Strings to a forgotten time

29 05 2012

Out and about an entire day and feeling irritable from that as well as from being drenched in the perspiration, I am glad that I resisted the urge to head home, have a shower and a what seemed to me like a much-needed lie-in. I headed instead down to a place I was familiar from times forgotten, to partake in the pure delight of being transported by four men armed with bows and strings, to a world not so far away from those forgotten times.

A changed view of a once familiar place.

When I got to that once familiar place, Esplanade Park, rendered somewhat unrecognisable by the obstructed view of what had once been the sea that now is a body of fresh water and the temporary structures set up for its use as a festival village for the Singapore Arts Festival, a huge crowd had already taken up temporary residence on mats provided by event organisers on a lawn by a stage. The crowd had gathered in anticipation of what was to follow – a free evening performance by the four men who form a string quartet – Singapore’s highly acclaimed T’ang Quartet, for what was titled “A Musical Snapshot of Nostalgia”.

The main stage at the festival village in front of which crowds had gathered seated on mats.

A close-up of a violinist.

I and I am sure the crowd were not disappointed by what was to follow. In the glow of the gorgeous warm lighting and on a stage set against a backdrop of shipping containers, the casually dressed but accomplished quartet played out a musical treat inspired by the once popular folk melodies, old favourites and themes of forgotten popular local television shows – in line with the festival’s theme of “Our Lost Poems”, that had the audience captivated throughout. It was easy to become immersed in the strains of much of what was familiar, and I quickly found myself back in that time I had forgotten – one piece that I found myself singing to was Burung Kakatua which also brought a tear to my eye – it was a song that my late maternal grandmother to whom I was very close to had taught me. The surroundings had once again become that Esplanade of old, fanned once again by a cool evening breeze – a breeze not out of the stillness of the air that now fills the park, but of the light and delightful interpretation of tunes, arranged by Pang Kok Jun from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, many of which I have for long not heard – certainly an enjoyable evening and one that was well spent.

The T’ang Quartet against a backdrop of shipping containers – on the Main Stage at the Festival Village.

The audience, young and old, was captivated by the strains of the once familiar melodies.

Portraits of the members of the T’ang Quartet

Ng Yu-Ying, 1st Violin.

Ang Chek Meng, 2nd Violin.

Lionel Tan, on viola.

Leslie Tan on cello.

Loved the effect of the projection of the performance on the shipping containers.

The Singapore Arts Festival is on up until 2 June 2012. Besides the ticketed events, the Festival Village at Esplanade Park also offers free fun and entertainment for the whole family including performances like that of the T’ang Quartet at the Main Stage and also lots of kids activities at the Kids Arts Village. One free performance at the Main Stage that I highly recommend is one at 10 pm on 2 June 2012 that will certainly have you in stitches – that of the a capella five-some (sort of) Budak Pantai – I had the opportunity of watching them perform last year and they were brilliant! For more information do visit

About The Singapore Arts Festival

The Singapore Arts Festival began in 1977 as a national showcase celebrating the local arts of Singapore’s diverse communities. Over the last three decades, the Festival organised by the National Arts Council, has played a symbiotic and catalytic role in the development of the artistic and cultural life of Singapore. It has influenced the work of artists and generated a growing public demand for the arts, spawning new capital platforms, events and movements that help underpin the lively cultural scene in Singapore.

The Festival saw its turning point in 2010 as it embarked on a new phase of development under the leadership of Low Kee Hong. Key changes and initiatives include turning this international arts platform into a Creation and People’s Festival with a vital year-long participation programme, continuing to sustain the Festival’s engagement with the public beyond individual shows staged during the Festival period. The commune events and activities are tailored for four groups: new audiences — people who may not have encountered the arts; arts lovers — people who buy tickets to performances; arts makers — artists and teachers who inspire their students through the arts; and arts volunteers — people who have the heart to make a difference.

The Singapore Arts Festival has now become an international showcase of ideas, art and discourse with a distinctive Asian flavour, known for its bold and innovative discussions between vernacular and contemporary art.

Singapore Arts Festival 2012: Our Lost Poems

The 2012 Festival will be held from 18 May – 2 June 2012. This edition of the Festival completes the trilogy of themes set out two editions ago – Between You and Me (2010), I Want to Remember (2011), Our Lost Poems (2012). Over these 16 days, the city comes alive with an infusion of performances at the Festival’s hub – the Festival Village @ Esplanade Park and other key venues. There is something for everyone this year, from ages 1 to 100.




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