NUS Arts Festival 2018 climaxes with an uplifting performance of what is considered one of the most remarkable demonstrations of human achievement.
Despite struggling with hearing loss, health issues and social isolation, Beethoven drew inspiration from the ode by German poet Schiller to create Ninth Symphony Ode To Joy, a triumphant anthem for the deepest yearning for freedom, unity and hope for humankind that has since been played to mark significant historical moments in our time.
Under the baton of Maestro Lim Soon Lee, NUS Symphony Orchestra and The NUSChoir, two outstanding youth music groups in Singapore who have received awards in international festivals and competitions, join forces with soloists Ee-Ping Yee, Jade Tan Shi Yu, Jonathan Tay and Valentin Lazrein in this musical milestone in celebration of CFA’s 25th Anniversary.
The NUS Symphony Orchestra (NUSSO) is a youth orchestra at the frontier of Singapore’s vibrant arts scene. Known for its musical excellence, NUSSO allows NUS undergraduates of all majors to continue to pursue their passion in orchestral performance.
The Orchestra was formally established as the NUS Concert Orchestra in 1979 under the auspices of the former University of Singapore and the directorship of Mr Paul Abisheganaden. Inaugurated as the NUS Symphony Orchestra in 1995, its beginnings can be traced back to the 1920s in the form of a Chamber Ensemble.
Maestro Lim Soon Lee has been its Music Director and Resident Conductor since 1994, while musicians from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) tutor the various sections of the Orchestra. Apart from actively bringing orchestra music to the university community and the public, the Orchestra has also performed extensively overseas, such as at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in Vienna.
The NUSChoir is an award-winning youth choir that is committed to promoting excellence in choral music within the NUS community. The choir comprises students and alumni who share a common passion for singing and choral music and was formed in 1980.
Under the baton of Singapore’s premier choral director, Prof Nelson Kwei , the NUSChoir aims to promote choral music excellence, and to bring its music to global audiences by performing in a wide spectrum of events.
Every March, the choir stages its annual major concert, Varsity Voices, performing an extensive repertoire that features choral music from traditional and classic to contemporary and new music. As a youth choir, the NUSChoir has also gained a strong international reputation, having taken part in several international competitions and choral festivals, and has also performed in various reputable settings and venues worldwide, garnering a slew of accolades including perfect scores at competitions in Slovakia and Russia.
Most recently, The NUSChoir was the first Singaporean choir to be awarded the top prize at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, the Pavarotti Trophy.
Lim Soon Lee
Music Director & Resident Conductor, NUS Symphony Orchestra
Lim Soon Lee was appointed the Music Director/Resident Conductor of the National University of Singapore Concert Orchestra in April 1994. Since, he has managed the Orchestra of approximately 100 members, comprising undergraduates, alumni, staff and friends. Under his leadership and drive, the Orchestra was inaugurated as the National University of Singapore Symphony Orchestra in September 1995.
The Orchestra's overall performance and successful concerts can be attributed to Soon Lee's efforts and love for music. His association with NUS Centre For the Arts (previously known as the Centre for Musical Activities), dates back to 1980 when he assisted the violin section of the then Concert Orchestra. As a violin tutor from 1980 to 1983 and again from 1987 to 1990, he helped lay the foundation of the Orchestra in its formative years.
Soon Lee's musical journey began at the age of eight with the piano and violin under the tutelage of Singapore musicians and instructors: Goh Soon Tioe, Tan Kah Chin, Teo Kian Seng, Moses Wang, and Vivien Goh. He obtained his Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music for violin and viola in 1981 and in the same year, was awarded the First Prize in the Viola Open Section at the Singapore National Music Competition.
In 1983, under the Public Service Commission/Singapore Symphony Orchestra Scholarship, Soon Lee graduated from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, New York, with a Bachelor of Music (Distinction). He studied the viola under the world-renowned violists, Atar Arad and Francis Tursi, and completed a two-year conducting course with Professor David Effron and Professor Donald Hunsberger. In the summers of 1984 and 1986, he served as Principal Violist at Germany's Heidelberg Music Festival and was awarded a scholarship to study the viola under Kim Kashkashian at the Lausanne Academy of Music in Switzerland for his summer programme in 1986.
Soon Lee was with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) from 1987 to 1997, during which he served as the Sub-Principal Violist from 1989 to 1997. He was Singapore's only representative member at the 1988 World Philharmonic Orchestra in Montreal, Canada. He was the Assistant Conductor of the Singapore Youth Orchestra (SYO) from 1990 to June 1997 and was also responsible for the SYO Training Ensemble. From 2005-2011, Soon Lee was Music Director/ Principal Conductor of the Singapore National Youth Orchestra.
Professor Nelson Kwei
Choral Director, The NUSChoir
Mr Nelson Kwei, the premier choral director of Singapore, is an international acclaimed conductor, conservatorium lecturer, editorial advisor, international adjudicator, composer and vocal clinician in the music scene. He is a Fellow from the London College of Music, has a Licentiate in singing from the Guildhall School of Music and Advance Post-Graduate in Choral Conducting from the Royal Academy of Music (London). He is currently an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.
