Back at the Esplanade Concert Hall after their performance at the Proms in London last week, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra performed splendidly, the BBC Planet Earth in Concert, under the baton of maestro Joshua Tan.
It was an evening of visual stories and music that intertwined like strands of DNA that made up the all living creatures on earth, bursting with life and exuding the beauty of nature itself.
Performed against what I thought was such an aesthetically beautiful curved screen, the width of about three quarters of the stage and positioned just behind the percussion, the backdrop showed excerpts of the Planet Earth documentary sans dialogue, as the orchestra played the music of George Fenton to accompany these astounding and almost non-humanly possible captured visuals.
The programme for the night included ‘Overture’, ‘First Steps’, ‘Gone Fishing!’, ‘Journey to the Okavango’, ‘The Snow Leopard’, ‘The Cranes’, ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘The Seasons’, ‘Caves’, ‘The Humpback Whale’, ‘The Caribou Migration’, ‘Snow Geese’, ‘The Hunter and The Hunted’ and ‘The Lucky Planet’. As a treat, the encore performance featured something upcoming and that I will reveal at the end of this review.
One of my favourite pieces of the evening was ‘Journey to the Okavango’, which featured on the screen the perilous journey of a young elephant following its mother across the desert. The solo saxophonist by Samuel Phua,the legato and slow movements of the violins, slowly building up to an epic crescendo showed perfectly the difficulty of the journey. Breathtaking, you could almost taste the sand in your mouth.
‘The Snow Leopard’, the next piece, was both visually stunning and absolutely mesmerizing, and aurally exquisitely painful and yet so, very beautiful. The tone of the solo cello by Ng Pei Sian,tore at my heartstrings as I watched not one, but two elusive snow leopards on screen come out from beneath their ‘hiding place’. The tranquility and majestic emotion you feel as you realized the beauty of the solace and cold, and how these creatures must survive…on earth. It is this feeling, which is indescribable, and can only be accentuated by the haunting but exquisitely beautiful cello piece.
‘Caves’ was a perhaps a phenomenal visual to watch on screen. Footage which showed the crew jumping into the caves of great depths, literally made me want to jump in there with them. That part of the music in particular, which reminded me very much of music from Cirque du Soleil,expressed wonderfully, that leap of faith into the unknown, that wonderful human urge to jump, that curiosity to explore life and what we know and do not know yet of. Like ‘Diving Into Darkness’…
Having always had a fascination for the strings, especially the violins, I quite enjoyed the solo violin in ‘The Caribou Migration’ for instance, as well as the dynamics and bow movements in ‘The Hunter and The Hunted’.
Solo saxophonist Samuel Phua was as vividly inspiring to hear play as it was to watch the documentary on screen, almost drawing parallels to each other. For, he was only 17.
The orchestra themselves performed incandescently, and maestro Joshua Tan was a delight to watch; eloquent and flamboyant with his conducting. Perhaps, my only puzzlement was why the conductor had to narrate the story behind each set of visuals and music piece, which I found rather strange. I do not think I have ever been to a concert, where a conductor has talked that much before.
On a whole, it was a beautiful evening, and having been to a few BBC Worldwide production concerts in Australia and the UK, it is always nice to have something come to home.
I look forward to the next BBC Worldwide concert in Singapore, in this case ‘BBC Frozen Planet’; which was the encore (an excerpt) piece that was played that Friday evening.
Of course, another BBC Worldwide concert on my wish list includes the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular which I reckon would look majestic on that brilliant curved screen!
So, two months later and here I was again… Back for another red carpet film premiere.
Vanessa’s log: 12 July 2014. Location: Shaw Lido, Singapore.
Stars of the upcoming Marvel film ‘Guardian of the Galaxy’ were in Singapore for the red carpet Southeast Asia Premiere of the film which will be shown in cinemas at the end of July. And once again, I decided to check it out.
Arriving at a quarter to four, I was mildly surprised to find that not many of the prime spots for waiting had been taken yet.
A quick look around the fifth level of the building where the cinemas halls were located as well as the length of the red carpet back on the ground level, it was half past four before I finally picked my ‘spot’.
