NAC’s Cultural Matching Fund or the Tote Board.

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