A Fiery and Musical Close to the Night Festival 2014

Visitors raise their cameras and smart phones to shoot the fire performance by Austrian group Phoenix Fire Dancers at the National Museum of Singapore during the 2nd last night of the Singapore Night Festival. They were accompanied by musicians from William Close’s Earth Harp Collective providing the musical sound track.

The 7th installation of Singapore Night Festival came to a close with a performance by Earth Harp musician William Close and the Phoenix Fire Dancers.

I was rather busy for the last couple of weeks ending with a long Friday and had originally intended to give it a miss as I was rather tired. However, after seeing photos of the rehearsals on Facebook, I decided that I shouldn’t miss out on this, so I dragged myself to the venue as there was still enough time to get there for the last performance of the night at 11:15pm.

William Close immersed in his music as he performs on his Earth Harp amidst coloured lights in the background.

Expectedly, there was a huge crowd when I arrived, but as the crowd from the previous show were leaving, I managed to squeeze my way in eventually. I’d have loved to be closer to the stage where Phoenix were performing but it was just too crowded to get there. Once again, I was right in front of William Close.

Rich Sherwood on the Drum Cloud

The pieces performed were the same as the 1st weekend of the Night Festival which I attended but what wowed me was the finale. As with the previous performance, Close did his own rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D on his Earth Harp, this time accompanied by a female vocalist.

The female vocalist and guitarist accompanying William Close in the last piece, a rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

Near the end, the Phoenix Fire Dancers from Austria came on stage with their fiery performance. Unfortunately, from my position, I was unable to see them. I did, however, see their pyrotechnics and laser beams. I realised many people in front of me were raising their cameras and smart phones to shoot, so I did likewise and took several shots.

The opening shot of this post turned out to be the best, clearly showing both the lit LCD screens, the pyrotechnics from Phoenix and the façade of the National Museum of Singapore. Together with the projection of the “Singapore Night Festival”, this helped to give some context of the event.

The performance sure didn’t disappoint. Looking forward to next year’s installation!

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Singapore Night Festival 2014 – Bold and Beautiful

Musician William Close plays on the “Earth Harp”, an instrument that he’s invented, at the front lawn of the Singapore National Museum during the Singapore Night Festival 2014.

The annual Singapore Night Festival is upon us again. This year is the 7th edition of the festival, and the theme is “Bold and Beautiful”. I wasn’t able to attend the media preview of the event this time due to work commitments and thus I have to squeeze with the public. Here are some of the installations which I found to be interesting.

Night Lights

Night Lights have been a crowd favourite in all the previous Night Festivals, with the light projections on the Singapore Art Museum drawing big crowds every night. This year is no different. Featuring a projection piece titled “Spirits of Nature” by WECOMEINPEACE from France, the installation transforms the façade of the Singapore Art Museum into something surreal, transforming you to another world.

Spirits of Nature, a Night Lights installation by WECOMEINPEACE (France) at the Singapore Night Festival 2014

Spirits of Nature, a Night Lights installation by WECOMEINPEACE (France) at the Singapore Night Festival 2014

Spirits of Nature, a Night Lights installation by WECOMEINPEACE (France) at the Singapore Night Festival 2014

Over at Cathay Green is an installation titled “Cynea”by Cumulus from France. It’s in the form of a large jellyfish with its tentacles forming a tent and illuminated by coloured lights. Visitors can go inside the tent and immerse themselves in the ever changing light display.

Cynea by Cumulus (France) viewed from a distance.

Visitors mingle inside the “Cynea” installation among the coloured lights and smoke.

Looking up from the inside of the “Cynea” installation.

Nearby, at the stairs outside the School of the Arts (SOTA) are some white umbrellas lit by coloured lights. Created by SOTA in collaboration with Lighting Planners Associates, the aptly titled “Umbrellas” forms coloured clusters of light at night. The umbrellas are a favourite of couples – many were seen talking selfies under them.

A couple takes a selfie under one of the umbrellas of the “Umbrellas” installation on the stairs outside the School of the Arts (SOTA).

Colourful clusters of umbrellas on the steps of the School of the Arts (SOTA).

Meanwhile, the mainground of the National Museum of Singapore is being watched by devine beings projected onto the trees. Created by French artist Clément Briend, the installation lends a somewhat surreal feel to the area. This still being the Ghost Festival, I am glad he used the more peaceful-looking, Buddha-like projections instead of something more creepy.

“Devine Trees” by Clément Briend (France)

Devine Trees by Clément Briend (France)

Interestingly, one of the installations is re-used from the recently-concluded i Light Marina Bay festival. This is titled “Insert Caption Please” by local artist Ryf.

Insert Caption Please by Ryf (Singapore)

William Close and the Earth Harp

To me, the highlight of this year’s festival has got to be William Close and his “Earth Harp”. It’s an instrument that he invented and it features a soundbox mounted on the stage, with several steel wires running back to the National Museum. Close mentioned that he’s even created one across a valley featuring 1,000ft strings!

Unlike a regular harp, where the strings are plucked to produce the notes, the Earth Harp is played with gloved hands coated with violin rosin stroking the strings longitudinally. This according to Close, produces “compression waves” which produces the cello-like sounds which we hear. This is similar to how sound is produced when running a wet finger along the rim of a wineglass.

William Close’s performance combines new age with classical melodies (including Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Pachelbel’s Canon in D) as well as newly invented instruments like the “Drum Cloud” and the ”Drum Jacket”.

