Saturday, November 14, 2015

Nanyin at Thian Hock Keng

31 October 2015 is the 19th of the 9th Lunar month, the third and last Guan Festival in the Lunar Calendar. On this day, as has been in the past years since 1948, Siong Leng has continuously performed in Thian Hock Keng at Telok Ayer Street.

Thian Hock Keng on these three festive days (namely 19th of 2nd Lunar Month, 19th of 6th Lunar Month and 19th of 9th Lunar Month) has become an important part of many old devotees and Nanyin enthusiasts' lives. Many would mark it on their lunar calendar and make it a point to come for this important event to pay respects to Guan Yin and to listen to Nanyin.

Many new faces also appeared at these events to appreciate this ancient music played refreshingly by the young faces of Siong Leng. From the smiles of the old faces as they followed the ancient rhythm, we can see the assurance that traditions will continue.

It was also heartening to hear laughters at the comical dialogues of the Li Yuan Xi (Pear Garden Opera) which were in the ancient Hokkien language.

As with tradition, since the time when the late Mr. Teng Mah Seng wrote the lyrics of the song dedicated to Guan Yin, this song would be sung by members of Siong Leng towards the end of the performance. Although the lyrics remain the same, the arrangements change each year. Each singer brought a refreshing interpretation of the dedications.

The next performance will be on the 19th of the 2nd Lunar Month next year that is 27 March 2016.

Annual Visit to Kusu Island

Every year, Siong Leng visits Kusu Island to perform Nanyin for Kusu Tua Pek Kong. This year, on 24 October, 2015, Siong Leng members, friends and supporters made this trip to Kusu Island.

Ever since decades ago (perhaps much longer), every 9th lunar month is the month when devotees from as far as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand would make their annual pilgrimage to pay respects to Tua Pek Kong in the Kusu Tua Pek Kong Temple. Many who visited would also visit the adjacent Kramat on a little hill top.

Travel to the Marina South Ferry Terminal this year has been made easy with the opening of the Marina South Pier MRT Station.

In the visit this year, Siong Leng has included a LiYuan Xi (Pear Garden Opera) as well. After a simple packed vegetarian dinner, all the participants settled down in their favourite corners of the temple to watch and listen to the performance by the young members of Siong Leng.

There was also a session where the non-performers got to join in learning the "four treasures" and doing a complete routine. It was like a mass performance for Tua Pek Kong. :)

Every year, we see familiar faces and new faces. To those who came this year, thanks for joining us. We hope you have enjoyed the visit and the performance, as much as Tua Pek Kong and the resident Deities have. :)

We hope to see you again next year, in the same 9th Lunar Month!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Nanyin at the Cheah Kongsi in Penang

Members of Siong Leng were in Penang to perform Nanyin as part of the Georgetown Festival on 29 Aug 2015. Arranged by the Causeway Exchange,  Siong Leng made its debut in Penang. Twelve members went to Penang for this performance.

The site of the performance was Cheah Kongsi, which has just been newly restored to its former spendour. With the lights on in the evening, the place was just perfect for this event. The ancient Nanyin (music of the south), coming from within attracted many curious passersby.

There were two performances, one at 6pm and the other at 8pm, each performance lasting one and a half hours with the last part being audience interactions. Members of the audience were intrigued by the sounds and rhythms created just just four bamboo sticks known as the "Four Treasures", They were invited to try their hands on them and successfully went through a simple routine, must to their delight. Some decided to buy a set back while others went for the CDs after listening to the music that has become rare in Penang.

Playing to a mixed audience of foreign visitors to Penang and locals, the programme was designed to show the ancient Nanyin music as well as contemporaries incorporating other musical instruments. The members demonstrated their versatility in handling different instruments. One Indian lady of the audience was intrigued when the Tabla was included in one of the modern compositions that she went nearer to capture some pictures. It was also a photographers' delight.

Listening to Nanyin music in front of the beautiful Cheah Kongsi was probably reminiscent of the days gone by, probably decades ago. This, hopefully, could be the beginning of Siong Leng's interaction with Penang.

Great performance by our members from Siong Leng! For many of the members, it was their first time in Penang! Thanks to Causeway Exchange for the arrangements.

Monday, March 2, 2015

International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium 2015

Small group Big dreams

Siong Leng has always had the pioneering spirit to venture into new grounds, be it in interacting with other music genre or in venturing to new areas. So, to the people who know Siong Leng, it is not much of a surprise that Siong Leng decided to organise an international Nanyin Youth Concert and Symposium. A race against time and resources, with a small team, it went ahead in planning and organising the event.

In a short space of time, Siong Leng has invited Nanyin youth groups in China and Taiwan to join in this event. As the host, Siong Leng has to consider accommodation, site for the concert and symposium as well as the artistic creation of the opening night incorporating the different groups to perform together as one show.

