Friday 1 June 2001 – Singapore and Jahor Bahru, Malaysia
Today, it being four weeks since my arrival in Singapore, I took the advice of the gals from the Australian High Commission and took the public bus across the Causeway into Malaysia, to Jahor Bahru, to get my passport stamped. JB is not the most exciting place I’ve been to in the world. Ryan, when I told him where I was going, looked very concerned and warned me ‘not to flash my wallet around’, as it’s ‘not a nice place, like Singapore’.
It’s certainly not as pristine as Singapore, although the local authorities have made attempts to landscape and beautify, and there are plenty of shopping centres selling exactly the same stuff as you get in Singapore. The SSO marked the opening of the Festival with performances of the Verdi Requiem, at the Cultural Centre of the National University of Singapore.
Having allowed an hour to get there, it of course took longer as it required a bus, a change of MRT lines and another bus to get there. In the end I took a taxi rather than the last bus, and made it into the hall just before the commencement of the performance. I wasn’t, however, the last to arrive. For the first 10 minutes, Singaporeans continued to drift into the hall and each took some time to settle. Throughout the concert there was a cacophony of noises that were not in the score, from both on and off the stage. Noisy music stands, rustling of sweet wrappers, fiddling with mobile phones and even a pager or two going off provided unneeded distractions from the performance.
The performance itself, to my ears, was a little disappointing, although there were some fine moments, particularly the Dies Irae with a chorus approaching 160 people, and some fine soloists, particularly the soprano and bass. Many entries seemed muddled and tentative, and some balances, particularly of the brass and woodwind, were a bit disconcerting. There never seems to be any ‘after concert’ activity with the SSO – or perhaps they just don’t invite me to be a part of it?