Silence swept across the hall as the conductor made his way to the podium.
With every pair of eyes trained on his movements, all distraction ceased.
Then, waves of melodic sounds resonated through the air.
Welcome to Limelight 2017, and get ready to be transported into a magical world of music.
It was definitely no easy feat preparing for the upcoming concert given the short time they had to work with after the band’s SYF performance. Despite the time constraint, members of the band were not burnt out. In fact, it allowed them to continue their momentum of constant practice where even rehearsing between breaks and after school till late evenings on ‘non-band’ days was not a rare sight.
Indeed, with their conductor ‘pushing [them] with perfection as the goal in mind’ as said by Natthan Lee of 16S43, member of VJCSB, it definitely explains the level of time and effort committed in hopes of delivering the best performance.
Certainly, every performance has its theme; each carrying a voice unique to its own. Limelight was no exception. The theme this year was ‘Multiculturalism’, where the audience were treated to a different style of music contrary to the usual compositions and style one would expect hear at a band concert. Choosing to diverge from the ‘classic, but cliched’ route (as aptly put forth by Clarrie Goh of 16S42, Chairperson of VJCSB), it was undoubtedly a refreshing idea, with each piece featuring distinct melodies reflective of the different cultures around the world.
(Indeed, we could safely say after attending the band concert, that they successfully transported us to different parts of the world on our magic carpets.)
Yet, it is also worthy to note that behind the beautiful set up that greeted the audience that night, the prospect of a possible logistical nightmare loomed over the band members backstage.
The emcee transcript that gave the audience context to each piece, the movement of instruments back and forth from the College to Esplanade, printing of the scores and so on – these were handled by the band members themselves beforehand which is also particularly worth commending; apart from the blissful music we got to enjoy at the concert.
From watching the conductors conjure delicate-sounding harmonies just by a deft movement of his hands, to being thrown into a scene taken right out of the movie Aladdin, next delving into a crowd filled with Spanish Fandango dancers, followed by shaking imaginary macaras while donning the Mexican sombrero, and then head-banging to some of K-Pop’s hottest hits before ending off the night, the audience were truly taken on a trip around the world with every note that reverberated throughout the hall.
And so here is a brief recap of what really went down at the Esplanade Concert Hall with Victoria Junior College’s very own Symphonic Band.
“Don’t make me choose … I would say I’m tied between the saxophone quartet and the finale!”, replied Jolie of 17A12, when asked what was her favourite piece from the concert.
Unsurprisingly, the Band’s take on “Those Years” (那些年) and “A Little Happiness” (小幸运), as well as the Hallyu medley of Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby”, GD and Taeyang’s “Good Boy”, and EXO’s “Call Me Baby” were the crowd-pleasers of the night.
Kong Le-Yi of 16S47 also added how she thought “it was really creative and unique to have the cajon player styled with a centre parting to recreate the character’s look” while having the rest “dressed in Taiwanese uniform”.
Indeed, the small efforts made by our fellow band members to enhance the overall concert experience did not go unnoticed by the audience.
Jolie made it a point to commend the soloists as well, noting how on top of their “breathtaking” performances, “one brought sunglasses as props, and that in itself, shows how much pride the band takes in their work and it’s wonderful to watch”.
Another crowd favourite of the night was the piece ‘Semoga Bahagia’, most commonly known as the Children’s Day song. As the familiar tune ‘Sama-sama maju ke hadapan…’ echoed throughout the hall, one cannot help but reminisce about the past.
As said by Bridget Lim of 16S55, ‘[the piece] not only reminded me of my childhood, but also portrayed local music in a very grand, unexpected way. It was also very nostalgic when they started singing.’
Yet, poised comfortably with a good mix of classics, the band did not fail to satisfy the inner music geeks in all of us as well.
While Ang De Ren of 16A14 thoroughly enjoyed “Danzon No 2” and Xiang Yin of 16A13 found the piece “Escape Velocity” particularly “refreshing”, Crystal Goh of 16S39 also pitched in to say that she “liked the first piece played by the Alumni Band the most; Slavonic Dances Op. 46, No.8 in G minor.” Why the technicality you may ask? She continued fondly recounting it as the piece that she used to play as part of a piano duet in her secondary school days. As she marvelled at her experience at Limelight 2017, she had a wonderful epiphany and understood “how important each instrument is, knowing how distinct each sound produced is in actuality”, it is no wonder why she concluded her experience at the concert as one that was “invigorating”.
