Joshua Kangming Tan conductor
Remesh Panicker narrator
Singapore Symphony Chorus
Wong Lai Foon choral director
It was an entirely fascinating evening with live music from the SSO played in tandem with award-winning underwater footage from The Blue Planet.
The ‘piece’, if you will, consists of 12 sequences. Narrator Remesh Paniker explains the filming techniques involved in between numbers and introduces the sequence coming up. Paniker, a veteran broadcaster whose experience includes numerous commercials, commenting over the NDP and YOG parades, and took part in programmes shown on the Discovery, National Geographic and History channels. Tan conducts with the usual score and communicates with the video projection team via his own personal screen that flashes cues on top of what’s showing on the big screen.
We are then treated to quite a series of breathtaking sights: translucent jellyfish-like creatures with multi-coloured neon lights for veins, such as those seen along the Las Vegas strip, soot-like volcanic eruptions 3,000 feet under the surface, the heartbreak of a mother orca whale who failed to protect her calf from predator killer whales, thousands of crabs heading for the sea, plus a sequence of white emperor penguins prancing along to a medley of Christmas songs.
The music, composed largely by George Fenton and incorporating a few songs (including the aforementioned Christmas song medley), is at turns grand, majestic, lush and satirical. Members of the SSC and Hallelujah Chorus contribute a section of ‘aah’s that contribute to fuller orchestral textures.
Most impressive of all, screen and live players came together in an almost perfect, seamless blend, with no sense of either faction competing for the audience’s attention, just as how the perfect opera should be. Occasionally one gets the feeling of the orchestra underplaying to keep things together: dynamic and tempi changes that could have been milked to better effect, virtuoso flourishes of solo turns that end somewhat abruptly and so on, but it’s a small price to pay for such a stunning visual and aural combination (plus one can always check-out how well they play in any of their regular season programmes).
The evening ended with another timely statistical reminder of the harm our human ways are inflicting on Mother Nature; it was a great example of how art can be used for the betterment of people. Enthusiastic applause was given by the full house of audience members, well-deserved reward for pulling off this unusual but artistically gratifying experiment.