Heading into its 4th edition, this year’s WBAS Youth Band Festival takes place on 12-16 December at the National University of Singapore (NUS) U-Town, with a finale concert on 17 December at the Esplanade.
Hand picked via auditions prior to the festival, the outstanding young talents will experience a week of music making in a dynamic and exciting setting. They would be mentored by various music educators of the Windstars Ensemble, and perform under the batons of local conductors, Mr Quek Boon Hui and Mr Alvin Seville, and Mr Bjørn Sagstad from Norway.
“This project is part of the finest things I do as a conductor. It is great to have a festival like this where young players can meet, both musically and socially,” said Bjørn, when asked for his thoughts about such a program.
The concert showcase will present a programme that includes classic works such as Alfred Reed‘s Armenian Dances II and Toshio Mashima’s La Danse du Phénix, as well as new works such as In Flight by Samuel Hazo, The Knight of the Sky by Hiroaki Kataoka and Synergies by Robert Sheldon. It will also feature familiar favourites Highlights from Les Miserables and AKB48 Medley.
Also guest appearing in the concert is the Windstars Ensemble, a collective of Singapore’s finest musicians that is known to have garnered rapturous applause for its lyricism and beauty on the symphonic stage, as well as gritty, pumping pop rhythms since its inception in 2012.
“I picked Egil Hovland‘s Fanfare and Chorale for the ensemble as it is one of the most important piece written for winds. The music has so many elements; its ups and downs, slow and fast passages, brave and humble sections, just like our lives. The piece is great to listen to and a challenge to play,” explained Bjørn.
One other featured work in the repertoire is “Playday!” written by Singaporean composer Benjamin Yeo. This concert march for wind band displays the composer’s sheer joy at writing music. It was noted that he was in fact writing another piece of serious music when a sudden burst of inspiration came to him; and he knew he had to put that piece aside to start work on this special march immediately. Excited to get his music into writing and share it with the world, the march was completed in just three short days.
“Full of fun and playful sounds, Playday! opens up many imaginative possibilities within the familiar concert march form. Through this work, students will be able to learn the typical structure of a march, identify key themes and exploring their relationship with one another. I truly hope that both performers and listeners will enjoy the playful character of the work!” said Benjamin.
Apart from working with the Windstars Ensemble, Bjørn will also be working with participants of the advance band on Armenian Dances Part 2. He hopes to be able to build every individual student from what he sees and hear, and guide them to improve in their playing as well as inspiring them to challenge and develop themselves further.
“Be patient. Be curious. Be nice to your self and others. Be challenging. Be hardworking and hard relaxing. Be happy for others’ successes, and most importantly, be happy for your own success. Try to enjoy both the musical and social side of making music with others. Ask yourself what you can do for others (fellow musicians and your audience), not what they can do for you. Be a giver,” Bjørn emphasized.
Catch the WBAS Youth Band Festival participants and guest band Windstars Ensemble in concert on 17 December at the Esplanade. Tickets at $15 and available here!