Profile: BHSO

Published on 22 November 2015

The Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to closing the gap between classical music and lay audiences.


The common perception that orchestra music is too high-brow for general audiences is one the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO) seeks to dispel, one concert at a time. Birthed in 1986, Singapore’s most established community orchestra has been hearth and base for many musical talents on the island. Its 80-strong members, a mix of professional and amateur musicians, perform together on a voluntary basis.

“Community arts organisations are vitally important as they serve to realise the aspirations and talents of the large majority of people who do not work professionally in the arts, but are no less passionate,” says Adrian Tan, musical director and conductor for the orchestra.

BHSO’s audition standard is set at a level to allow as many amateur musicians to join as possible. The orchestra helps aspiring musicians and composers to develop by organising masterclasses, workshops as well as its Gifted Young Musicians concert series.

One of their most ambitious undertakings was the formation of The Joy Chorale: 30 members of the public with no prior classical music training nor experience were invited to join the chorus to perform Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony’. “This might be the greatest lengths any orchestra has gone to close the gap between classical music and a lay audience by showing how, with commitment and hard work,
anyone can enjoy the life-changing rewards classical music offers,” says Tan. A documentary, scheduled to be screened on MediaCorp TV Channel okto and titled There is Music in Every One, captures the story of participants as they prepare to take on one of the greatest classics of all time.

Adds Tan, “The accessibility of community productions adds colour and vitality to the nation’s cultural life, helping to develop a more appreciative audience for our growing arts scene.” Since Tan took over from his long-time predecessor Maestro Yan Yin Wing, the orchestra’s repertoire has expanded to include more contemporary works, particularly those by Singaporean composers, as well as less traditional genres like film music.

Next year will be significant for the BHSO as they celebrate their 30th anniversary. Big plans are in store, including reconnecting with the hundreds of musicians who have performed and practised with them over the years. There are also plans to churn out two epic works: Hector Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ and Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ on top of their commitment to feature more homegrown compositions and soloists.

“Grand musical works and numbers are not meaningful by themselves, but they do indicate how far the orchestra has come and what it can achieve,” says Tan. “If we accord ourselves well, we would surely have proven ourselves as a community orchestra that all Singaporeans can be proud of.”

Catch BHSO & The Joy Chorale in A Not-So-Classical Xmas! on 13 December, Esplanade Concert Hall.

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