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Music and Makan- It's all about that bass!

Dr Cherie Khor (Piano), Leslie Tan (Cello), David Loke (Violin), Yang Shuxiang (Violin), Beverly Hiong (Founder, Music and Makan), Chef LG Han (Makan)

We were treated to a really spectacular Music and Makan session on the 24th of June 2017! The musicians (Cherie, Leslie, David and Shuxiang) were incredible, we received excellent feedback on the curation of our performance dialogue, and conversations flowed freely over awesome Seabass dishes (Chef LG Han, chef/owner of modern-Singaporean fine-dining restaurant, Labyrinth and wine! It was truly a special evening.

In an intentional effort to build a cohesive programme to introduce classical music (in all its wonderful complexity) to new audiences, the musicians and I had spent a significant amount of time brainstorming an appropriate theme to centre the content and repertoire around. We selected harmony/the bass line and how it makes you feel as the musical element that we would highlight throughout the programme and titled the evening “It’s all about that bass”!

To give audiences a taste of the breadth of classical music styles across 300 years in just one hour, we chose to cover repertoire from each of the 4 main classical music periods (Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th century) and added a jazz piece at the end to spice things up a little and to push the boundaries on the notion of a classical music performance. Why keep awesome music confined to pre-existing genre-specific silos?

Going back to the theme “It’s all about that bass”, one of the highlights for me was Leslie’s introduction of how composers selected specific keys to depict a certain mood. Before performing the Prelude from Bach’s 4th Suite for solo cello (on the baroque cello!), Leslie put a standalone movement in the context of all Bach’s 6 suites by playing the opening bars from each of the preludes, highlighting each of the emotions the keys represented. For example, Bach’s first two suites are in G major and D minor, and these keys are generally used to portray playfulness and sadness, respectively.

Another highlight for me was Shuxiang’s introdution of Prokofiev’s Sonata for two violins.

To me, the whole point of creating a performance dialogue is precisely to be able to introduce new audiences to visceral, complex (often dissonant) works like the Prokofiev. It is both exciting and challenging but totally worth the risk - we knew we had to be really thoughtful and draw out relevant emotional elements and perhaps even technical elements in order to sustain audience’s attention throughout the dissonance. It worked spectacularly well!

By extracting a few points eg. emotion (irony), technical elements from the piece (cross referencing alberti bass from the Mozart piece audiences heard earlier) and using a comparison between impressionism and abstract art in visual art to give audiences a visual link in their minds, audience members were absorbed and thoroughly enjoyed the passionate performance by Shuxiang and David!

In a tongue-in-cheek attempt to curate both the Music and Makan along the Bass theme – we had salt baked and fried seabass prepared by the awesome Chef LG Han of modern Singaporean fine dining restaurant Labyrinth!

This was the first time I’d actually been able to develop and discuss the concept of a performance dialogue (it had mostly been in my mind) – kudos to the musicians for being open to the concept, their patience with my sometimes ambiguous/abstract ideas (thanks friends!) and for stepping out of their comfort zone to experiment with a different way to present their performance.

Looking forward to the next session featuring the Oboe and the French Horn on the 23rd of July! Come come!

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