Founded in 1997, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) is Singapore’s only full-time professional Chinese orchestra. With more than 1.5 million music lovers every year who attend its concerts or tune in to its digital streams, it is renowned for its excellence in traditional Chinese music as well as its unique Singapore flavour.

More than 80 musicians comprise the SCO, which is located at the Singapore Conference Hall in downtown Singapore. It is helmed by Principal Conductor Quek Ling Kiong, who took over the baton in 2023 from Music Director Tsung Yeh (2002-2023; named Conductor Emeritus in 2023).

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SCO has impressed a broadening audience with its blockbuster presentations and is fast establishing itself around the world.

Over the years, the SCO has toured major cities in Asia and Europe, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and London. Notable appearances include critically acclaimed concerts in 2007, 2018, and 2023 at the China Shanghai International Arts Festival, a 2019 performance in Gwangju, South Korea, as well as a European concert tour that year to Berlin, Prague, Forli (Italy), and Loannina (Greece). In 2022, its musicians travelled to Germany to perform with the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra at Klassik Open Air, playing to more than 75,000 people.

In the spirit of cross-cultural collaboration, the SCO recorded Butterfly Lovers with Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell in 2018. The recording broke into the United Kingdom’s Official Specialist Classical Chart Top 20 when it was released in 2023 – a first for a Chinese orchestra.

Besides being a National Arts flagship company, the orchestra draws on a wide range of musical influences from Singapore, Southeast Asia and beyond. MEPAAN, a production staged in conjunction with Sarawak-based creative agency The Tuyang Initiative for the 2022 Singapore International Festival of Arts, combined stirring orchestral strains with haunting indigenous melodies. The orchestra also continues to commission original compositions, as well as arrangements of works from different genres, such as pop, jazz, Western classical music, and folk tunes of other ethnic groups.

In keeping with its standing as a “People’s Orchestra”, the SCO is committed to fostering a love for traditional Chinese music among the wider public. Through extensive education and outreach programmes, including community concerts, workshops, and competitions, it nurtures the next generation of musicians and listeners. The Caring Series, launched in 2007, has brought the healing power of music to people in hospitals, hospices, and elderly homes. The orchestra’s musicians also perform regularly at schools, and work closely with the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra (SNYCO).

The SCO has published several books on its history and outstanding musicians. The People’s Orchestra (2016) looks back on the ensemble’s first two decades as a professional orchestra, and SCO Hidden Gems was released in 2021 to mark its 25th anniversary. That same year, the orchestra launched a Digital Archival Portal, a repository of house programmes, music scores, recordings and more, which will support academic research.

Through these efforts, the SCO continues to further its mission as a top Chinese orchestra that will inspire and inform generations of music lovers for decades to come.

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