Day 10

30 Days Of Art With NAC: With Autumn come calm and new beginnings

30 Days Of Art With NAC To inspire and uplift readers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 circuit breaker, The Straits Times, supported by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, has commissioned 30 works by local writers and artists on the pandemic and what it will be like when all this is over

Musicians of the Siong Leng Musical Association perform Autumn, a song in the nanyin tradition, for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series.
To create the Autumn video, the musicians recorded their parts and sent them to one another to practise and follow.
To create the Autumn video, the musicians recorded their parts and sent them to one another to practise and follow.PHOTO: SIONG LENG MUSICAL ASSOCIATION

Music is all about keeping in time. A lag of even just a second strikes the wrong note.

This was the challenge facing the musicians of the Siong Leng Musical Association when they took on the task of producing a work for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times' 30 Days Of Art series.

The association's general manager and principal artist Seow Ming Xian, 27, says: "Rehearsing through video conferencing was not easy for our artists as there were delays in the sound and visuals. But we made it work by having our artists record their parts and send them to one another to practise and follow."

The result is Autumn, a song in the nanyin tradition. Nanyin ("southern music" in Chinese) is an ancient musical tradition that dates back more than 2,000 years to the Han dynasty.

The Siong Leng Musical Association has been keeping this music alive in Singapore since its founding in 1941.

Covid-19 has closed performing arts venues, but it has not stopped the association from promoting the art form.

Seow says: "Before the Covid-19 situation, we were often busy with planning and staging live performances. While the circuit breaker has prevented us from doing so, we were also given the opportunity to reflect on our strategies on how to bring nanyin to our audiences."

The company has uploaded music clips to its Facebook page.

"These clips were well-received as our audiences follow our updates closely. They have left encouraging comments and some even showed their support by making a donation to our company. This was one of our biggest rewards as we appreciate the support we received from our audiences despite the tough times," he adds.

He says he misses performing. "I miss the interaction with live audiences. Being able to see their excitement allows me to feed off their enthusiasm and encourages me to finish the production with a bang.

"The closest we came to speaking to our audiences was when Siong Leng hosted 'live' videos on Facebook. Audiences shared about how they missed the performances and wished for the pandemic to be over soon."

He believes that the arts can "serve as a positive force for our community in turbulent times" and hopes that Autumn, which integrates the Malay kompang (hand drum) into a traditional nanyin ensemble, will take listeners "to a place of calm and new beginnings" and "serve as motivation to embrace the changes and transformation that will come in the following months".

• Watch the Siong Leng Musical Association's Autumn at str.sg/30Days

• For more local digital arts offerings, go to a-list.sg to appreciate #SGCultureAnywhere

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2020, with the headline 'With Autumn come calm and new beginnings'. Print Edition | Subscribe