A Night of Popular Classics by BHSO

Bialak taking a bow after the Chopin piano concerto.

I had two tickets for Singapore’s premier (or only) amateur orchestra, the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra, and decided to give mom a treat. I realised with some surprise that mom had never been to an orchestral music concert. In the past, she had attended the usual school recitals and later on musicals such as Mamma Mia! and The Lion King, but never a full scale orchestral concert.

It was my first time at the venue and at a BHSO concert, and I was surprised at the very comfortable venue as well as the casual and down-to-earth crowd that showed up. Concerts by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra are rather more formal.

We settled into our seats and noticed most people were holding purple programs.

Oh, I said, we missed the programs.

Mom answered, There were plenty outside, on the tables.

Somehow she had noticed and I didn’t.

The orchestra filed in 2 minutes past eight. Mom remarked, Are they all men?

The first piece by Manuel de Falla was taken a tad more slowly than I expected. The orchestra was slightly tentative as it warmed up, but I enjoyed the musicality of the slowed-down piece. It ended very quickly, and the piano was wheeled in.

The highlight of the evening was the Chopin piano concerto, and at the piano was Arkadiusz Bialak, a concert pianist of Polish origin who has since settled in Singapore. He had a beautiful touch with the concerto, even if the orchestra had some trouble figuring where to come in. The piano in the second movement was so beautiful and lyrical it brought tears to my eyes, and I heard sniffing behind me. The audience showed their appreciation by clapping between movements, and the man beside mom went tsk tsk with folded arm.

During the interval, we got our purple programs, and mom promptly put it to use – she used it to shoo away a boy who was blocking her way on the steps.

After the interval, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol was played with confidence and familiarity. The 1st violin leader was superb in his solo, relaxed and easy. I never heard a harp so clearly before – it was simply beautiful.

The Final Dance was a frenzied piece of music making, with no holds barred and it ended with a loud noise flourish. During the final applause, the conductor walked very quickly off stage and back on, and so we had the privilege of an encore! For the encore, the orchestra again played the first piece (de Falla’s El Amor Brujo); this time it was quicker and sharper, but it was no longer fresh.

At the end of the concert, I asked mom if she had enjoyed it. Oh yes, it’s very nice, she said. So will you come again? I asked. She pursed her lips and thought about it. Shook her head just very slightly, but didn’t say a word. Haha, mom, your action speaks loud and clear – it was nice, but just once is enough! I’m glad I brought you.


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