One of Singapore’s musical leaders and a key advocate for the development of local school bands — Associate Professor Ho Hwee Long — had his 80th birthday celebrated in grand style on 9 November, with a fundraising concert featuring current and alumni members of the NUS, National Institute of Education, and National Junior College bands.
These performers were all trained under the baton of Assoc Prof Ho, who was the Music Director and Resident Conductor of NUS Wind Symphony (NUSWS) from 2008 to 2018. His final major performance with the Symphony was at its 50th anniversary concert in March 2018.
“Prof Ho was an inspirational mentor for our students. As he has done throughout his career, he nurtured the students of NUSWS as musicians and encouraged them to take ownership of their group and their creative choices though a rigorous performance and touring schedule,” said NUS Centre For the Arts (CFA) Director Ms Sharon Tan.
Fond memories from Assoc Prof Ho
“I have had so many wonderful and memorable experiences working with NUSWS over the years. I worked for two years to transcribe and arrange the Yellow River Concerto for wind band so performing it with the NUSWS and renowned pianist Mr Lim Yan in 2012 was a very special moment for me. Another piece that still moves me was the group’s performance of Scheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov. It is a stunning example of Russian musical orientalism and the group really threw themselves at it!” recounted Assoc Prof Ho.
He added, “Offstage, I am very proud to have worked with NUSWS to stage the first University Band Festival at Esplanade in 2010. These sort of initiatives leave a lasting impression on the music scene, so to work with talented and dedicated student leaders and have the support of CFA has really been a highlight in itself!”
More than band music, Assoc Prof Ho also taught his students how to be decent human beings, recounted past student, Advisor and Former Director-General of Education, Ms Ho Peng.
“My most vivid recollection was the time we prepared for our band tour to Kuala Lumpur and Port Dickson in 1972. The organising committee had clear roles and were empowered to take charge of many things, working late into the evenings. We even built our own crates to transport the instruments. The intense experiences served to bond us. To this day, many band members are still in touch with each other. Looking back, the experiences in the band and what Prof Ho taught have shaped much of my character and stood me in good stead for life,” she said.
The Ho Hwee Long Music Score Commission Fund
Some $15,000 was raised during the concert and will go towards the Ho Hwee Long Music Score Commission Fund, which was established by CFA in honour of Assoc Prof Ho’s legacy and passion for expanding the art form, and exposing audiences to different musical aesthetics.
It aims to ensure Singapore’s educational institutions have access to new and exciting compositions through the commissioning of high quality contemporary scores. These scores can be performed by NUSWS and by all local schools free-of-charge, expanding the wind band repertoire and benefiting more young Singaporeans in their music learning journey.
The Fund will primarily support local composers, particularly those willing to engage with musicians and audiences and share insights into the creative choices involved. To facilitate teaching and development related to each piece, these insights will be documented and provided with the scores.