Nanyang Chinese Orchestra (NYCO) was founded in 1976 with the aim of promoting an appreciation for Chinese music and grooming outstanding musicians. The orchestra is directed by Singapore Chinese Orchestra conducting assistant and musician Lim Kiong Pin (林向斌). Under the guidance of Mr Lim, NYCO strives to bring the best to every stage.
Today, the orchestra is made up of approximately 100 members. Performing repertoire in solo, chamber, and full orchestra settings, NYCO explores a variety of music genres, ranging from traditional Chinese Opera pieces to pop music and rock renditions.
The orchestra’s accolades include the prestigious Gold with Honours awards at the 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging, and Certificates of Distinction at the 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 Singapore Youth Festival Arts Presentation. In 2011, the orchestra participated in the Australian International Music Festival, attaining the Gold Award. Most recently, NYCO achieved the Gold Award in the Chinese Ensemble division of the 2019 Nanyang International Music Competition held by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
The orchestra performs extensively in public concerts as well as private and school functions. A major event for NYCO is a student-run concert put up every two years to share the musical rewards of the orchestra’s efforts with the school community and beyond. These concerts are also a platform for orchestra members to be involved in what goes on behind the scenes, including stage design, creative concept, programming, and publicity.
Attending public Chinese Orchestra concerts is another highlight of members’ musical journey with NYCO. These opportunities to experience other ensembles perform live serve to broaden the musicians’ perspectives on Chinese music and reflect on their own musicianship.
NYCO is not only a space for students to develop their interest in Chinese music and hone their musicianship, but is also a place to build character. The orchestra aims to foster team players and develop leadership potential in their members. Camps and inter-school music exchanges are also opportunities for members to have fun together, forgiving friendships and bonds within this community.
NYCO wholeheartedly welcomes students with the passion for music and desire to work with others to create music.
The following are reflections from some of the current orchestra members:
“I feel that CO has taught me how to be a true team player. During orchestra practices, we have to listen carefully to one another’s parts for everyone’s playing to come together and form a beautiful, musical performance. We have to be sensitive about when to play softly, and when to play loudly; CO has taught me that knowing when to hold back or to give my fullest is a very important skill. Before I joined CO, I had experience playing as a solo musician. However, I think it’s really a whole different experience playing in an orchestra, where you know that there are people pushing you to help you sound better, and where you know that you too play a part in the whole group’s music playing. I think that’s very significant.”Koh Heer Lin, member of NYCO
“The song that we played, 云之声, was a very special piece. While the competition itself was an enriching experience, learning to cope with learning our instruments as well as handling impromptu situations, playing the piece itself was a very rewarding experience, especially with the small size of the group. I learnt how to coordinate my playing with others to better fit the piece, picking out certain essential nuances and dynamics. It was a unique experience that I would never forget.”Quan Teng Wai, member of NYCO, on her experience of participating in the Nanyang International Music Competition with NYCO
“Going into Chinese Orchestra in Secondary One, I did not really know what to expect, but it has ended up being such a big part of my Nanyang life. From picking up a new instrument, to meeting and bonding with both sectionmates and batchmates that stay with you for four years through SYF practices, yearly camps and even just weekly combined practices and sectionals, I’ve learnt and grown so much from and with everyone around me. As a Secondary 4 Nanyang girl, looking back, I can confidently say how much I appreciate this NYCO family.”Guan Yuxin, member of NYCO
“NYCO has taught me many things. I gained a newfound appreciation for Chinese music and culture during my four years in CO. It has also given me a place to grow and cultivate my interpersonal skills. I am thankful for all the teachers, instructors, and fellow students who I have learnt from and received help from during my time in CO, and I believe I will continue learning valuable life lessons in CO during the time I have left in Nanyang.”Theresa Wong, member of NYCO
“I joined NYCO to be able to get to know and experience Chinese culture. Before joining, I had experience in piano, but I wanted to learn a new instrument, mine being Erhu, to expand my music sense and learn something different.”Charlene Wan, member of NYCO on her reasons for joining the orchestra
INTRODUCING THE SECTIONS OF NYCO
NYCO is made up of different Chinese instruments and divided into 4 main sections: Bowed Strings (拉弦乐), Plucked Strings (弹拨乐), Woodwind (吹管乐), and Percussion (打击乐). Each of these sections consists of a variety of sub-sections and instruments.
Much like the western flute, the dizi is played horizontally. Its bamboo body and reed membrane, also called the Dimo (笛膜), allows the dizi to produce a distinctive, bright, resonant, and slight humming tone, making its sound distinct from carved flutes of other cultures. Different sizes and lengths of the instrument create differently tuned dizis (D调，G调，C调，E调 being some of the more commonly used ones). In recent years, the instrument has also been used extensively in Chinese dramas and modern Chinese pop music, such as in《香蜜沉沉烬如霜》,毛不易唱的《不然》主题曲里，and 电视剧《陈情令》, to name a few. NYCO’s dizi section is guided by Tony Ang (洪鼎量老师).
