Songs of the Dragon Kiln by Ding Yi Music Company and Exclusive Interview with Zechariah Goh and Yulianti Tan

Songs of the Dragon Kiln Ding Yi Music Company

Ding Yi Music Company in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay presents Songs of the Dragon Kiln, 龙窑陶乐. Come 3 December, a forgotten aspect of Singapore’s heritage, dragon kilns which will be brought back to life on stage by Ding Yi Music Company (鼎艺团). Audience will embark on a journey to explore the origin and development of the once vibrant trade, pottery making in Singapore.

Musicians from Ding Yi will be using ceramic pots and cups as instruments, which are specially made by Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle (陶光工艺(私人)有限公司), it is one of the oldest surviving brick-built kilns in Singapore. History and culture buffs should not miss this rousing production that seamlessly and vividly combines Chinese chamber music, documentary film and ceramics to pay tribute to the fast-fading art. Songs of the Dragon Kiln is the fourth of Ding Yi’s Of Music Series which aims to present Chinese chamber music in a more intriguing and immersive manner, showcasing multi-disciplinary art forms to evoke audience’s memories, emotions and appreciation of the music and art.

Songs of the Dragon Kiln is directed and conducted by Quek Ling Kiong (郭勇德). Songs of the Dragon Kiln features music by National Arts Council Young Artist award recipient and Singapore contemporary composer Dr Zechariah Goh Toh Chai (吴多才), which will be accompanied with a documentary screening by David Yap (叶文财).

Our Parenting World team (OPW) is honoured to be able to interview Dr Zechariah Goh (ZG), the composer for the concert and Mrs Yulianti Tan (YT), the veteran pottery artist from Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle where they will share more with us about them and their involvement in the upcoming Songs of the Dragon Kiln.

Zechariah Goh Ding Yi Music Company

About Dr Zechariah Goh

  • Recipient of the Young Artist Award (Music) in Sep 2003 by NAC
  • Senior lecturer of composition at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA)
  • Composer for many local and overseas music groups ranging from choir, symphonic band, wind ensemble and chamber music to large scale Chinese and Symphony orchestral works. (For e.g. Singapore Chinese Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra)
  • Active speaker at International music conferences such as the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, International Society of Music Educators and Asia Pacific Society of Music Educators etc. 

Exclusive interview with Dr Zechariah Goh 

1. Can you share with us more about your background and how did you get started in your music career?

ZG: I started my first professional commissioned work at 21 years old. But I have been writing music since the age of 8.

2. Can you tell us more about your work at Ding Yi Music Company? How do you feel about working with multiple art forms for Songs of the Dragon Kiln?

ZG: I have a wonderful working relationship with the Ding Yi and this is not the first time we collaborated on a large-scale music performance that involved multiple art forms. The last project was writing music for Ding Yi to perform with Chinese calligraphy and poetry reading in 2014.

3. What are some of the challenges that you faced in writing and composing musical pieces that combine with ceramic? Where did you get your inspiration from?

ZG: My inspiration comes from the potters and the fine pottery they made. The story of preserving this ancient art form was very moving. Their dedication and passion for the pottery art inspired me to transform them into musical equivalent of pottery in Music.

4. You have many accomplishments in your career, education and having won awards like being the Recipient of the National Arts Council Young Artist Award (Music) in 2003, how do you manage to multitask effectively and what’s your tips to success?

ZG: It’s a constant struggle to find time to compose while teaching full-time at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. But I also learnt a lot from teaching. The relationship with teaching and composing is difficult to balance but I have somehow found an equilibrium to sustain and juggle the two over the past 30 years

5. Do you have any advice to children who aspire to be a composer and pursue a career in music when they grow up?

ZG: If you have something to say through music as a composer, say it. Work very hard and always have a keen sense of hearing for the fine nuances in the realm of music making. You should also develop your own unique voice as an artist.

