Lights dimmed. Curtains opened. Audience cheered.
Excitement filled the performance theatre as the audience was greeted by a group of performers seated neatly in rows, a metallic-looking rectangular instrument in each trained hand – the harmonica.
The 2017 VJC Harmonica concert started off with the band playing an instrumental song composed by Mexican composer, Luis Demetrio. This was followed by the J2s presenting their mesmerizing SYF pieces – K.138 “Entr’acte” by the renowned W.A Mozart as well as Easy Winners by Scott Joplin.
Before the audience could regain their composure after being left in awe by the J2 players, they were struck once again with another familiar melody, which sent everyone exchanging signals with one another as murmurs started to fill the theatre.
The concert remained on a high note throughout as the audience were constantly engaged by the songs played by the band as they included several timeless hits such as Faded, 那些年 (Na Xie Nian), the Beauty and the Beast title song whilst not forgetting the title song from New York, New York. These songs were mostly from popular movies and majority of the audience could sing along to them. Groups of people amongst the audience could also be seen swaying to the music and linking arms around one another, which pretty much warmed the atmosphere in the freezing performance theatre.
With so many songs being played beautifully, there were definitely a few which were exceptionally memorable and one of those includes Itsumo Nando Demo, which is the ending song of the well-known Japanese movie, Spirited Away. When the song came up, the audience was spirited away by the bittersweet nostalgia of their beloved childhood movie. As a complement to the ethereal beauty of the melodies, ‘Kaonashi’ (the ghost figure) graced the stage and imbued an aura of fantastic tranquility. Though the entrance of the figures sent laughter spreading across the audience, the melodies also transported the audience to a sanctuary of metaphysical vignettes, harking back to bygone days of quixotic imaginings. Fantasy and reality converged, cresting transversely in a brilliant zenith of exuberant entropy. One became enticed, excited, entranced and empowered. The potency of the melodies ossified our intractable transgressions into reality.
After the intermission, the band graced the stage with more spectacular performances. In smaller groups, they performed City of Stars and Another Day of Sun from the musical movie La La Land. The renditions they performed with the harmonica gave these musical numbers a new dimension that captured the attention of the audience.
Gheslynn Gerard, a J1 who was in the audience said that she thought ‘the performance was amazing’ and especially enjoyed it when ‘they played the La La Land songs’.
The atmosphere in the performance theatre was further uplifted when the band performed their rendition of jazz classics like Dream a Little Dream of Me. The elusive melodies of jazz music seemed to take the audience back in time to the jazz era. The “last” song of the night: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, had the audience singing and clapping along to the catchy and upbeat tune. Having it played on the harmonica gave the song a refreshing twist that was well received by the crowd. Much to our surprise, the band’s conductor took off his blazer, revealing a pair of cut-out cartoon eyes that he strapped onto the back of his shirt. It was a clever pun on the song title, as he couldn’t take his eyes off the audience. They were definitely cracked up by his humorous move.
After many cheers of encouragement from the audience for an encore, the band rounded up the night’s performance with their last song: Viva La Vida. It served as a closure and hyped up the audience. Just like how Viva La Vida conveyed undertones of valiance, valour and vindication, the last performance rounded up the night on an apex of vitality. The melodies fluctuated with elegance, circumnavigating the strata of the ensemble’s long journey together. Transcending demarcations of differences and cartographical imaginations, the ensemble became united together through pain and pride, illustrating an envoi of gumption, gravitas and glory.
Nadia Abas, a J1 performer, said that the most memorable part of the performance was ‘when the audience took out their phones and started waving their phone flashlights’ and remarked that she felt ‘extremely touched’ by the gesture. Like constellations of stars accessorising the omnipotent darkness of the night sky, the flashlights pulsated with a oneness in spirit. Buoyed by the melodies emanating from the performers, light and sound converged to form an impressive catharsis. When asked about the challenges faced while preparing for the concert, she answered, ‘Since this year was our SYF year, there was not much time for us to prepare for the concert. Some of the songs were also a little difficult to play and thus we struggled a lot during practices. However, we never gave up and worked hard together to put up a good performance.’
Lim Hong Hui, another fellow J1 performer, resonates with Nadia’s view. She also added that despite the long and tiring practice sessions, “the preparation journey was a fun and enriching one” and she is “looking forward to performing with VJ harmonica again”. Indeed, their efforts paid off as they entranced the audience in the melody of their tunes and concluded the hectic school week on a lovely note.
Chong E-lyn, 16A14
Isabel Joy Kua, 17A14
Karissa Chong, 17A14
Ong Yong En, 17A14