Review of
Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra  (Loke Hoe Kit
soloist in Lalo's Cello Concerto)
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall (16 Dec 2012)

by Dr Chang Tou Liang

Published in The Straits Times on 18 Dec 2012 with the
title "Amateurs' passion makes for good Romantics".

It is not a great surprise that many people undervalue the worth of
community orchestras. They often think, “What can mere
amateurs contribute to my understanding and enjoyment of the
great classics, when professionals are already struggling to keep
up?”  Sceptics should listen to the Braddell Heights Symphony
Orchestra, Singapore’s only community orchestra, and then
reassess their stand.

Amateurs bring a genuine enthusiasm and love to what they do,
and the results can be surprisingly good. Take Tchaikovsky’s
Nutcracker Suite, standard seasonal fare for most, but the music
calls for some virtuosic solo playing. The orchestra’s woodwinds
were excellent in the ballet movements, exemplified by the trio of
flutes in Dance of the Reeds, and superb harpist Charmaine Teo in
Dance of the Flowers, who also doubled up as keyboardist for
the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The strings have also improved, producing a lush and mellow
sonority for most part. The brass players, notably the unfortunate
French horns, have some way to go to match their partners.
Guest Russian conductor Mark Kadin brought out the ensemble’s
latent potential in the opener, and in the tricky accompaniment for
Lalo’s Cello Concerto.

The soloist was 24-year-old cellist Loke Hoe Kit, who stood out in
his white coat amid a sea of black suits. His bright, burnished
sound, capable of facing up to the orchestra’s big gestures as
well as morphing into quiet and intimate asides, marked a genuine

The second movement’s dynamic contrasts, alternating between
melancholy and playful banter, were marvellously realised. The
solo flute’s confident and delightful counterpoint provided the icing
on the cake. Outright display distinguished the Spanish flavoured
finale, where both soloist and orchestra combined well for a
vigourous and emphatic close.

Whether the choice to perform Beethoven’s popular Fifth
Symphony on his birthday, the 16th of December, was planned or
totally coincidental is immaterial. The curse lies in over-familiarity,
however the orchestra could not be blamed of that in the middle
two movements, which sounded ragged, under-prepared and at
times threatened to come apart.

Thankfully the outer movements proved to be the performance’s
salvation. The Fate motif of its opening gained in strength and
character, while the finale saw a galvanising of forces, building
up inexorably to a passionate and heroic close. This orchestra,
the pride of the heartlands, has both guts and gumption to
succeed. With time and more exposure, true excellence cannot be
too far away.