6. Lastly, do you have anything you would like to add on and share with our readers about the coming performance Songs of the Dragon Kiln《龙窑陶乐》?

ZG: This is a concert for the eyes as well. You will be able to appreciate the images from film and enjoy the lovely pottery art on display during the concert. You can even have a chance to play on them too.

Thank you Dr Zechariah Goh for taking our interview! 

Yulianti Tan Ding Yi Music Company Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle

About Yulianti Tan

Veteran pottery artist from Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle. Thow Kwang was first established in 1965. She is one of the few pottery artists in Singapore that knows the firing technique for the traditional pottery firing kiln – Dragon kiln. She is also one of the key pottery artists that wanted to try out pottery and music together. 

Exclusive Interview with Yulianti Tan

1. Can you share with us more about your background and what inspires you to become a pottery artist?

YT: I started doing pottery 38 years ago, at that time I was just a house wife helping the family to carry out their business. As I got more involve with the family business, I fall deeply in love with the pottery art as I felt that the clay and the art were very therapeutic and beautiful.

2. Tell us more about your work at Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle and about the firing technique that are used for the traditional pottery firing kiln – Dragon kiln?

YT: Aside from the day to day firing, we at Thow Kwang also conduct workshops and classes for the public and hobbyists. Due to technology advancement, traditional firing or wood firing is slowly disappearing in Singapore. Traditional wood firing, driven by passion, is a life time learning journey that requires various knowledge and hard labour; imagine trying to maintain the temperature of 1,260 degrees Celsius in the 36 metre long dragon kiln for long hours with just pieces of wood.

3. What’s your role in Songs of the Dragon Kiln and how do you feel about working with multiple art forms?

YT: My role in this concert is to provide my pottery knowledge as well as the pottery instruments that the audience will be seeing on the concert day. I really hope that the pottery instruments and the music will blend well together. I am very glad to see all these young energetic musicians practicing for their music, I believe that the Chinese chamber music, ceramics and documentary film will have a great chemistry together!

4. How do you combine pottery and music? What are some of the challenges that you faced in making music with pottery?

YT: It was a very interesting fate that brought Ding Yi and us together. Their conductor, Mr Quek Ling Kiong came to us to explore a possible collaboration just when we were testing out the different sounds from our fired pottery instruments. I guess the challenge is how do you find the right sound or pitch for the music, bear in mind that these pottery instruments are all fired from clay and during the process, no one knows how the pieces will turn out. That is the true beauty and excitement in wood firing.

5. Do you have any advice to someone who aspires to be a pottery artist in Singapore?

YT: Passion. One will face lots of challengers and hurdles if they pursue pottery art as a career. The reason being is because the pottery industry in Singapore is very niche and small, and we are slowly replaced by the modern technology. Therefore, this is a very challenging, long and dire journey. You will also need a lot of different knowledge while doing firing, such as the physics law and chemistry. So to say, pottery art is unlike the other art forms as it high costs, labour intensive, time consuming and highly technical.

6. Lastly, do you have anything you would like to add on and share with our readers about the coming multi-disciplinary concert by Ding Yi Music Company, Songs of the Dragon Kiln 《龙窑陶乐》?

YT: I do hope that the public will come and support local talents and art. This concert is very meaningful as it promotes the disappearing heritage many Singaporeans have long forgotten. Hope that the public can be more open minded to explore such multi-disciplinary performances.

Thank you Yulianti Tan for taking our interview! 

Catch the Songs of the Dragon Kiln, a multi-disciplinary production with Chinese chamber music, documentary film and ceramics. Be mesmerized with the stirring performances by the talented musicians from Ding Yi Music Company combining with the pottery instruments by the pottery artists from Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle.

Songs of the Dragon Kiln《龙窑陶乐》

Show Date: 3 December 2017, Sunday

Show Time:  5pm and 7.45pm

Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio

Ticketing agent: SISTIC

Ticket prices: $25

To find out more and to purchase the tickets at Sistic, please go to 

https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/cdragon1217

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