As the theme of the symposium was about traditional music, Siong Leng invited the Gaguk Inheritance Centre of Korea and Ono Gagaku Kai of Japan to come and perform. Music is the main medium of communication where the verbal might hit obstacles.

The very same small team of organisers were going about organising as well as preparing to perform. Thanks to supporters and volunteers, there was just enough manpower to manage all aspects of the event, from meeting the visitors at the airport to seeing that they settle down comfortably in the hotel and rushing them for rehearsals.

The main groups arriving on 22 Jan 2015 went straight to Drama Centre after checking into the hotel. There was something like twenty-four hours before the show! The performance on 23 Jan night, entitled “The New Romance of the Lychee and the Mirror” was to be performed by all participating groups to this event. The beauty of Nanyin is that many of the very traditional music and songs, passed down from ancient time, have been preserved and regardless of where the Nanyin groups might be, be it in China, Taiwan or Singapore, or for that matter any country, they remain the same. In this respect, the participating performers were ready and would only need some final adjustments to mix the new additions of the Chinese orchestra in this performance, and the sequence of steps and positions. Siong Leng took another bold step in adding the operatic part depicting Chen San Wu Niang in modern times with the rest of the other performers dressed in ancient time.

The audience, ranging from Mr. Tian Qing from Beijing to Mrs Kenneth Dean were all praises on the bold move that seemed to weave the story so smoothly.

To add into the air of ancient music at the start, Japan’s Gagaku Kai and Korea’s Gagok opened the show with their very traditional music that are very rarely heard in Singapore.

The three members of the Japan Ono Gagaku Kai had only a limited time to be in Singapore for this event. They flew in on the overnight flight arriving in the morning. After joining the welcome lunch, they went straight to Drama Centre for their rehearsal. And on the final night on 25 Jan 15, after their performance in the Soul Journey, they had to rush to the airport to catch their flight back. A tough journey for these performers who were here in Singapore for the first time, they have added a different dimension to the show. We hope that they would come back again, perhaps with the complete troupe.

On the second day, 24 Jan 15, the Symposium on Traditional Music was held at the Concert Hall of SOTA at 3pm. There was a panel of speakers from China, Taiwan and Singapore. Prof Kenneth Dean, the new Head of Chinese Studies in the National University of Singapore was the moderator. Unknown to most of us, Professor Dean has known Nanyin for a long time. He and Mr. Chen of Quanzhou were surprised to meet at this forum, reconnecting back from their first meeting some 30 years ago.

It was an interesting exchange of ideas from the panel speakers. During the break, the participants had the opportunity to watch the performance by Gagok Inheritance Centre and Ono Gagaku Kai. When it came to questions and comments from the participants, many interesting questions and views were raised. The session went into overtime and many were left having to keep their burning questions for the next time. It was a good burning start.

In the evening, it was a Nanyin Gathering night where all visiting Nanyin groups show their best performance. Every performance was impressive.

The grand finale was the banquet at the RWS Ballroom. Unknown to most people, the participating groups were at the RWS in the morning to prepare for the grand finale performance. The most challenging must be the item entitled Soul Journey. Based on its original composition, the visiting groups were invited to participate in various part of the Soul Journey. The most challenging could well be that of the Korean and Japanese group where they were to jam their part into the complete piece. Soul Journey already has its other components such as the Tabla. It was one huge fusion with all participants trying to bring some “sense” into the jam. The visitors, especially the Japanese and Koreans worked hard to come up with a match to the existing piece. The result was, fantastic! The audience could not believe that they could do this within one day and doing it so well! This must have capped the climax of the three day event, especially, to the visiting groups who worked hard to bring finesse to their performances.

Kudos to the visitors for their participation and performance showing what the young people could achieve with this ancient Nanyin. And to the small team of organisers and performers at Siong Leng, they pull out all stops to achieve another huge success, with yet another feather in their cap. Vice Chairman, Pheck Geok said that Siong Leng has achieved what it has set out to do. She was appreciative on the efforts put in by Siong Leng members and supporters and volunteers. And the great support given by the music and Nanyin titans of China and Taiwan.

When asked from across the ocean, Prof Dean replied, “I truly enjoyed the performances and thought the level of muscianship, the quality of the staging and art direction, and some of the comments of the experts were all at a very high level.”

To the Japanese and Koreans, they were very impressed by the high degree of professionalism and skills shown by Siong Leng members and the visiting groups. When asked if they could like to come to Singapore again for a similar event, the response was a resounding Yes!

