Sing a song of Singapore
Homegrown music talents Jeremy Monteiro, Ignatius Wang and Joanna Dong (Photos: Russel Wong, the SAF Band and Red Roof Records)

Sing a song of Singapore

It is August and fans of National Day songs who can’t get enough of their catchy melodies and heart-stirring lyrics are in for a treat. Two National Day-themed concerts will take place over the long weekend at the Esplanade and feature homegrown music talents.

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s (SSO) second annual SSO National Day Concert has a star-studded line-up of performers that includes composer and jazz pianist Jeremy Monteiro and jazz vocalist Joanna Dong.

Lion City Brass Band, under the baton of its founder and music director Ignatius Wang, will be performing a repertoire of brass music and local favourites, including a special arrangement of Tanya Chua’s Where I Belong and a virtuosic rendition of the popular folk song Chan Mali Chan.

Read on for a glimpse into the minds of these top talents as we ask them about performing in a National Day-themed concert, and what their favourite National Day song is.

What is your favourite National Day song?
Dong: Singapura Sunny Island. It is a simple melody with a very short set of lyrics, which makes it easy-to-learn for people of all ages and language abilities. This is often the song I sing when I am overseas, and people ask me to sing a “Singapore song”. The listeners usually start singing “Singapura, oh Singapura” by the end of it!

Wang: Dick Lee’s Home. I would listen to it when I felt homesick during my studies in Europe.

Monteiro: Home by Dick Lee. It is a lovely song and the first time I heard it, I had tears in my eyes.

How does it feel to perform in a National Day-themed concert?
Wang: It is an incredible honour to be invited to stage a National Day-themed concert. For this concert, we want to present a programme that Singaporeans will be proud of and we will be featuring compositions and arrangements by young homegrown composers such as Lee Jinjun, Dax Wilson Liang and Benjamin Yeo.

Dong: There are so many lovely songs about Singapore, but because they are so specific, we only perform them around the National Day season. I look forward to National Day themed-concerts for that reason – it is my once-a-year chance to interpret the repertoire.

I also believe that music is a powerful way to strengthen social identity and solidarity. When the audience sings along to the same song, it speaks of our collective memories and shared experiences. That is a powerful feeling!

Monteiro: It is a huge honour. The SSO is a world-class orchestra and I very much look forward to performing with them under the baton of Joshua Tan.

Which work of art reminds you of Singapore as home?
Dong: Growing up, songs by Kopi Kat Klan such as Why You So Like Dat captured the quintessential experience of living in Singapore in the 1990s. It was full of wit and irreverence, yet it still managed to toe the line whilst being side-splittingly funny all at once.

Wang: When I was studying overseas, I would sometimes go online to listen to old National Day Parade songs when I felt homesick.

The responses have been edited and condensed. Details of the SSO National Day Concert and Celebrating Our Nation’s Pride with Lion City Brass Band are here and here respectively.

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