Wednesday, December 14, 2011

..Xmas is indeed here again ...

Title : SSO Christmas Concert 2011
Date : 13th December 2011 (7.30pm)
Venue : Esplanade Concert Hall
This was going to be my first SSO Xmas Concert. I bought the tickets via SSO really early as I had missed it for the past 2 years running (no more tickets). Even at such an early date, I didn’t manage to get my normal prime seats but on the 2nd tier at the back. Well .. it was an orchestral performance anyways so nothing much to see. So the event started at 7.30pm and was there at 7pm after running from RP to the Esplanade.
They started out brightly with White Christmas (orchestra only). It set the mood for the evening. Light and flurry .. but yet very heart warming. I felt the hairs on my arms stand in anticipation of what was in store for me the rest of the evening. The narrator did a good job in his opening intro and I totally agree with him that it doesn’t feel like xmas until the “arts start the xmas programme.” For me the highlight of the first half of the concert was the 4 Dances from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and Silent Night. The 4 dances were well done full of feelings and yet very precise. Silent Night was and still is a traditional hymm / carol MOST synonymous with Christmas. It was the first “sing-along” carol and I think the audience needed to get warmed up. It didn’t help that most people only know the first verse (me included). Yes the other verses were printed in the programme book but the lights WERE off in the hall. I felt the Carol of the Bells was quite well done with bars of other carols inserted in. It sounded like a mess but it all came together very well in the end if you listen to all the parts wholly rather than lets say just focussing on the woodwind section.

The second half started again brightly with an all-time favourite Sleigh Ride. This was followed by the Waltz of the Flowers again from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. The harpist was almost perfect in her introduction. Standing ovation to her !!! Every note was plucked at the perfect pitch, volume and timing. Perfect !! Of course the rest of the orchestra also held their own and were very good.
From a long time ago, “O Holy Night” has always been my all time favourite Xmas carol. It is a Carol which is regularly not done properly because I feel that it requires quite a wide range to hit the high notes and also good control to mainly a steady voice over the “fall on your knees bit” which is sustained pretty long. I have to say that the choir were barely heard during this rendition. (Actually the choir was barely heard throughout all the vocal pieces.. this may be due to my FAR seat..mind you I was still on the first floor) I think also the audience were all warmed up already and they belted this out heart-and-soul. It may have not been the most accurate or technically-correct sung version of O Holy Night I have ever heard but singing it out together with so many other voices in the audience & choir while being supported by the SSO is one of the most magical feelings and totally sums up the spirit of togetherness over Xmas.
The fun song of the 2nd half was Rudolph. The orchestra did an excellent jazzy-bigband-classical version of this fun carol. I could see the audience jiving to the music and the attending children were very thrilled by it as well .. especially the “neighing” at the end.
Mr Lim Yau and his orchestra, kindly did an encore of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to our delight !!
Overall, it was a very good concert with superb conducting of a deservedly well-decorated orchestra. All pieces performed were full of emotion and really captured the essence of Xmas.
A special mention to the narrator, Mr William Ledbetter, who kept the entire concert lively with his candid comments.
Again I stress that it may be because of my seat (Row CC), I was unable to hear the choir clearly. At times it was difficult to hear the actual words that was being sung and the blending of the various vocal parts was not as harmonious as that of the orchestra. Also it would have been more pleasant if the ladies in the choir were dressed in “generally similar” colors. There were a few members in green, some in red, one in beige etc. This kind of diminished the visual impact of the choir.
This is an event which I will definitely attend again in 2012 and be a part of my yearly calendar. This time I will make sure I book my tickets EVEN earlier.
.... its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas ... thank you SSO ....

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