As per the previous red carpet (technically, it was blue) that was held in May (X-Men: DOFP), the carpet trailed from the beginning of Shaw towards Orchard Road before turning the corner at Scotts Road and continuing further down that stretch of road.
And so, the waiting began.
I have recently found it best to plant myself near the press and near the beginning of the carpet of a premiere, partly because I can always pass the time by observing the media before the arrival of the artistes. The other reason is just my personal red carpet tactic. Everyone has their own.
So, in the two hours, I occupied my time by watching the media prepare for the arrival of the stars. The scripts of interview questions. The set-up of their cameras. The selfies. The regular taking of photos and videos of the fans and the ‘Step and Repeat’ Guardians of the Galaxy backdrop.
It was around 7pm when the stars arrived, namely Dave Bautista, James Gunn and Zoe Saldana, in that particular order.
Posters that had been given to fans by the crew were waved wildly, along with mobile phones. Mobile phones everywhere!
There was actually a mix of selfies as well as regular mobile photos taken at this particular red carpet due to the fact that the minders/PR person of each celebrity assisted in the taking of photos for some fans.
Indeed, one minder/PR person and celebrity who touched my heart was the lady that followed Dave Bautista and the man himself too. At one point, halfway towards the beginning of the red carpet, Bautista made his way to the media section on the opposite side of the red carpet. This nice lady then proceeded to tell the fans that he would be back. So, we waited.
In that time, director James Gunn, who had arrived shortly after Bautista, came over to sign some autographs and take photos with the fans.
Fumbling with the camera app on my iPhone (silly assertive touch button blocking the way of the click button), it took me a good ten seconds (slow in terms of red carpet selfie time-allowance), before I managed to snag myself a selfie with the awesome guy, who was extremely patient the whole time, bless him! Gunn then even proceeded to sign my poster (by this time, I had this half confused, half apologetic look on my face, which I did not even realise had not been signed by him yet. Whether or not the photo turned out alright, it was in my camera roll and I was happy. Yet, I was also half-expecting Gunn to notice and comment on my TARDIS iPhone cover and perhaps mention Karen Gillan (who plays Nebula in Guardian of the Galaxy, but who is also in Doctor Who), but sadly he did not. I am not sure if he is a Whovian (Doctor Who fan), but I always get the impression that most British and Americans, especially those in the “geek” (film/television/comic/animation) industry, are, in some way or another.
As Gunn headed opposite to do some interviews at the media section, I could see that, by then Bautista was finishing up his length of the media interviews. A few photos in front of the ‘Step and Repeat’ backdrop, I was already expecting them to continue towards the next section of fans down the carpet. But his minder/PR lady actually directed him back to the fans that were ‘left behind’. So they came back. To the exact spot that he had left off. Blimey!
In most cases, when someone on a red carpet says that ‘they’ll be back’, or ‘he/she will be back’, you can never be certain if they really will. Time constraint is not always kind to the actors who are fluttering on both sides of the carpet for the fans and the press. So, I was very surprised and above all, very touched when Bautista actually returned to the spot that he had left off.
A few more autographs and selfies (I was quicker this time!), he completed the section of fans that he had missed and then made his way to the other section of the fans, on the other side of the ‘Step and Repeat’ Guardians of the Galaxy backdrop.
In the kerfuffle of ‘fluttering’ between both sides of the red carpet by Bautista and Gunn, Zoe Saldana arrived wearing a gorgeous dress.
An hour from when they first arrived, the celebrities gathered on the main stage with the hosts of the event.
Once again, respect to Dave Bautista for his dedication to the fans. Despite being the first to arrive at the red carpet, he was the last to leave it, signing autographs for the fans till the very end of the carpet. In fact, James Gunn did well too, but was perhaps just a few minutes shy of Bautista’s record time on the carpet. In Singapore’s heat and humidity, it is extremely heartening.
A few more questions, a gift presentation to the celebrities and a group selfie (technically, a groupie) of the hosts, the stars and the crowd behind them in the VIP fan zone, and the event was over.
For everyone, it was another fun red carpet event, with some one in a million experiences, whether or not autographs and photos had been obtained.
With red carpet events happening in Singapore every two months (The Amazing Spider-Man in March, X-Men DOFP in May and now Guardian of the Galaxy in July), can we look forward to another one in September?