In 1993, Professor Kwei was honoured with the National Youth Service Award, the highest Youth Award in Singapore, in recognition of his significant contribution in the field of choral art. In 1999, he was awarded with the Culture Award by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In 2011, COMPASS Singapore awarded Professor Kwei with the prestigious Meritorious Award in view of his outstanding artistic achievement and contribution to the nation.
Internationally, Professor Kwei won the prestigious Outstanding Choral Director Award two years in a row at the International Choral Competition (Germany, 1998 & 1999) and also the Best Conductor Award at the Petr Eben International Choral Competition (Prague, 2002 & 2004). In recent years, he has led his choirs to more than 200 Gold awards including three Choir Olympic Champions in the World Choir Games held in Bremen, Germany & Xiamen, China. His choir was also the first Asian choir to win the Grand Prize & Audience Prize at the prestigious Concorso Corale Internazionale held in Riva Del Garda, Italy. In 2008, he was conferred the Conductor Prize in the 10th edition of the internationally-acclaimed choral competition. In 2012, he won the Outstanding Conductor Prize at the prestigious Sing’n’joy Vienna International Franz Schubert Choir competition. In 2014, he set another world record at Hoi An International Choral Competition where Victoria JC Choir won all four Categories Champion title.
Presently, he is the artistic advisor of Singapore Choral Association, the Artistic Director of Singapore Music Festival and Singapore Choral Festival, and the Vice-Chairman of Singapore Musician Society. He is an executive member of the National Arts Council’s Advisory Board for Choral Development in Singapore, the NAC external assessor for music, as well as the artistic director of prominent international choral competitions, ‘A Voyage of Songs’ and ‘Asia Cantate’. Mr Kwei has also been invited as both clinician and adjudicator in many top international choral festivals and competitions including the World Choir Games Series. Currently, he is the conductor of many schools, colleges, a university and semi-professional choirs in Singapore that have won numerous national and international accolades. He was also responsible for mentoring more than one-third of Singapore’s choir conductors.
Yee Ee Ping
London based soprano Ee Ping was trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music and made her London debut singing the title role of 'Mimi' in Puccini's La Boheme.
She has gone on to sing numerous operatic roles throughout Europe and Asia, win prizes in several international competitions and become one of the most sought after leading singers in Asia.
She also devotes her time to adjudicating music festivals and teaching masterclasses.
Jade Tan Shiyun
An acclaimed mezzo-soprano who sings with “nuance” and with “great ability in portraying emotion and meaning”, The Straits Times, Jade Tan Shi Yu was the Grand-prize winner of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music’s Concerto Competition 2016 and Third-prize winner and Best Singaporean Artist in the Singapore Lyric Opera’s ASEAN Vocal Competition 2016. She was honored the title of President’s Young Performer in 2016. Jade graduated from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music as valedictorian with First Class Honours and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in the Hannover Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien, Germany. She made her operatic debut as Dorabella from Mozart’s Così fan tutte in the Hannover Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien, Germany and has since performed the roles of Giannetta in the Singapore Lyric Opera’s Production of L’Elisir d’amore (2017) and Zora in Serbian-born Ana Sokolovic’s Svadba(2018), a New Music opera composed in 2010 which won the prize of Outstanding New Musical/ Opera in the Dora Mavor Moore Awards. She will perform the role of the Composer in her school’s production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos this Winter in Hannover, Germany.
Jonathan Charles Tay
This season, Singaporean Tenor Jonathan Charles Tay performs the role of Ah Niu in Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s Liu San Jie, Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte with the Esplanade, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater with Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra, Parpignol in Puccini’s La Boheme with Singapore SO and The Messenger in Verdi’s Aïda with SLO.
Previous credits include Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore with SLO, Steuermann in Singapore’s first Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, garnering praise from OPERA! as “excellent and very lyrical”. Also, Orpheus in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, Peppe in Donizetti’s Rita, Peter Quint in Britten’s Turn of the Screw, Hussar in Stravinsky’s Mavra, Astolf in Schubert's Die Versworenen, Edoardo in Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio, Muley Graves in Ricky Ian Gordon's Grapes of Wrath, Laurie in Mark Adamo’s Little Women and Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Jonathan also performed as Re Gonzaga and L’araldo in Franco Faccio’s Amleto. His performance with Opera Southwest was listed in Opera News best of 2016 recordings.
Valentin Lanzrein is an active performer, an ardent voice pedagogue and a distinctive scholar. He is a two-time recipient of the Kiefer Hablitzel Price in Music awarded by the Association of Swiss Musicians (Switzerland) and has since toured Europe, Asia, and the U.S.A. He is an author of The Singer’s Guide to German Diction, published by Oxford University Press.
Lanzrein is currently Associate Professor of Voice at the Soochow University School of Music in Suzhou, China. He also serves as voice teacher at the iSING! Suzhou, International Young Artist Festival. Previously he has taught at the DePauw University School of Music and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (U.S.A.).
Lanzrein holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School (U.S.A.), and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from State University of New York in Stony Brook (U.S.A.).