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A Nine-Year-Old at SSO’s Inaugural Concert

A Nine-Year-Old at SSO’s Inaugural Concert

On 24 January 1979, at age nine, I was nervously tagging along with my Australian music teacher and two other boys as we reached the Singapore Conference Hall before 7pm – way too early and by sacrificing our fun time in the football field. It was my first experience watching a professional orchestra performing live, and I really didn't know what to expect. Fortunately my teacher had explained concert etiquette to us. We were surprised by the number of affluent and high-ranking people in the audience, and Goh Soon Tioe was one of them.

The first piece the SSO performed was the national anthem, Majulah Singapura. We have all heard and sung our national anthem many a times, but to listen it for the first time performed by a symphony orchestra reminded me again that music can also unite people. I was too young to cry but my emotions were very high.

The programme also included Rossini’s overture to the Barber of Seville, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5 Emperor (with soloist the late Ong Lip Tat), Ives’ The Unanswered Question, Schubert’s No.8 Unfinished Symphony, and a Chinese composition “Dance of the Yao People”.

Back then I had just started music lessons for 16 months, so that inaugural concert gave me great pleasure in the shaping of my personal journey. It taught me how to understand music beyond notes. I was there witnessing the history of performing arts in Singapore. The solo trumpet in Charles Ives’ piece, performed by Tom Bruce (the Principle Trumpet) inspired me to take up the trumpet. Although later and with great sadness I was “encouraged” by my parents to take up another profession instead of something in the direction of music-making. Yet my love for SSO continued to grow. I was a regular concertgoer because I thought we were so lucky to have our own professional orchestra to enrich our life. This is what shapes the foundation of a mature first-class nation.

Harry’s copy of SSO’s first album recording “Hung Hu Violin Concerto”

Although I spend less time these days in Singapore, whenever I am in town I will always attend SSO concerts and their other programmes. Not only do I benefit from these activities but the orchestra needs us to support them too. I wish that more young Singaporeans will be drawn into the joy of listening and performing classical music. After all, music is a universal language.

My heartfelt congratulations to the SSO. I wish them many more successful years ahead.