I really hope so.
Till the next carpet, whenever that may be…
More photos can be found on Vanessa’s Flickr
It is always an honour to watch a world premiere of something. Friday’s performance of Postures by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at the Esplanade Concert Hall was, one of these moments.
The accompanying programme described the titled piece ‘Postures for Piano and Orchestra’ by Zhou Long as containing three movements, namely ‘Pianodance’, ‘Pianobells’ and ‘Pianodrums’.
I love all three movements, but my favourite was Pianobells. While I tried to picture the shaman-dance of animals, the interplay between Heaven and Earth and the Peking Opera Monkey, the interpretation of each movement in the programme, my mind wandered to other realms of my imagination.
Postures took me, instead, to experience variations of Steven Spielberg films, science fiction and horror in particular, in my mind. It was a remarkably interesting piece that was executed beautifully by Andreas Haefliger on piano, accompanied by the orchestra. The playing of the lower notes and a melody that was intriguing as it was beautiful. The wonderful dissonance between the low and high notes of the piano, the striking of the low strings inside the piano to create the rumble and somewhat eerie nature; calming yet diabolical. I enjoyed mostly the dynamics of the piece.
At times, I was taken to unearthly realms, an interplay not exactly between Heaven and Earth, but more of good and evil, or the known and the unknown. ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ comes to mind, as well as an episode from Doctor Who, probably involving Cybermen.
For Glinka’s ‘Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla’, what was played was perhaps one of the most pivotal part of the fairy-tale opera. The strings resonating, lively and romantically throughout the piece, with the violins to represent Russlan and cellos to represent Ludmilla. The fast allegro movements of the violins, the solo clarinet and the moderately slower violas and cellos, came together into what I thought was a gorgeous piece, drawing images of a ballet performance filled with opulent costumes, a grand passionate pas de deux sequence of the two protagonists and ending with a coda, of both music and dance.
Rachmaninov Symphony No.2, the last piece of the evening, was exquisite and a delight to merely gaze upon on; the familiar melancholic theme of the piece coupled with passion of the orchestra and conductor Lan Shui. A magnificent finish at the fourth movement to a resounding applause from the audience.
Indeed, the evening was spectacular and I only wished that I could have enjoyed more of the fascinating ‘Postures for Piano and Orchestra’.
For anyone in London in September, the SSO performs the same programme for the BBC Proms (Prom 61) at the Royal Albert Hall on 2 September, So, why not come to listen to it at the RAH, if only for Postures alone… It’s Prom 61. I am now urging all my British friends to have a listen.
BBC Radio 3 also provides a wonderful live broadcast of each Proms programme from the hall, live. I reckon I might listen to it again then.
It is always interesting to see the interpretation of characters in a story. More so when it is depicted in a single production, where the two main leads actually switch protagonist roles.
National Theatre Live’s screening (as well as the stage production in London) of Frankenstein was depicted in two versions. One featured Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor Frankenstein, while the other version had both actors switch roles.
It was extremely interesting to see the nuances of each character when played by a different actor.
In the first version, where Cumberbatch plays the creature, the character was, for me at least, portrayed as a misunderstood creature that I could have empathy for. A life form that is trying to understand its beginnings. Trying to learn. Trying to become. The struggles and misconceptions he encounters, the loneliness, the vulnerability and the somewhat cheekiness he shows, portray a more endearing creature.
In the second version, where Miller plays the creature, while the creature still remains misunderstood, lonely and confused, there is less of a vulnerability to him and more of the monster in him. There is that wildness and spite in Jonny’s creature that scares me, despite me trying to understand him as a living thing that deserves to live. For instance, I felt that his (third) kill towards the end was more crude and ghastly than that of Cumberbatch’s creature.
Let’s just say that I would rather run into Cumberbatch’s creature in the middle of the night than Miller’s creature.
For both versions, Victor Frankenstein was portrayed as a rather egoistical genius, who appears to look down on others who do not approve or understand his unorthodox ways and fascination with creating new life. In a way, like the creature he created, he is also a loner.
While Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Victor reminds me a lot of BBC’s Sherlock; aloof, a genius, mad and awkward yet slightly condescending, a character which I adore, it was Miller’s Frankenstein which I liked better. There was just a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ oom and intensity to his character which I enjoyed.
