Explaining Esplanade-A A +A
By Betsy Gazo
Saturday, September 21, 2013
IT WAS on September 8, Sunday, when I pushed through with my original plan to watch a concert at the Esplanade. On Broadway! by Mus’Art Wind Orchestra was to be at 5 p.m. at the Concert Hall of the Esplanade -- Theatres on the Bay. That day, my mother and I had heard morning mass at the St. Joseph Church, visited the National Museum, and lunched somewhere in the shopaholic’s fantasy -- Orchard Road. By mid-afternoon, we’ve had enough of the luxury brand stores which we didn’t even bother to peer into. Whatever for? Not only can we not afford Louis Vuitton and Prada, our consciences don’t really care for these when our neighbors back home live in houses that cost less than the Louis Vuitton Alma a cousin in New Jersey gave me. So, we quickly boarded the MRT to try to make it to the concert before 5 p.m.
And we did. At 4:45, mama and I became part of the mass of humanity that rushed through the subway and City Link to show up at the theater, oops, I mean, “theatre”, lobby. That scene, for me -- the excitement, the rushing of feet, the straining towards -- was Singapore in a capsule. I’ve never seen a variety of humans who turned out with so much eagerness to watch local artists perform in an orchestra. I would understand older people wanting to listen to Broadway songs but watching pre-teens lining up and engaged in lively chatter as if it were Justin You-Know-Who soon on stage was a revelation of the Singaporeans’ warm embrace of the arts.
When I asked the ticket clerk for two tickets, she offered the sad news that all were sold out. “Did you book ahead?” she asked me. I replied that I hadn’t because I wasn’t sure about my schedule that day. My mother piped in, “We came all the way from Bacolod just to watch this.” I hope she’d also put on a face to match her disappointed tone. The clerk was touched by her plea that when it was time for the audience to enter the hall, she told me that if I stayed awhile, someone might just sell a ticket or two. Then, the crowd began thinning out.
It wasn’t long when Jessica, the clerk, came up to me with a ticket in her hand. She was apologetic for having only one ticket and was hoping that another ticket might just be available soon. “How much do I pay for this?” I asked her meaning ‘do I pay S$15 for regular or is this $8 for a senior citizen?’ Jessica brought good tidings this time. “It’s free; the owner is giving it away.” I was so elated that I almost did the tinikling right there. It was a no-brainer to have my mother instead of me watch On Broadway! and Jessica and I brought her right up to her seat with the assurance that someone will come get her after the show.
Doors to the hall were closed; latecomers can only enter during the intermission. When I exited the hall, Jessica asked me if I wanted to watch the concert on television. I said, “Sure” and promptly was shown the teevee right by the concert hall door and made to sit on a cushioned bench. For me, there wasn’t a more comfortable front seat in the whole of Esplanade for not only was it free, it also spoke volumes of the kind of professionalism, courtesy and hospitality shown by the theater, uhm, theatre, people. The Theatres on the Bay’s vision, in fact, is to “set exceptional standards of service that will position us as a world leader.”
As the show started, a few late-comers shared my seat. They were quite young but I was pleasantly surprised to find them singing along to the opening songs which were from The Sound of Music. A lot of people their age in the Philippines have not even seen nor care to see this unforgettable movie classic much less sing some lines from “I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen”. The Esplanades’ support for culture and the arts is concretized by its annual programmes published quarterly in the Esplanade Diary. Daily activities are advertised there including all pertinent data for the convenience of the reader. This is how I found out that I missed Verdi’s La Traviata by only a day.
A redeeming surprise was the free performance of the Filipino Voice Symphony at the lobby. The FaVS is composed of Filipino professionals working in different fields in Singapore with a passion for a cappella choral music. This group won first place in the 2010 Singapore a Cappella Championships, Pop Choir Category. At the Esplanade that evening, FaVS sang kundimans and nationalist songs to the delight of the Filipinos and other nationals who were in the audience. Hence, at the Esplanade that evening, I enjoyed not just one but two concerts free-of-charge. And almost three had we lingered at the lovely Outdoor Theatre at the waterfront promenade where artists were playing indigenous sounds.
I cannot explain fully the cultural and artistic phenomena in Singapore nor how such a small nation harnessed talent and other resources to become a leader in several fields and industries. I am jealous. Very jealous.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 21, 2013.