Oh yea! We decided to be a little adventurous and hit the SCO yesterday with Ewan. This is resident conductor Quek Ling Kiong’s forth year into its Little Adventurer series and will be his final instalment of Chinese instruments for children – The Little Adventurer of the SCO IV: The Riddle of Dew Drop Bubbles.
The Little Adventurer started in 2011 and ran a show yearly for only two days. We never ‘qualified’ to watch Quek Quek’s I, II and III series because we did not have a child before and it stated in its programme proper that it is suitable only for children age two and up.
Ewan is three months shy of two years. We smuggled him in as a two year old.
I didn’t want to miss the last of The Little Adventurer and decided to give us all a chance to experience a live orchestra as a family. We went in with no expectations of how Ewan will react to the hour long session. Will he sit through? Will he be mesmerised? Will he be bored stupid? So, this was our little Saturday adventure.
Meyer and I are musically exposed to western instruments. With Chinese instruments, we knew nothing further than how the zither 古筝 and pi pa 琵琶 looked like. So, this would be a new encounter for us. In fact, Ewan included. There is a whole range of western toy instruments in the children’s market we can buy home to but none of Chinese toy instruments. Alright, granted we can find Chinese toy drums but that’s about it.
Ewan’s stash of musical instruments include a ukelele, a 25 key piano, drum, bells, triangle, xylophone, castanet and a tambourine. He plays them every day and know them by name. His CDEs are not coordinated but he just sings the alphabets and colours off the piano keys and xylophone bars as if he was doing them right. We have fun making noise together.
It’s a pity we don’t have any Chinese plucked strings or percussions to play with. So it is natural to see his inquisitive look on every instrument we tried our hands on before the commencement of The Little Adventurer.
First stop, we went for the zither. I always found this instrument very graceful yet sorrowful. My impression is gathered from Chinese dramas where a broken-hearted young maiden had to marry someone else from a fixed marriage over true love. I need to give it a new impression because it definitely is more than that. Ewan was hesitant at first but when I did the first few plucks with his tiny fingers, he smiled delightfully.
Of course, there’s the drum. Did not have to explain it any further to Ewan. He’s been drumming everything ever since a long time ago.
Oh look at this interesting instrument. This is the yangqin 扬琴. It is also known as a dulcimer and played with two tubber-tipped sticks. It is a hammered instrument rather than a plucked one. To be honest, I’ve never seen this Chinese instrument before and have no idea how it would sound like. When Ewan hit the sticks down like a professional drummer, I wished immediately I was shooting on video. It produces a loud and beautiful sound that even adult passer-bys exclaimed to their children, “Oh listen to that resounding sound!” and laughed at Ewan’s expression. With Ewan’s mouth wide-opened, I think he was pleasantly shocked at what he produced too.
Lastly, we gave the smallest plucked string family a go. I expected it to be as light as an ukelele but it was really heavy even for my liking. The liu ye qin 柳琴, also known as the willow leaf lute, is a baby version of the pipa. Ewan was gentle with the strings because he didn’t know how it was being played. It was so unlike the barbaric him who actually strums his ukelele loose and broke it into two when he treated it as a drumstick (hitting the floor). *rolls eyes*
The bell rang and it was time for us to enter the Hall. Each of us had to buy a seat and our little boy was to sit on his own in between mummy and daddy. We were on row M, right smack in the centre, thanks to Mui Leng. It is the best seat in the house if you are looking to watch an orchestra anytime soon in SCO. It elevates from the ground and we had unblocked view throughout. Even Ewan didn’t need a booster seat to enjoy the ensemble.
The first instrument introduced was the zither. A spotlight shone on the musician and she took the audience away with nothing but admiration (and silence). When Meyer and I turned to look at our son, we winked at each other with what we saw.
He sat there mesmerised. Looking at her and listening to the melodic strings.
When the next instrument, konghou 箜篌 was introduced. Quek Quek shared with the children that it is similar to the western harp that we all know so well. However, it produces note-bending glides and slides that the western harp cannot produce. Then he pointed out to the phoenix at the top of the konghou. With sharp eyes (and loud voice), Ewan shouted, “BIRD!” His “bird” echoed in the hall and instead of shushing him, I actually laughed.
Oh yes that’s a bird alright. I am grateful that he wasn’t just staring but engaging with whatever he saw and heard. I hadn’t expected such a well-behaved boy though he did speak pretty loudly whenever he saw something he recognised. Like when he kept repeating and pointing to the liu ye qin, pi pa, ruan 阮 and sanxian 三弦 as UKELELE! He probably shouted “Ukelele” six times the whole hour…
Still, the mummy sitting next to me kept telling her two year old how well-bahaved the baby was. Ewan was the baby she referred to and kept encouraging her son to sit on his own instead of her lap. Frankly speaking, other than him wanting to sit on her lap, he was even more well-behaved in my opinion. He did not shout and dance and play with the red velvet seats like my little tot did.
Yup! Ewan started to fidget after thirty minutes. Interacting with these two aunties seated behind him who gave him so much attention, playing with his seat, standing and dancing, trying to catch the falling bubbles from the ceiling and going WoW to the lights show. At least I knew he enjoyed himself from the body-language I gathered.
And daddy. He left SCO saying, “Orchestras are just beautiful. We should do these more often. On our own.”
Till Quek Ling Kiong’s next children concert, we shall be looking forward to 2015 SSO’s Babies Prom! SSO Babies Prom is worth taking leave and skipping school for. Trust me. It is Dee Show that will send your children talking for a week (before and after)!