Still, both actors were equally good in their portrayal of this mad creator.
Of the two versions, I prefer Cumberbatch as the creature and Miller as Victor Frankenstein. The other version was good, but it would have been something that I would have already expected to see in the story; a mad genius scientist and his terrible monster creation. The extra ‘humanity’ in Cumberbatch’s creature as well as Miller’s slightly more intense and slightly emotional interpretation of Victor helped to evoke more feelings of understanding towards both characters, and in doing so changed my preconceptions as to who or what they are in the story.
Nevertheless, watch both versions and judge for yourself. If the characters do not sway you, the set design will. The creativity of the set design alone is simply out of this world! Coupled with the multi-cameras, Frankenstein absolute perfection!
For more: read NTLive review
I have been waiting for quite some time for a National Theatre Live screening to be done in Singapore, having had friends in Europe and Australia enjoy them so much. So imagine my delight when not one but four plays, namely Frankenstein (both versions), Coriolanus and The Audience were scheduled to be shown here.
Screened in an intimate black box type studio, the first screening of Frankenstein was well worth the $20 I had paid for my ticket. Despite it being a screening, and not a real live stage performance, the production projected well on screen, with some great shots from the multi-cameras that panned around the National Theatre stage in Southbank, London. Sound-wise, I particularly like the vibration that I could feel from the ground during the louder scenes, which reminded me of a space mountain rollercoaster ride, especially since coupled with all those multi-camera footage. Imagine if the screening had been in 3D!
Perhaps in the future NT Live performances will be filmed on 3D cameras…
Frankenstein has perhaps one of the most astoundingly creative set designs that I have seen. The copious amounts of light bulbs which hung over the stage like an overcast cloud casting brilliant displays of lighting to depict lightning, mood and setting was perhaps my favourite part of the Frankenstein set. Another was the lake scene in Geneva. And yet another was the sort of embryo-like screen that the creature burst out from in the opening scene. Even the train-like contraption was rather brilliant and reminded me of a scene from Les Miserable. The ingenuity of each set, the creativity of it, like it was exquisitely crafted and plucked out of the head of a genius. I absolutely loved it!
Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature, what can I say? He was fantastic! Initially see-sawing between the feelings of being jaded to somewhat urging-encouragement in the very long opening scene, where the creature crawls out from his state of stasis onto stage, flapping about on the floor as he slowly discovers how to move each limb to stand, walk and then run, I was deeply moved by his progression as the performance continued.
From discovering basic human feelings like hunger, heat and the cold, to being shunned by humanity because of the way he looked, to his ability to learn and assimilate humans and adapt to be like them, to his need for love, acceptance and the loneliness he feels as the only one of his kind, Cumberbatch portrayed the role of the creature with such passion, emotion, technique and versatility, I could not help but feel compassion and understanding for this strange creature.
For instance, the part of him learning how to speak and read from the blind old man was rather heart-warming, the betrayal he felt from Frankenstein was quite heart-wrenching and the pained effort he took to still comprehend the intricacies of humanity even to the very end was particularly sad.
In a way, it has shown me how humans can be somewhat more inhumane than the inhuman creatures. Perhaps, we are the creatures and the creatures are more human than we think.
Overall, it was an astounding production with even a couple of musical-like numbers thrown in.
If it had been a live stage production instead of a screening, I would have gone to see it twice, maybe even thrice.
Coriolanus, the second screening of the evening, was performed and recorded at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden, London. It was most interesting to know, in the short video that was shown before the screening, that the theatre was once a place to store bananas for ripening. Yet, despite the constraints of working on a small stage, with no wings, proscenium arch or backstage, at least not one that I could see, the set design was very clever; the few feet of painted red on the wall to depict anger and tension, the changing illuminated words of oppression and rebellion in the backdrop, the use of chairs for some of the setting, and the interesting stage direction of which actors who were standing or sitting at the back of the stage ‘backstage’ in the backdrop, while they can be seen, were technically not part of the scene or scenes on stage, until they moved to the forefront.
