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Message from PM Lee: "Music to Singaporeans’ ears and joy to their hearts"

Message from PM Lee: "Music to Singaporeans’ ears and joy to their hearts"

When the Singapore Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1979, it was unthinkable that a young nation preoccupied with economic growth and job creation would devote attention and resources to setting up a national orchestra. But Dr Goh Keng Swee publicly commented in 1973 that it was “a minor scandal” that we did not have a professional symphony orchestra, and followed up to start the SSO. I am glad that our founding fathers, in particular Dr Goh who became SSO’s patron and champion, looked beyond immediate bread and butter issues. While it is important that we put bread to the table, man does not live by bread alone. Our nation would be soul-less without an appreciation of arts and culture.

Our founding fathers believed a symphony orchestra would enrich our culture and show the world that Singapore aimed to be a gracious society. The SSO started modestly with just 41 members, but it expanded its talent pool over time, hiring musicians internationally, many of whom stayed on and naturalised as Singaporeans. It also developed generations of local musicians through generous scholarships and its training programme under the youth orchestra and chorus.

Forty years on, the SSO is a fixture in our cultural firmament. When it performs to standing ovations and critical acclaim in major venues like the BBC Proms, the Berlin Philharmonie and the Prague Spring Festival, it is cause for pride and celebration. The SSO continues to bring joy to Singaporeans from all walks of life, making sure that its music is not just enjoyed by a select few. You perform regularly in schools, public parks and the HDB heartlands, bringing music to Singaporeans’ ears and joy to their hearts.

Your SG50 concert in the Botanic Gardens was particularly well-received by an audience of 10,000 people, including me and my wife. I congratulate the musicians, management and staff of the SSO past and present for your remarkable achievements. I am confident that SSO will continue to scale greater heights.

Happy 40th Anniversary, SSO!

Lee Hsien Loong