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A Time of Transition

“Statistically, 30% of new corporate chiefs fail within their first 18 months in the job, according to some estimates. In an orchestra of 88 most talented, superbly skilled and creative personalities, it takes more than humility and wisdom to succeed,” says Mr. Quek Ling Kiong. More than 6 months in the job as the Principal Conductor of a professional national Chinese orchestra, huayue catches up with Mr. Quek Ling Kiong on his progress and challenges.

“The last 6 months has been a time of transition and I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about our music, our people in the orchestra and our audience. Without a doubt, the show must go on but will it be a missed opportunity to forge a relationship with the listener or will it be a heartfelt tribute to the composer’s intention?”

Ling Kiong adds that with his career spanning over 20 years in SCO, it may seem to be a natural progression for the fixture in local Chinese orchestral scene to be appointed on home ground advantage, but truth be told, just as music creation is never stagnant, the fluid transition process of interactions with fellow music makers involve a spectrum of artistic beliefs about what SCO should present musically, hence, his juggling role is more challenging than ever.

As the transition establishes a solid path towards productive relationships both within and without the industry — Ling Kiong leveraged on in-house expertise of the orchestra and roped in masters from overseas. Together, the trifecta adopts a collaborative and consultative approach to pursue artistic excellence on programme curation, selection of guest artists and conductors. “My training in the musical cultures of both East and West has enabled me to create inspiring productions that resonate across communities and opportunities to work with many overseas orchestras. SCO comprises a wealth of musical talent who have collectively propelled the SCO to be a world-renowned Chinese orchestra. I am confident that together with my esteemed orchestra colleagues, SCO will be an artistic leader on an international stage,” said Ling Kiong. Notwithstanding the challenge of harnessing the best of hidden talents and ensuring that the whole orchestra rises greater than the sum of its musicians, Ling Kiong aims to fulfil the potential of SCO as a distinctly Singaporean, world-class orchestra.

 quek_outdoor_2 In Conversation with Principal Conductor Quek Ling Kiong

People’s Conductor of the People’s Orchestra

Since Ling Kiong became SCO’s first Conducting Assistant in 2003, he lost count of the number of concerts under his baton, but the varied grassroots’ destinations and its audience profile left an indelible imprint. As the People’s Conductor of the People’s Orchestra, Ling Kiong remains ambitious to bring Chinese orchestral music to uncharted performance venues such as a HDB void deck, Changi Prison or Kampong Glam, and inspire Singapore residents from all walks of life, whilst believing in the affirmativeability of music to connect diverse communities. “Only in Singapore, it is not odd at all for a Chinese orchestra to perform Thaipusam by Singaporean composer Mr Wang Chenwei at Little India locale,” said Ling Kiong.

affinity_800 In Conversation with Principal Conductor Quek Ling Kiong 

New Concert Seasons Ahead

SCO Concert Season 23/24 marks the beginning of an epoch in the history of SCO. Post pandemic, audiences are more discerning than before, for the hiatus introduced content digitalisation. SCO’s first concert season since 2019 aims to reconnect with our dear friends with affinity for classics and reach out to a new generation of curious minds with perennial favourites. These most well-known and beloved pieces of music in the Chinese orchestral canon comprise of traditional masterpieces and endearing classics that will be performed throughout the season. Just as award-winning Composer Mr Qu Chunquan’s Shanghai-themed Shanghai Capriccio integrates composition elements from Gershwin’s jazz-influenced orchestral piece An American in Paris with resounding success, Ling Kiong hopes for more Singapore-inspired masterpieces from famous composers like Reverie at the Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles by Mr Qu Chunquan, Chingay’s Dragon Dance by Mr Xu Changjun or A Night in Pasir Ris by Mr Peng Xiuwen.

He also looks to forge meaningful partnerships with diverse arts and cultural groups to enhance SCO’s Singaporean identity globally with new iconic works that are appreciated by audiences and critics both at home and abroad. Not forgetting SCO’s leadership role on a global stage, Ling Kiong hopes to push ahead in extending the frontiers of artistic excellence through interdisciplinary collaborations, new commissions and premieres that add to SCO’s treasure trove of uniquely Singaporean compositions. Traversing across cultures, Ling Kiong also aspires for the orchestra to tour with a repertoire that has a universal appeal wherever and whenever it performs. “As a conductor, I serve to improve the harmony, and present the best musical experience for every audience member’s enjoyment. Also, to rejuvenate the audience of Chinese orchestra with freshly minted and younger music advocates,” said Ling Kiong. As he propels ahead with this mammoth task, let’s journey alongside as a faithful audience and bear witness to the heartfelt sounds of music. - huayue


Check out SCO's Concert Season 23/24 Affinity here!

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