Make-up was done aesthetically brilliant too. Although, the usage of fake blood in one of the scenes which looked as if a cup of it had been tipped directly over Hiddleston’s head as it dripped all over his face, made me wonder and fear if any of it had actually gone into his eyes during any of the performances and if such ‘paint’ was detrimental or even painful. Strangely, with so much fake blood on the actor, there was hardly much blood on the sword he was holding. His arms and sleeves also remained rather immaculate.
The portrayal of Caius ‘Coriolanus’ by Tom Hiddleston was done well; the emotions of a young man torn between obligations of battle and politics and his people and his family. There were a number of witty and clever moments in the play, which I enjoyed. Mark Gatiss, for instance, who played Menenius was brilliant. As were, Deborah Findlay’s portrayal as the protective mother of Coriolanus, Volumina whose revels in his son’s ‘battle scars’, I found a rather disturbing, and a stark contrast to his doting wife Virgilia played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen.
While I did not particularly enjoy the music that was used, with the exception of the ethereal piece that was sung in the last scene, and the weakness of a tearful Coriolanus giving in to what I would call ‘emotional blackmail’ at the very end, this production of Coriolanus was an interesting one, and perhaps more so on screen.
I would certainly have loved to have seen it performed live at the Donmar.
While I look forward to enjoying the other productions, I also hope to see more of the recent National Theatre Live’s productions come as well. My wish list includes The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time and The War Horse.
For more: read NTLIVE character analysis review
It was endearing, full of emotions, life, colours and dance-and-sing-the-night-away-like-you’re-22 music. Most of all, it was impressionable.
12th June 2014 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium marked the last night and performance of Taylor Swift’s Red Tour concert since it began a year and a half ago in Omaha.
The concert was epic; filled with euphoria and nostalgia. No emotion, no magical emotion that makes us all human, that makes us all live, to live life, the ups and downs of it, was left short that night.
Upon entering the arena, one would be greeted by a magnificent and youthful grandeur of colours. There were many concert goers, both girls and guys, who had brought more than just light sticks and colourful signs that night. Many actually made colourful signs that lit up, wore trails of lights around themselves, and even cosplayed in onesies and shimmering jackets and outfits. From the top of the arena, it was a sight that sparkled life. Like a field of fireflies sparkling and dancing through a summer solstice night.
‘State of Grace’ was the first song of the evening; the curtains went down, Taylor Swift burst onto stage and the rest as they say is history.
History in the making.
‘State of Grace’ is probably one of my favourite pieces in the Red album, the curve of the crescendo moments of it, in particular, part of it reminding me of Grayson Chance’s ‘Sunshine and City Lights’.
‘The Lucky One’ was an interesting piece visually. Set against the backdrop of a video clip that showed the perils of fame, the loneliness of it perhaps, it was sung along to dancers dressed as the paparazzi. I quite liked the ingenuity of the props used to look like cameras. And the choice to look like press from the 60s, instead of the modern era, gave the song that extra glamour and decadence of celebrity life.
‘22’ which had almost everyone in the arena, if not dancing, at least bobbing their heads or tapping along to the song, showed a clip of Taylor’s early years from birth to age 22. It was not something I had seen before, so it was rather inspiring to see how she grew up and how her love for music grew along with her.
Perhaps one of my favourite songs of the evening was ‘All Too Well’, which according to Taylor was a personal piece for her and a song she had debated on whether or not to put on the album. Nevertheless, it turned out to be one of the most popular pieces, and something that fans would always request for her to sing. Performing this piece, almost acoustically at first on a gorgeous red piano, which somewhat reminds me of Elton John’s ‘The Big Red’ piano at the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room, Taylor exude brilliant poignancy as she sang and played, and the fans sang along. A wonderful piece with so much emotion, heart and heartbreak.
Another piece that shone through the concert like the brightest, brightest star on the darkest night, and one that was requested for by many, for this Red Tour concert, as Taylor recounted to the crowd, was ‘Long Live’.
Lyrics that cascaded and swirled, filled with hope and spoke of freedom, of living life, and wishing on that brightest star, of dreams and seeing it all come through. Then, of being remembered and never forgetting the memories, for at the end of it all, it’s the journey that counts. An apt choice for the end of the Red Tour. #LongLiveRedTour
Throughout the evening, each song was performed to its very best, from Taylor herself, to her band, to her dancers, to the audience who screamed and cried and danced and sang along. It was after all, the very last show of the Red Tour journey; the memories and experiences of eighteen months all colliding in a spectacular display.
