Profile: Lorong Boys

Published on 3 February 2015

The Lorong Boys are redefining classical music by taking it to Singapore streets.

BY JO TAN

“People go to concert halls all dressed up with serious faces and clap obediently between songs, it’s become this ritual,” observes Jonathan Shin, pianist for the Lorong Boys, a five-man classically-trained ensemble making sweet melodies with guitar/piano, violins, flute and percussion. “We’re trying to offer an alternative by taking music, even classical music, outside the concert hall.”

Indeed, since these students (and one graduate) of the National University of Singapore’s Jazz Module formed last year, they’ve played music ranging from pop to Broadway to classical music around housing estates, in underpasses and even several times on the MRT to bemused commuters.

“We’ve seen Singaporeans loosening up. Before the Lorong Boys was formed, when two of our current members played on the MRT, maybe one or two people clapped. But over several gigs, we see more people clapping and singing along.”

Declares Shin, “Music for us has never been about the money. Everybody should have music and these gigs are for everyone, us included, to have fun. At the subway station in New York, I remember being astounded seeing an excellent cellist play spontaneously, just for the joy
of it.”

Of course, man cannot live on passion alone, so the Lorong Boys are grateful for an increasing number of paid bookings at special events, like a well-attended 150-minute concert at the Esplanade last December. But even at those events, the Boys don’t adhere to what they feel are stereotypes of concert musicians.

“We want our audience to feel they have the freedom to enjoy themselves, to dance. I sometimes make silly faces when I play the piano because I feel like it, and audiences, especially children, will stare agape because it’s not what they expect from classical instrumentalists. But when just one person has fun, it gives wings to your audience.”

This year marks the exam-packed final semester in school for four of the Lorong Boys, with the future still uncertain.

“Will we still be able to play together as much? I don’t know,” confesses Shin. “The Lorong Boys have never been about its founding members, but the spirit it embodies: to bring music to everyone. We can and may take in more Lorong Boys, as long as they keep spreading the music.”

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