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Young Plays Old Music

by Tan Shzr Ee

The latest trend in the music world is old, and we mean really old.
Performer Shaun Ng, who is barely 21, will take you back into the musty 17th century this weekend, when he performs at The Substation, with the group he founded, Musica Obscura.
The final-year student on a summer break from the a music course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Britain, plays amongst other things, an ancient seven stringed fiddle called the viola da gamba.
He is a budding specialist in Early Music, and intends to bring it to Singapore audiences in a big way.
"It's a process of discovery," he says. "In each concert, we try to be authentic and re-create the composer's original intentions and what might have happened in the 17th century. But we are all young and vibrant, and have something individual to add, too."
Up on the bill this weekend are unusual composers such as Ortiz, Marais and Abel. Audiences can expect an intimate dose of harpsichords jangling to genteel, sprightly bowing on large and small fiddles.
"Of course people come because it's exotic. I think it's perfectly understandable," he says. "But after a few times of coming to our concerts, it no longer becomes exotic. You realise there is something deep behind it all."
One common view is that this curious genre of music. assumed to be "trapped" in its own "time", is the sacred territory of silver-haired professors poring over crusty manuscripts.
And the novelty of this time-capsule appeal has apparently caught on with Singaporeans.
Since Ng formed his Musica Obscura with friends last September, he has already played four well-attended concerts here, slotted in between his school semesters. There is also talk of two more gigs to come in December, not including this week's engagement.
As Ng would like to think, this form of music-making is more than a passing fad here.
"I think there's a future for Early Music in Singapore here. I believe Early Music is much more accessible than your Romantic and Classical fare in the concert halls," he says.
"It doesn't require that you sit still for two hours and take in all the arty-farty stuff. It's not too deep or serious; often it can very light and dance-y."
Before you can accuse him of living in an ivory tower of old-fogey values dressed up as a clever academia, let the club music fan, who breaks the stuffy musician stereotype in his V-neck and lanky jeans assure you otherwise.