I have worked on productions before and can get quite attached to it after a mere few days or a week. I can only imagine what it must feel like for Taylor and her team…
Her Red Tour speech and other times in which she spoke to the crowd or merely gazed at them, drew tears, even from the artiste herself; tears of happiness, of wonderment, of admiration, tears of joy and elation, of pride. There was not going to be another Red Tour speech, so every word held its meaning to the deepest core. Shining like stars overlooking serene coastal cliffs.
Aesthetically, the production team put on a wonderful choreography and execution. Sets and costumes were absolutely gorgeous. Lightning was great. Art direction was perfect. The musicians were extremely energetic; the guitarists and the drummer. My favourite being the violinist who played at the start of ‘Trouble’. Coupled with the Taylor’s songs, it was a breathtaking production for the eyes and emotional one for the heart.
My only wish that night was that songs like ‘Treacherous’, ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Everything Has Changed’ as featured in the US, Europe and Australia tour shows had been performed as well.
Still, as the night came to an end, it was evident that everyone had experienced something great. The end of a great (Red) era. But the hope of a new one.
Indeed, it will be remembered… Indeed, it will be long-lived…
Instagram video snippets:
More photos can be found on Vanessa’s Flickr
I adore music composed for film and television. And Friday’s performance of The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers orchestral production by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra, the Vocal Associates Festival Chorus and Children’s Choir, with soloists Rosalind Waters and Samuel Yuen and conducted by Justin Freer did not fail to engulf all my senses and pull at my heartstrings in cloak of breathtaking beautiful elf magic of music.
Held at the Star Theatre in Singapore, it was the second of a trilogy of LOTR touring concerts; the first one being ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ held last year.
Playing ‘The Complete recordings of The Two Towers’ spanning three hours against a big screen playing the film of the same name, it was as if there was magic shrouded in the air the moment the reel was played, ‘New Line Cinema’ appeared and the first notes were hit in ‘Glamdring’. As the strings came in… Chills… Absolute chills…
The dynamism and passion of watching Freer conduct through three hours of almost continuous music with just a short twenty minute interval was spellbinding. Such energy and focus. The stance and the swift yet graceful movements. The mental stamina more so than the physical one. Each note in sync to the film. The precision of it almost an art form on its own.
My favourite piece was ‘One of the Dúnedain’, which included an excerpt of ‘Evenstar’. Sung by British vocalist Rosalind Waters, with the orchestra and choir playing and singing respectively, the piece pulled and tore at my heartstrings and covered it with so much beauty, like the break of dawn filled with the faintest but most beautiful glimmer of hope after a long night of war. Painful yet iridescently beautiful. The voice of Waters like dawn itself.
I have been always fascinated by the strings section in a concert. One of my favourite strings bit of this performance included a small segment in ‘Retreat’, which featured short staccato-like bow strokes followed by longer legato ones. Another was in ‘Fangorn’ which was fast, like the undercurrents in the sea, leaving me holding my breath because it made my heart dance and gasp at the same time.
Overall, most of the pieces were brassy and full of percussion like drums and wonderful dynamics for the epic fight sequences and threats as depicted on screen. ‘The Battle of Hornburg’ and ‘The Breach of the Deeping Wall’, for instance. Watching the conductor during these pieces was mesmerizing. At times, I was torn between watching the synchronicity of the orchestra, the conductor and the film on the screen.
‘The Last March of the Ents’ which contained an excerpt of ‘Isengard Unleashed’ featured the Singaporean boy soprano Samuel Yuen and the chorus. The quaint and ethereal Sindarin Elvish lyrics sung by the vocalists and the angelic voice of Yuen breaking in was like crystal of rain on the window pane.
I was most taken by the chorus who performed their part in the whole production brilliantly. Each member’s voices complementing the other so well, to create a nice rich and wonderful tone like wine from a good harvest. I feel tempted to join the chorus now!
Indeed, as the night came to an end, perhaps my only disappointment was that the performance was not executed in a concert hall. The huge number of artistes looked rather too compact on stage, and I believe that a proper concert would have added that extra acoustic magic accentuating their performance even more.
