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, 2019 and 2021 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. In 2022, NYCO achieved the 2nd and 3rd place in the Ensemble Section of the 2022 Singapore Chinese Music Competition.
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. Despite the pandemic situation, students managed to watch Huayi2021 Fantasia – Nanyin Reimagined – Live stream concert performance in school.
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, forging 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:
“NYCO has been a major part of my student life, and has played a critical role in helping me to develop the skills and competencies I have today. I think one of the best things about NYCO is the friends and memories I have here. I have forged many valuable bonds here that have formed my key support system and have helped me to better myself over the last 4 years here in NYGH.
Last year, we played the piece《姐妹岛诵》for SYF. It was an enriching experience preparing for our presentation as we refined our rendition of the piece. Through the process of rehearsing for the performance, I learnt to be a better team player and improved my technical skills through feedback from instructors and peers. I look forward to the growth and improvement of NYCO in the future!”Ng Jing En Cheryl, Sec 4 member
“As the orchestra prepared for SYF 2021, we faced many challenges as the members were split into two groups to perform for SYF under SMMs and we had to put in more effort to make sure the juniors in our instrument sections were keeping up. That’s why it was all the more rewarding that both teams achieved Distinction for the Arts Presentation, apart from the priceless bonds we forged over tirelessly working on our performance during CCA.
For me, it is the last SYF in my secondary school life, so I am glad we were able to work around the restrictions and perform, especially since our concert was unfortunately cancelled in 2020, under the circumstances then. With the easing restrictions, I look forward to my juniors’ performance for SYF 2023!”Ying Qinyi, Sec 4 member
Over the 4 years in NYCO, my appreciation for Chinese culture and music grew further. Working in such a large team has also cultivated my interpersonal skills, teaching me about the importance of being a good listener for others around me. NYCO has also provided me with a comfortable environment to hone my technical skills, by providing ample opportunities to practice and present our skills.
As we prepared for SYF 2021, physical practice had to be suspended for several months due to the pandemic, so we needed to be more attentive in online CCA sessions to keep up the preparation work. Hearing improvements every session was fulfilling as we worked for a common goal, and we achieved stellar results for the final presentation.Grace Eng, Sec 4 member
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)