Moreover, situated in what has been labelled as one of the fifteen most beautiful concert halls in the world, the venue of Limelight 2017 was the perfect treat for performers and non-performers alike as well.
A student mentioned how the ambience of the Esplanade adds to the fanciness and the ‘west-jazzy’ atmosphere of the concert. This no doubt had the effect of stepping up the concert a notch.
Relishing in his job, Valentino Khoo of 16S33, student conductor of VJCSB, said that the experience in conducting is “the best thing in itself, especially being able to conduct in the world-class Esplanade Concert Hall”.
As Limelight ended on a high note, marking the end of their concert season, the band members wanted to express their gratitude and appreciation towards those around them who have shown support in one way or another.
Firstly, their fellow Victorian friends who played a significant role as their pillars of moral support by constantly encouraging them throughout this stressful period, and taking time to come down for the concert and show their love and support.
Valery Tay of 16A12 gushed at how fun it was to “see my friends doing what they love”. Similarly, Ang De Ren, 16A14, also shared his excitement “to see [his] friends shine on stage”. He even jokingly added that the only piece he did not like from the concert was the “first one because Jun Young was not playing.”.
Also, not forgetting their quiet supporters at home, their family. The band members are also appreciative towards their family for being so patient and supportive behind the scenes, constantly looking out for their well-being.
Clarrie Goh said that, “Of course, I need to specially mention my parents. They always pick me up after band practice and I usually end after 8pm. But they never complain and always remind me to rest (and study!). I was given a supportive and nurturing environment throughout this journey and I’m ever grateful for that.”.
Last but not least, one group of people they are especially thankful towards – their very own bandmates. As a band, they have accomplished so much together, and stuck together through thick and thin, cheering each other on and creating fond memories as one.
As best put by Jaime Niam, “I think being able to play together with people you love and cherish on such a prestigious stage is one of the best feelings on earth and this is made even better with the knowledge that you have supporters on stage and within the audience as well.”.
Chelsea Leow of 16S38 from VJCSB Percussion cited her section as her biggest supporters, saying that “They really supported me throughout this entire band journey, and are willing to help each other out. We will always give each other emotional support before and during the concert ,especially during the preparation process. It gives me a sense of comfort that everyone is working towards the same goal.”
As the J2s’ VJCSB journey officially draws to a close, they have some last words left for each other and their juniors. Chairperson Clarrie Goh said, “To my batchmates: thank you for everything, it was an amazing journey. Every waking moment I spent devoted to the band has been worthwhile. To my juniors, continue this legacy and the passion you have for music and performing. I have faith that VJCSB is in good hands and trust me that y’all will create memories you’ll treasure.”.
Muhammad Amal Muzaki of 16S52 also pitched in a word of advice for his juniors, adding that he hopes that this performance inspires them, urging them to “work hard and always have an open mind in whatever you do, and know that you can always learn from anyone around you, doesn’t matter how good they’re at certain things, you can always learn from any experience, or anyone around you really.”.
However, for some, this end is merely the beginning of a new chapter of their band experience. When asked if they had any future aspirations, Jaime Niam said, “My section has a shared dream to obtain an official busking license and perform our sax ensembles in public so I hope that comes true eventually!”.
As for student conductor Valentin, he said, “I hope to be able to play in an orchestra one day maybe part time as a hobby.”
And as we come to the end of this magical journey with VJCSB, we want to thank the band for allowing us, musically inclined or not, to connect with them through their passion for music. Witnessing the growth of the J2s which culminated into their final performance was surely a great way for us to conclude the term.
A big thank you to everyone who has lent their time to the Victorian Press and made this article possible with your responses! Hope you are enjoying your June Holidays!
Natalie Liew, 16A13
Ng Xue Ying, 16A13
Kumaravelu Roshini, 17S52
Yong Hwee Shi, 17S62