Sunday, March 3, 2024

From Singapore to Seattle Symphony Orchestra

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Written by Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asia Weekly Magazine

Kar-Chun Wong (Photo by Angie Kremer)

Kar-Chung Wong’s childhood in Singapore was typical in some ways. He went to school, did his homework, played with his friends, and ate a proper meal.

But as Wong conducts the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, known as the “choral” symphony, several things pointed him toward his calling.

“I remember hearing the finale of Mahler’s Third Symphony on the radio,” he recalled. “And I thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world. I still do.”

His school experiences also helped shape him.

Karchun Wong (Credit: Ayane Sato)

“I joined the brass band at my public school when I was seven years old. I played the cornet and had a lot of fun practicing and playing with my friends. I often played soccer during breaks. However, I often got scolded by the conductor if I was late returning to rehearsals. I have fond memories.

Wong grew up speaking several languages.

In Singapore, students speak English at school and their native language at home. In my case it was Mandarin. Another member of my family is Japanese, so I am fluent in Japanese as well. I studied in Germany and even worked in Germany, so my German is basic but functional.

“During my school days, I wasn’t very good at languages ​​and humanities. I preferred math and science. I came to understand the special nuances of music. There can be many moments that get lost in translation. That’s why I realized the depth of music as an international language that transcends borders. A group of musicians When something resonates through music, something truly beautiful happens.”

He continued to play the trumpet during his compulsory national service, but nerve damage to his lips forced him to put it on the back burner. He studied conducting in Berlin and was one of the last students of the great German conductor Kurt Masur.

Comparing the classical music scene in his home country to what is happening in other countries, Wong commented:Since Singapore is a very young country, the classical music scene is also still very new when compared to China, Japan, or Western countries. But I’m always amazed at how young and excited the Singaporean audience is.

“In March this year, I was conducting the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and noticed that the audience was larger than before the coronavirus.proof of [the Singapore Symphony’s] A very strong digital offering over the past few years. It’s a very exciting time to be in Asia, as the appetite for quality classical music is likely to grow even more. ”

When asked about his opinion of Seattle and its orchestra, he replied: My first visual memory of Seattle from the air was Mount Rainier in the distance. It reminds me of the equally majestic Mt. Fuji in Japan.There is a special sense of kinship. [this] A city with strong cultural diversity. I visited here in the spring and had the opportunity to experience the most beautiful cherry blossoms on the University of Washington Quad.

Karchun Wong (Credit: Ayane Sato)

“Seattle Symphony Orchestra is a great partner for the arts in our community, with an international level of artistic activity at its core. Also, very important to me, that means diversity, regardless of race, language, or religion. And it represents inclusivity. That’s a really beautiful thing these days.”

Kar-Chun Wong will conduct the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Chorus,” from Dec. 28-31 at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium in Benaroya Hall, 200 University Street in downtown Seattle. do.

For pricing, showtimes, and other information, please visit: and

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