Gaoyin Suona (高音唢呐) and Zhongyin Suona (中音唢呐)
The suona is a woodwind (吹管乐) instrument known for its loud and distinctive sound. There are Gaoyin (高音), Zhongyin (中音), Cizhongyin (次中音) and Diyin (低音) suonas. Generally, the suona consists of a conical wooden body consisting of seven finger holes, and a detachable metal bell at its end, giving the suona its unique sound.《百鸟朝凤》,《全家福》,《抬花娇》,《六字开门》are examples of a few renowned pieces featuring the suona as a solo instrument. NYCO’s suona section is guided by Liu Jiang (刘江老师). Under his guidance, NYCO’s suona section continues to develop a sound understanding and respect for the Chinese music and culture.
Gaoyin Sheng (高音笙)
Zhongyin Sheng (中音笙)
The sheng is a chinese woodwind instrument consisting of vertical pipes. Sound is produced on by either exhaling or inhaling into the mouthpiece. As one of the few instruments in the Chinese Orchestra that can play polyphonically, the sheng is increasingly popular as a solo instrument. It is one of the oldest Chinese instruments, dating back to 1100 BCE and has even been used in the works of non-chinese composers. The sheng section in Nanyang consists of the Gaoyin Sheng (高音笙), the Zhongyin Sheng (中音笙) and the Cizhongyin Sheng (次中音笙). NYCO’s sheng section is guided by Ong Yi Horng (王奕鸿老师).
The Xianyue section consists of the Erhu (二胡), Zhonghu (中胡) and Gaohu (高胡) subsections. It is the largest bowed strings section in NYCO and is under the mentorship of Erhu masters, Xu Wen Jing (许文静老师) and Zhang Yu Ming (张玉明老师). The Erhu is a two-stringed musical instrument known for its ability to evoke deep and poignant emotions. The Zhonghu (中胡) and Gaohu (高胡) belong to the Huqin (胡琴) family of instruments and are developed from the Erhu. The Erhu has a history of over 1000 years and is a popular traditional Chinese musical instrument among many. The vibrations of the python skin when bowing gives the erhu its characteristic sound. Some iconic pieces include《空山鸟语》，《赛马》and 《一枝花》.
Double Bass (低音提琴)
The Cellobass section is part of the bowed strings section, and consists of the cello and double bass. These western instruments are common in modern Chinese Orchestras, providing the bass line and a depth of sound with their lower registers. Much music has been written for the cello as a solo instrument, ranging from classical to pop music. NYCO’s Cellobass section is guided by Poh Yee Luh.
Various Percussion (打击乐)
The YQP (Yangqin Percussion) section in NYCO consists of the yangqin and a wide range of percussion instruments, including pitched percussion, drums, shakers, tambourines, maracas, and more. Collectively, the range of available timbres in this section add colour and flavour to the music played as a full Chinese Orchestra. The yangqin is played with bamboo sticks with rubber or leather heads, and is a chromatic instrument with a range of more than four octaves. This section is under the guidance of Qu Jian Qing (瞿建青老师) and Eugene Toh.
The Pipa belongs to the plucked strings group of instruments. The modern Pipa is also known as the Quxiang Pipa in China, and is featured in traditional chinese opera, full Chinese Orchestra repertoire as well as solo performances. Famous pieces composed for the Pipa include: 《十面埋伏》， 《霸王卸甲》，《渭水情》，《赶花会》，《狼牙山五壮士》. The pipa is capable of producing a wide variety of sounds, including ones that are similar to the sound of drums or the electric guitars. The variety of sounds that a pipa can produce largely depends on the number of strings as well as number of frets on the instrument. NYCO’s Pipa section (琵琶组) is led by Huo Ruo Wei (霍若薇老师).
The ruanliu section in NYCO consists of three different instruments – liuqin (柳琴)，zhongruan (中阮) and daruan (大阮). All three instruments have fours strings with frets, with the strings for the respective instruments tuned in different registers. They are played with similar performance techniques. In ensemble or orchestral pieces, the liuqin typically plays the melodies, zhongruan provides the accompaniment, while the daruan offers the bass line. The zhongruan also has the nickname of being the Chinese guitar, due to the similarity in sound colour and tone. Some famous pieces for liuqin include 《天地星空》 and 《春到沂河》, while come for zhongruan include 《睡蓮》, 《絲路駝鈴》 and 《天地之間》. NYCO’s Ruanliu section is guided by Fu Ying Ying (付颖颖老师).
Required: e-auditions & e-interview
Date: 21 July to 6 August
(Shortlisted applicants will be notified via email at least 1 week before the date)