Nevertheless, it was an exciting orchestral night, filled with the waving of a baton, a sword, an axe, hobbits, elves, humans, ethereal voices and strange languages and music from another kingdom…
My wish list for the next concert with a concept similar to this one: LOTR - The Return of The King, The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular and Star Trek: Live in Concert.
*It seems that Justin Freer’s favourite colour is pink/red judging from the photos of him in a pink (or red) shirt of some sort 4/5 times a photo is posted of him by the orchestra. For the performances, he was wearing a pink/red tie!
*Special thanks to the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra team for the backstage visit.
Whenever I think of cello music, Bach always comes to mind. ‘Cello Suite No 1 in G Major’ to be exact. That has changed since my encounter with the 2Cellos concert on Thursday evening in Singapore. Now AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and Nirvana enter my consciousness as well.
As the two cellists took to the stage in just a black T-shirt and jeans, I was mildly surprised at their chosen attire. Little did I realise that it would blend in perfectly with the theme of their entire performance.
The concert started off fairly subtle with the likes of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’, Sting’s ‘Shape of my Heart’, Muse’s ‘Resistance’ and U2’s ‘With or Without You’, to name a few.
Performing each piece with such vigour and intensity, against some stunning visuals, it was difficult not to be intrigued and bewitched by their playing. More so, since they were playing rock and not the classical compositions. As a string player myself, I found myself particularly transfixed on all the spiccato movements, which went perfectly in contrast with the legato movements.
Muse’s ‘Resistance’, for instance, had that contrast. The fast spiccato bowing as the base of the song, and the legato ones as the main melody. After which, midway, both combined and interlude into one another, like liquid in a lava lamp.
Taking turns to the microphone in between songs, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, the two young Croatian spoke of how it was their second time in Singapore; their first performance had them opened for Elton John. Jokingly they added that for their third performance, Elton John would open for them. Such wit and stage presence.
They then invited the audience to sing, dance or even come onto stage to sit on Stjepan’s lap, as this was unlike a traditional cello concert. This was different and there were ‘no holds barred’.
No one did the latter, but by the time AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ was played, which was also their most played video on Youtube with 18 million views, the subtlety of the whole concert ambience had escalated to ultimate rock concert level.
And, when a drummer takes to the stage to accompany two cellists whose cellos now sound more like bass and electric guitars, then ‘stuffy’ old cellos, you know you are in for something. Something good!
It was loud and good, it was; the beat of the drum echoing in the heart of every rocker in the audience, the strings of the cellos tugging at its heartstrings of pure rock emotion, and the flashing lights shining in your eyes like a good old rock concert.
Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’, AC/DC’s ‘Back To Black’ and ‘Thunderstruck’, and Muse’s ‘Resistance’ were some of my favourites that were played that night.
Two encores and it was over, to the dismay of many. Especially, the one lady who shouted for them to take off their shirts. Instead, the cellists pulled out the frayed bow hairs from their bows and handed it to a few of their adoring fans in the front row.
At the end of the night, it was rock cello music that resonated in the ears and hearts of everyone.
Instagram video snippets:
Vanessa’s log: 14 May 2014. Location: Shaw Lido, Singapore
Stars of the upcoming movie X-Men: Days of Future Past were in town to grace the blue carpet for the Southeast Asia Premiere of the film and I decided to check it out. Oh! And why blue? Well, it appears only homo-sapiens grace red carpets. Also for those who remember scenes where Professor X uses Cerebro to trace mutants and non-mutants, the former were always depicted as blue entities, while the latter as red.
Arriving at a little past 2pm, after a curious look at the cinema area located on the 5th floor, it was evident that many prime spots around the blue carpet were taken up, mostly nearing the stage.
The blue carpet trailed from the beginning of Shaw towards Orchard Road, before turning the corner at Scotts Road and then continuing slightly further down that road.
Now, it has been ages since I have been to a red carpet event. Last one attended was seven years ago at London’s Odeon, and for that one I was lucky enough to walk the carpet. So, I was more or less unaware at the idiosyncrasies of what happens on the fan side of things.
Nevertheless, I finally decided on a spot nearing the beginning of the carpet, which also so happened to be opposite the jungle of media from the region and beyond.