[Acknowledgements: Photos thanks to Luke. More pictures can be seen at his facebook photo album]

2015..International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium..Day1
2015..International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium..Day2
2015..International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium Day 3

Monday, January 5, 2015


With participation from China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Singapore

23 January 2015 Friday
Nanyin Musical
Singapore Drama Centre Theatre, 8pm
Admission by ticket only
Ticket prices:  S$32/S$25/S$15
(Concessions for Students, NSF & Senior Citizens S$19)
Adaptation of the Classic - "The New Romance of the Lychee and the Mirror"

A classical piece, this is a cherished love story that has been passed down for seven centuries with familiar tunes that have touched the hearts of generations of Hokkiens. This is the first time that a production has brought together nine groups of young artists from China, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. The performance is coupled with various artistic elements to present an unprecedented ‘Nanyin Banquet’.

Tickets from SISTIC`S authorised agents. A SISTIC booking fee applies for all tickets.  Latecomers will only be admitted during intermission.  No admission for infants in arms and children below six years.  Tickets are required for all patrons.

24 January 2015 Saturday
Roundtable on "Transmitting Traditional Arts – Current State and Prospects"
SOTA Concert Hall, 3PM
Free Admission

Nanyin has earned many titles, including that of the label of being a "living fossil" of Han Chinese music in the World Heritage List, yet like many other traditional arts, it continues to face challenges from popular culture and media. What can be effectively done to transmit, preserve and develop Nanyin? Let us hear from the professionals on possible solutions to transmit this living heritage into the future.

Speakers for this seminar include:
Mr. Choo Thiam Siew (CEO of Singapore Chinese Culture Centre),
Mr. Quek Ling Kiong (Resident Conductor of Singapore Chinese Orchestra),
Ms. Lin Pochi (Professor at Taipei National University of the Arts),
Mr. Tian Qing (Head of Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Centre),
Mr. Cai Wei Biao (Chairman of China Quanzhou Stone Lion City Nanyin Ensemble)
Mr. Chen Ri Sheng (Chairman of China Quanzhou Nanyin Artists Association).

Prof. Kenneth Dean (Head of the Department of Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore) will be the Moderator of this seminar discussion.

24 January 2015 Saturday
International Nanyin Youth Exchange Youth “Orchestra"
SOTA Concert Hall, 8pm
Admission by ticket only
* Those who purchase tickets to the show Adaptation of the Classic – “The New Romance of the Lychee and the Mirror” can get to attend this performance.

This will be an arena for Nanyin groups from various countries to present their specialties. This will be likened to an “orchestra” with youth enthusiasts competing with each other and demonstrating their talents.

25 January 2015 Sunday
Nanyin Arts Banquet "The Reluctance of Parting"
Resorts World Sentosa, 7pm

"There is always a reluctance to part with each other – first when we meet and then when we part. Yearning so much for this moment, but by tomorrow, we will be parted by thousands of miles."
A night filled with the vibrancy of youth. A banquet of timeless, youthful classical music. An occasion for the audience to be lost in the beautiful melodies and forget for a moment, that the time for departure has arrived.

Banquet Table : S$ 120   ( PER PERSON )
                             S$ 1200 ( PER TABLE )

Friday, August 1, 2014

Nanyin @ Kusu

This year, as part of the Singapore Heritage Fest 2014, Siong Leng participated in the Balik Pulau programme with a special performance at the Kusu Island Tua Pek Kong Temple on 26 Jul 14.

Usually, Siong Leng members and supporters would perform at the Kusu Island Tua Pek Kong Temple every year during the 9th Lunar Month, which is also the pilgrimage month for devotees to go to offer their respects to the Tua Pek Kong. This year, it is a special with one performance under the Heritage Fest.

The response from the public was overwhelming. About 200 people from the public got a place in the 2 ferries fetching them to the island at 6pm for a tour and Nanyin performance that temple at 8pm.

For many, it was a first time to Kusu, not to mention in the evening (the usual last ferry leaves at 6pm from Kusu Island) and to watch a Nanyin performance in the temple.

Although there was a light breeze, it was still humid and warm in the little temple, but many of the participants braved the conditions to experience a "kampong styled vegetarian meal" with a very traditional nanyin performance. There was a brief explanation on the history of how nanyin started and found its way to Singapore and other places where there are Hokkien people, as well as on the nanyin instruments that are played the same way since more than a thousand years ago.

To give the newcomers to nanyin, a spread of nanyin music and songs were specially chosen for them to appreciate the tradition as well as its adaptability to foreign music.

For many, it was a new experience.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Another summary of updates and more activities of Siong Leng (June 2014 newsletter) to share with you.

Looking forward to meeting you at one of our events. Check out at our facebook page: A City Heritage of Nanyin and Liyuan Opera of Singapore for more updates.