Playing Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra at the Philharmonie, Singapore (Esplanade Concert Hall), January 2015. Photo courtesy of the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra.
My earliest recollection of music, at about five years of age, is a Beethoven symphony, possibly the fifth. My mother had taken me to a concert of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and would continue to do so, planting and nurturing the seeds of a lifelong love for symphonic sound. My music education began in earnest with violin lessons from Mr. Reuben Yap, the owner of Synwin Enterprises in Tanjong Katong. As I progressed, he passed me on to a teacher I only ever knew as 窦老师, under whom I made quantum leaps in technique. In later years I studied the violin under teachers who were also orchestral conductors and musicians: Yan Yin Wing, then conductor of the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra, and Alexander Souptel, then concertmaster of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Under their tutelage I was exposed to both the western European and Russian violinistic doctrines in both solo and orchestral repertoire.
The double basses of the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra. ©Lin Yangchen
Earlier on, around 1994, I had joined the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra, which has nurtured me as an orchestral musician ever since. In 1995, I was one of three students selected by the Ministry of Education to represent Singapore at the Pan Pacific International Music Camp in Sydney. I was also appointed concertmaster of the Anglo-Chinese School String Ensemble which was awarded with Distinction at the 1995 Singapore Youth Festival. In 1998 I served as chairman of the Raffles Junior College String Ensemble, and was involved in staging rare collaborations with the college's symphonic band and choir, and with orchestras from high schools across Singapore. Besides instrumental performance, my all-round development as a musician was overseen through my teenage years by Lily Ng, Chan Yen See, Constance Wong and Mary Wong, my teachers in Singapore's Music Elective Programme. Towards the end of my formal music education, I delivered a student lecture on the symphonies of Gustav Mahler to my classmates in General Cambridge Examinations Advanced Level Music.
The author (third from left) with Sir Simon Rattle (now conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic) and my music teachers and classmates, backstage at the Konzerthaus in Vienna after a concert of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 1997.
Around this time I shifted my focus to the keyboard, studying the piano under Chew Kuan Ni and Teo Kian Seng, and later the organ under Evelyn Lim, Dean of the Singapore Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. My foray into keyboard music culminated in an organ performance at the Concert Hall of the Esplanade, Singapore's Philharmonie, in a public masterclass by concert organist Carlo Curley. During this time I also undertook historical research on the pipe organs of Singapore, resulting in several publications including an article in The Organ magazine (UK). In addition, I initiated and organized an organ recital by the late maverick American organist Arthur LaMirande at Singapore's oldest pipe organ at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in 2007, presenting a programme considered highly adventurous by local standards at the time. In the UK, I held a solo photographic exhibition on the pipe organs of the University of Cambridge.
At the organ of the Concert Hall of the Esplanade. Photo: Yoo Ji Eun.
Subsequently I returned to the symphony orchestra which I have found to be my true calling. As a result of playing concurrently with several orchestras in Singapore and the United Kingdom, including some of the top ensembles at the University of Cambridge, I enjoy a diversified portfolio of music-making that transcends the programming styles of individual orchestras. In 2015 I brought together musicians from across Cambridge for a performance of Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen.
graphic design ©Lin Yangchen