And then, it was time to wait.
Fortunately, the weather was kind and the fans (the machine ones, not the human ones) situated at various intervals along the blue carpet, provide a respite from the humidity. I was rather surprised that the waiting did not take as long as I had previously anticipated. I entertained myself by people watching the media on the opposite side of the barricade and blue carpet as they took copious amounts of selfies, prepared their ‘speeches’ in front of their cameramen for interviews, and got the fans to scream and wave to their phones and cameras. At one point, I was rather tempted to ask the media to wave too as I took a panorama instagram video of everyone. Now, that would have been rather fun.
It was 7pm by the time the main celebrities, namely Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinklage and Fan Bingbing arrived. And blimey, did the crowd go wild! Phones of all types were held out, along with fan-shaped cards that had been previously given out to us by the crew, for requests of selfies and autographs.
The word of 2013 was ‘Selfie’, and I believe it was the word of that evening as well. I reckon there were more people wanting a photograph with the stars than an autograph. The ups and downs of the digital age and social networking? Possibly.
Still, the stars were absolutely brilliant and really down-to-earth people, as they fluttered like bees from flower to flower, between taking selfies and signing autographs with/for their fans on one side of the blue carpet, to heading to the media section on the opposite side for interviews, before heading back to the fans again.
Hugh Jackman posed for numerous amounts of selfies, and Peter Dinklage and Fan Bingbing even took some of these selfies for their fans.
By 8pm, the trio had moved towards the end of the carpet and the deluge of media had disappeared along with them.
For the fans that still remained, it was probably an ‘X-perience’ of a lifetime. Some were seen screaming at their mobiles excitedly to their friends at their success of obtaining a selfie or photo with one of the stars.
I was told that the event was also live-streamed on Youtube on the ‘X-Men Movies’ channel. Fantastic! That would explain the main media folks and camera crew hanging around on the blue carpet, sans barricade. I might have chosen an excellent vantage point after all.
And yes, I was one of the lucky ones that got myself that very important word of the evening!
More photos can be found on Vanessa’s Flickr
Highlights of the live-stream can be found at XmenMovies on Youtube,
It was a journey into something magical, something spiritual and something surreal. ‘Kagemi’ by the Sankai Juku butoh dance company was just that.
Upon entering the theatre, one is greeted by an intricate set on stage; giant lotus leaves. The chaos of the numerous leaves juxtaposed against the simple backdrop and otherwise minimalist stage, was a perfect contrast between night and day, darkness and light, the two sides of a mirror or the two levels from beneath a lotus leaf.
The performance began with a silent piece, with just one male dancer at the corner of stage right. In this piece, the theatre was so quiet for about ten minutes that I could practically hear practically myself breathing. Then, the lotus leaves were lifted by the fly bar, floating and rising delicately, to reveal six more dancers hidden beneath the leaves.
Watching these dancers perform, the intrinsic hand gestures and concentrated facial expressions, the classical form of the costumes and make-up, felt like a journey, an experience, like a privileged glimpse into a private ritual that was not to be viewed by many.
As I tried to establish what each piece meant, I was equally taken in by the music. Was it a metamorphosis of one man into six? Were they even men or were they souls or entities that lived beneath the lotus leaves, an idea, an image or a reflection that grew and then manifested? Was the repeated movement juxtaposition between two worlds; two sides of a mirror or two sides of a lotus leaf?
I found that the music accentuated the dance succinctly. Against the floating lotus leaves, it was almost like looking at a precious art form on stage. My favourite parts in the music included the repeated drum-like percussion, the underwater sounds and the piano piece. The first two had reverberation and a brilliant echo to it, reminding me of music in the Hannibal series. Like a perfect art piece or dish. The latter, which started off slow on the left hand and which varied between several octaves, soon picking up tempo, reminded me of a familiar piece. One of which I cannot quite place.
Seven scenes in one act and the journey was over. As the dancers took to the stage for the curtain call, it was probably the most touching curtain call that I have ever seen. The simple hand gesture of the lead to the other dancers, the way he bowed, the way everyone bowed to thank the audience. Almost like Samurai warriors. It was beautiful. And above all, most humbling. I was honoured to have been part of the audience.