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A “Circle of Friends” and a National Orchestra

A “Circle of Friends” and a National Orchestra

My husband and I first moved from New York to Singapore over 20 years ago, in 1994. A newcomer to the city, I decided to join a coffee session with fellow expat ladies. There, I got to know a Hanna Woicke from Germany. We got along as I speak some German and we both loved classical music. (The Calcutta School of Music was founded by family members in the early 1900s so I’ve had the privilege of learning and enjoying music since young).

Soon, Hanna asked me and a few others to join her in starting this group called the “Circle of Friends” of the SSO. The Circle was a ground-up effort, and we would organise ourselves to volunteer and help promote SSO concerts.

At concerts, we would set up makeshift tables and give out printed flyers to tell people about upcoming SSO performances.

I recall the other volunteers also included Mrs Janet Stride, still a familiar figure at SSO concerts; Ms Janette Eschweiler (like Hanna, also from Germany); and Dr Chang Tou Liang, a Singaporean physician who is also a music reviewer and the man behind the long-running classical music blog, “Pianomania”.

We would also share tips with concertgoers on concert etiquette, giving advice on when to clap, etc. (There was no reason why Asians should be expected to know Western classical music etiquette – though we felt this information was important and useful, by letting people know how a typical concert experience is enjoyed).

The idea was really to share with people that we’ve got a really good thing going, with the SSO. And that we should really support it.

We would meet at each other’s homes to work together, and I remember once where founding Conductor Choo Hoey was present!

This carried on till about 2002. By then, the SSO was more much established and had a formalised way of marketing itself, so such ground efforts were no longer necessary.

As I recall those years, it is wonderful to know that the SSO is now an internationally recognised orchestra!