Homecoming is usually a time of joy and warmth. But when homecoming involves leading an orchestra in performance to an audience of thousands at a UNESCO World Heritage Site — it’s nothing short of a jamboree.
YST alumnus, conductor Kahchun Wong (BMus ’11, Composition) returns to Singapore in a special public appearance this week, following a dizzying range of achievements abroad. In 2016, he won the 5th Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition and is currently Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra — the first Asian in this role. Next year, he will lead the New York Philharmonic in its Lunar New Year Gala, and his calendar is booked until 2022.
Kahchun recently led the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra at Klassik Open Air, Europe’s largest outdoor classical music concert, which featured a performance of his composition Sunny Island that included the voices of Singaporean children singing the Malay folk song Dayung Sampan.
This Saturday, he brings a piece of his Germany experience back to Singapore in Beethoven im Garten, a concert bringing together musicians from the Nuremberg Symphony and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra at the Singapore Botanic Gardens Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage.
Looking forward to the upcoming performance, he said, “This concert is truly a special opportunity. The YST Conservatory is like my parent, having raised me in my formative years, while the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra is a treasured artistic partner with whom I will be spending my next few years growing together. These are two organisations that mean so much to me, and it’s truly a blessing to be able to bring them both together in a world heritage site in Singapore.”
Beethoven im Garten, a free admission event, is an initiative by the German Embassy in partnership with YST and the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra celebrating German-Singaporean ties and friendship. The musicians will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which has been praised by composer Richard Wagner as “the apotheosis of the dance itself” for its powerful, joyful dynamism.
Away from the stage, Kahchun holds a deep love for the community and is actively involved in nurturing the younger generation of music lovers. In 2016, he founded Project Infinitude, an inclusive movement for children that inspires possibilities and inculcates life skills and values through music. He was recognised by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2018 National Day Rally speech for achieving excellence and charting new pathways for others.
Community is a key factor connecting different facets of his work. Kahchun shared, “Culture is a right, not a luxury. I was introduced to music by my mathematics teacher in primary school and I now want to pass this gift on to more children regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances.”
This article was first published on 13 September in NUS News here.