Ho Chi Minh City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera

No joke, that’s the full name of the orchestra I went to see this Monday; the only real professional orchestra that I know of in Saigon.

They played a really cool repertoire; consisting of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Violin Concerto in D Major; Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on the theme of Paganini; and Mussorgsky’s Dawn on the Moscow River. I’m not going to lie, I went there specifically to see the performance of the 1812 Overture and the Rhapsody on the theme of Paganini. The other two pieces were ones that I didn’t know quite so well.

I was very confused at their choice of the order of the pieces. They opened with Tchaikovsky’s 1812, and ended the first half with the Rachmaninov. The second half opened with Mussorgsky’s Dawn on the Moscow River. The concert ended with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. I really don’t understand this. In their Spring Summer programme leaflet, they stated the order to start with the Mussorgsky, followed by the Violin Concerto. The second half opened with Rachmaninov, and then the whole concert was to close with the 1812. To me, this would have made much more sense. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is a fantastic, dramatic, powerful piece: perfectly suited to the grand finale. Why they chose to open with this is simply beyond me. Continue reading

FOBISSEA Music 2010 (Part 3)

This is part three (and the final part) in a series of posts.

There are many reasons that I enjoyed this trip more than past trips, but the main one I want to talk about is my own personal experiences with the music. (The other main reason is that it was a much more social experience for me, and I feel I socialised with new people from my school, as well as people from other schools, but that’s not very interesting for anyone other than myself.) The Beethoven symphony is my favourite piece of music of all time. Some of the pieces I wasn’t playing in were great to listen to, James Bond, Viva la Vida, Smoke on the Water, Jump from Glee. But that isn’t the best of it. In two of the pieces, I was the only clarinet to play. One Short Day, from the musical Wicked, was for choir and a small band. I’ve had experience with pieces like this before, and although they look simple at first, they’re always actually quite a challenge. This was no exception, although it was great fun to play, being the only one playing at many points.
The other piece that I loved was called Look at the World. It was originally for the whole orchestra, but the conductor decided he only wanted 6 strings, 1 flute, and 1 clarinet to play. I was the best clarinet there, so he asked me to play. It was incredibly beautiful, but also very hard at points. For me, those two pieces were the highlight of the whole trip.
There’s so much more I could say, but this is already 3 parts long, so I’ll just finish by saying what a great experience it was, and I can’t wait until next year in Beijing!

FOBISSEA Music 2010 (Part 2)

This is part two in a series of posts.

The organisation on periphery matters (things not directly relating to the music) this year was not as great as in the past. The food was in general just acceptable, although the opening dinner, and the final gala dinner were spectacular.
On three occasions during the trip, were had the opportunity to do one of the music-related workshops we chose before the trip. My first one — Jazz band — was pretty fun, although the conductor was a real pain. He was also the person who conducted the concert band, and he cut the best bits of Star Wars, and made us play a stupid simplified version of Soul Bossa Nova (from Austin Powers). The worst, though, came at the final concert. I was sitting right at the front of the jazz band, and he was literally one metre away from me. As I was still setting up, he had already started counting us in (he also deliberately put on this annoying accent for the count in), and started before I was even ready. He was also really impatient with the drummer, not giving her a chance to learn the one bar drum solo and the start of the piece. Because jazz band was performing in the concert, we were required to be there for both our first and our third workshop.-
My second workshop was GarageBand. To be honest, it was kinda a waste of time. They basically only taught us how to create a song using loops, and nothing more than that. Although I’ve never actually done it before, it’s incredibly easy to do, so I didn’t think it was really worth my time. There was another workshop that I wish I had done, but still wouldn’t have taught me anything. In the conducting workshop, they showed a video of Rowan Atkinson conducting Beethoven’s 5th, which I actually showed to a friend the night before. Apparently it was only the absolute basics of conducting anyway: showing how to beat it 2, 3, and 4, and how to end a piece. I’ve already had some experience with conducting an actual orchestra, so although this workshop would have been fun, I wouldn’t have learnt anything anyway. 

Check back in three days for the next part of the series.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: or, FOBISSEA Music 2010 (Part 1)

This is part one of a series of posts.

FOBISSEA: Federation Of British International Schools in South-East Asia.
FOBISSEA Music is a festival in which a large number of talented musicians from British International Schools in the South-East Asian region. Over the course of around 6 days, a large group of musicians meet and rehearse music for a gala concert at the end of the festival. It’s a great opportunity for young musicians to expand their musical ability, while making new friends and just generally having a good time.
The selection of music this year was spectacular. Music including an a capella version of James Bond; string orchestra version of Coldplay’s Viva la Vida; music from the musical Wicked, the film version of Fame, Star Wars, and glee; some well-known classical pieces such as Beethoven’s 5th and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance; and When You Believe, from Prince of Egypt.
Upon arriving in Hong Kong in the mid-afternoon, most of my friends went into Hong Kong Disneyland (we were staying at the Disneyland hotel), but I chose to stay behind and catch up on some homework — so I didn’t have too much work to do when we got back. Also, it was quite late, so they only got two hours in Disneyland: I didn’t think it was worth it.
FOBISSEA music is always really tiring — more tiring than the sport trip, surprisingly — and by the end of it, singers had throats like sandpaper, wind players had lips like jelly, and string players fingers were rubbed completely bare. The percussionists were fine though…
Despite this, playing such challenging and fun music was definitely worth the pain.

Check back in three days for the next part of the series.