William Close plays on this Earth Harp. The cloud of rosin powder makes it look as if he’s some form of wizard, conjuring up magical melodies from the instrument.

William Close playing his Earth Harp.

William Close plays the “Drum Jacket”, a jacket with several drum pads stitched to it.

His drummer, Rich Sherwood is equally brilliant. Here’s him performing on the “Drum Cloud” (hmm, seem like everything is in the cloud now.)

Rich Sherwood playing the Drum Cloud.

Rich Sherwood plays the Drum Cloud.

William Close strikes a pose at the end of his last piece of the set.

Photos doesn’t quite do his performance justice, so here’s a video of William Close performing a piece inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

The Singapore Night Festival is held over two weekends – 22-23 Aug and 29-30 Aug 2014, so there’s still another weekend to catch the installations and performances. The Night Lights installations will be also be on throughout the week. Do catch it if you can!

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Victoria Concert Hall and Theatre Open House

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall

After closing for four years for a major refurbishment costing S$158 million, the grand dame of Singapore’s performing arts venue – the Victoria Concert Hall and Theatre is finally open once again. An open house was held over the weekend of 19-20 July 2014 to let the public to check out the newly refurbished concert hall and theatre via a series of free performances. Continue reading

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Singapore Sports Hub Open House and One Year Countdown to SEA Games 2015 Fireworks

Fireworks light up the night sky in Singapore on 28 June 2014 to commemorate the opening of the Sports Hub and 1 year to the SEA Games 2015.

On 27th June 2014, the Singapore Sports Hub held an open house to its facilities. The same day also marks a year to go to the SEA Games 2015. While I was disappointed that the grand dame of the Sports Hub, the rebuilt National Stadium isn’t open to the public (so much for “Open House”), the fireworks in the evening helped lessen some of that disappointment. Continue reading

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial

The Hiroshima Peace Dome, also known as the A-Bomb Domb (Genbaku Domu) by the bank of the Motoyasu River in Hiroshima, Japan.

At 8:15am on 6 August 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb named “Little Boy” was dropped from a B-29 bomber from the United States of America. The bomb missed its target – the T-shaped Aioi Bridge and detonated approximately 600m above the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall (HMI). The force of the blast killed everybody in the building and effectively flattened Hiroshima City. Continue reading

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Futuristic Workers

Workers put in finishing touches on the futuristic-looking dome of the new National Stadium, part of the Singapore Sports Hub.

After 4 years of construction, including a few delays, due in part to the 2008 financial crisis, the New National Stadium of Singapore is finally ready. Part of the Singapore Sport Hub which consists of an aquatic centre and an indoor arena, the new stadium will play host to the World Cup 10s Rugby on June 21/22.

Meanwhile, workers put in finishing touches to the retractable dome roof – the world’s largest – of the stadium. I spotted them when I was documenting the old overhead bridge in front of the stadium which spans Nicoll Highway. As there is now a new overhead bridge nearby, I had a feeling that it’d soon be demolished and wanted to document it before it’s gone for good. More on that in a latter blog post.

I composed the shot to make use of the clear blue sky (which in Singapore also meant that it’s bloody hot!), placing the futuristic-looking dome at the bottom third of the photo.

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Analog vs. Digital Entertainment

A woman attempts to solve her Hello Kitty-themed Rubik’s Cube while most other passengers choose to be entertained by their smart phones.

In today’s digitally connected world, most people keep themselves occupied with their digital devices during their commute. They’d either be playing games, messaging friends or checking their social networks. Occasionally, there’d be a few reading a physical book, or solving  a Sudoku puzzle. It’s therefore surprising to see someone solving a Rubik’s Cube – a “Hello Kitty” themed one one at that.

I shot the above on my iPhone, and she and every one else were so engrossed that they didn’t notice anything. Maybe if I had pulled out a camera, I might be noticed more easily as I was very close to her. The shot is converted to B&W in Snapseed, no other adjustments were made. It’s slightly blurred due to camera shake but I don’t think that is a big deal here.

Anyway, we got seats later and she eventually succumbed to the digital revolution, and played with her tablet.

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The Many Faces of Mt. Fuji

Dark clouds gather above a silhouette of Mt. Fuji during sunset.

I have been awed by the beauty of Mt. Fuji since I last saw it with my own eyes during my previous trip to Japan in 2011. I had been very lucky in that trip – Mt. Fuji is known to be temperamental and it does not always reveal itself to visitors – and saw it multiple times. During my most recent trip, luck has been on my side again, and I got to look at it and admire its beauty again. Continue reading

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Budak Pantai – The Final Countdown

Local a capella group Budak Pantai on stage. From left to right, Gordon, Michael, Joe, Kah Keh and Danny.

After performing for 20 years, local a capella group Budak Pantai somehow decided to call it quits. Their final concert, aptly titled “The Final Countdown” on 24 May apparently sold out in just 3 days and they had to add a second performance the night before. I’m glad they did so, and this additional performance is the one I attended, along with two friends, David and Clarence. Continue reading

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Surreal Scene In the Air

On a flight while on the way to Penang for a relative’s wedding, I looked out of the window and saw the above scene. It sure looks surreal – it looked like the sea or lake of some sort reflecting the clouds from above. There are also distant clouds which looked like either icebergs or snow mountains! But at such an altitude, I don’t think that horizontal line can be the horizon. Wonder what can it possibly be.

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