In Good Company Again – Interview with More than Music
After July’s sold-out concerts in collaboration with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra as part of the VCH Presents series of concerts, More Than Music is back with some of their long-time partners in [musical] crime, as well as a new addition to the list. Aileen Tang joins More Than Music co-founders Loh Jun Hong and Abigail Sin, and guest musician Ng Pei-Sian for a chat about friendship and teamwork, and finds them to be remarkably good company indeed.
The Flying Inkpot: It has been suggested that the pandemic has offered the best opportunity for the revival of chamber music due to the reduced numbers allowed in performance. What are your thoughts about that?
Abigail Sin: The pandemic has been difficult for many people across different walks of life. We have many musician friends whose work and livelihoods have been affected. We’re fortunate that chamber music has largely not been affected by the SMMs about the number of performers and crew allowed. We’re indeed fortunate that there is funding available in Singapore through the National Arts Council that has supported creative work, both digital and live productions, during these times.
TFI: Over the years, More Than Music has followed a tried-and-tested format of talking to the audience about the music instead of just presenting a standard recital. How did you decide on this? Are there plans to move away from this format?
AS: We wanted to give audiences a way into the music, and help them to experience it and love it as vividly as we do. Words and stories can provide a frame for the music and lay the canvas for the performance.
We are also exploring other means of presenting music in creative and engaging ways. For example, our recent collaboration with composer Jonathan Shin, filmmaker Shoki Lin and actor Timothy Wan on Haruki Murakami’s tale, “On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning”, brought storytelling, music and animation together in a way that was fresh and rewarding for us. We will be commissioning another work similar in concept soon so look out for that!
TFI: More Than Music has also collaborated with numerous musicians and you’ve brought 2 of them (violinist Yang Shuxiang and cellist Ng Pei-Sian) back for this concert, as well as introduced a new guest to the fold (violist Martin Peh). How did you decide on the musicians for this concert?
Loh Jun Hong: More than Music has always been about fantastic musicians, coming together as friends to perform and engage with audiences. We have been privileged to be able to work with so many of the musicians in Singapore that we love and respect. This concert is no different; we knew we wanted to do a piano quintet, and so we started looking for our members one by one, starting with the ever-hard-to-pin-down cellist, Pei-Sian!
TFI: Out of all the musicians you’ve worked with, who else would be top on the list for a “reunion”?
LJH: Our old friend guitarist Kevin Loh – once we find good repertoire (guitar, violin, piano repertoire is quite limited) – and new friend violist, Wang Dandan. And of course, our returning favourite Pei-Sian, as well as Albert Tiu.
TFI: Definitely looking forward to all of those – fingers crossed! Pei-Sian, this is your 3rd performance with More Than Music after Beyond Traditions in 2018 and More Than Music, More Than Love in July this year. What is it like working with them?
Ng Pei-Sian: When you make music with like-minded individuals there is genuine chemistry. I am a huge fan of Jun Hong and Abigail. They are both fantastic players, imaginative and well-considered artists who come with strong and passionate opinions but without the ego and while open-minded, contend musical ideas intelligently. More Than Music rehearsals never feel like hard work, just pleasure!
TFI: This concert is titled “In Good Company Again”; whose company would you like to have for one hour if you could pick any person from any time in history?
AS: Schumann! He was such a visionary artist whose ideas and artistic personality really helped to define Romanticism for generations of musicians after him.
TFI: I’m not sure who I would pick – I would probably ask if my guest can bring a guest as well! Pei-Sian, how about sharing a funny or surprising anecdote from your experience with More Than Music?
NPS: When we were preparing the Brahms Piano Quartet (for More Than Music, More Than Love), every time we played to the end of the Scherzo movement, Jun Hong would shout “Yeahhhhh!” in his slightly Americanised accent – without fail! It became such a familiar part of the music that it was quite a shock for me during the concert when he kept quiet. I was left wanting…
TFI: would have liked to see that as part of the performance! Alright, give me a reason that I should choose to be in the company of More Than Music one night in mid-September!
LJH: I think our picture says it all – genuine, down-to-earth, cozy music and company that will surely be a concert to remember!
Tickets for In Good Company Again are available from Peatix
More Than Music – In Good Company Again
15, 16 September 2021
Esplanade Recital Studio
Loh Jun Hong, violin
Yang Shu Xiang, violin
Martin Peh, viola
Ng Pei-Sian, cello
Abigail Sin, piano
Dvorak Terzetto for two violins and viola
Dvorak Silent Woods for cello and piano
Janacek String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters”
Schumann Piano Quintet