Tenacity unmasked

For the NUS Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YST Conservatory) Class of 2021, holding a final-year concert was nearly a foregone dream because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But on 27 January, the students pulled it off, staging a virtual live concert at Victoria Concert Hall.

Curated, produced, and performed by the YST Conservatory’s Class of 2021, UNMASK 2021 narrates their four years of pursuing an undergraduate music degree through a live concert interspersed with pre-recorded interviews and orchestral segments. Preparations began in March 2020 and it saw all 50 students in the cohort enthusiastically participating in various ways, including managing social media, producing video content, performing, and various other roles. YST Conservatory faculty and staff also provided support on various aspects of production, live-streaming, and venue bookings.

“The past four years have brought with them much change and growth. Having a concert that represents the raw, unfiltered struggles we have faced while celebrating our successes and journeys is something we should not take for granted,” said Audio Arts & Sciences major Tharshwin s/o Thanaskodi.

Highlights of the concert included:

  • Johannes Brahms’ "Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8" - performed by three classmates, now friends, representing how friendships intensify the joy of musicmaking;
  • Chris Hazell’s "Mr Jums" - re-arranged and re-imagined by the YST Composition Studio, representing the joy and the sense of achievement of the class of 2021 now on the cusp of graduating; and
  • A stirring rendition of Maurice Ravel’s "Bolero", representing the cohort’s collective effort which has made this concert possible.

Producing a concert during a pandemic comes with a fair share of uncertainty but the students’ tenacity, creativity and diligence made it happen. Voice Major and production team member Priscilla Fong shared that there were many hurdles to overcome. For instance, she recounted how the programming had to be flexible in case safe management measures changed due to the COVID-19 situation. So, when they could not stage the concert’s 40-piece orchestral performance at the performance venue, the students recorded the performance at the YST Conservatory instead and it was streamed during the live show.

“Having the opportunity to organise and curate UNMASK 2021 alongside an amazing production team is something I will always treasure,” said Priscilla, adding on that the enthusiasm of the Class of 2021 was “heart-warming and encouraging”.

So now with the final-year concert done and dusted, what is next? For Tharshwin, he had this to say to his classmates, “Putting together a concert amidst the current global pandemic is no small feat. May that sense of tenacity and passion continue with us even after we graduate!”

Kudos to the Class of 2021! Enjoy their UNMASK 2021 performance below.