SAF Band takes the US stage at international tattoo

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24 Apr 2023 | COMMUNITY

SAF Band takes the US stage at international tattoo

The SAF Band returned to the Virginia International Tattoo, the largest military tattoo in the United States (US), on 20 to 23 Apr.

Story by Thrina Tham / Photos by Chua Soon Lye

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Central Band represented Singapore on the world stage as they performed at the Virginia International Tattoo (VIT). Held in Norfolk, Virginia from 20 to 23 Apr, VIT featured an international cast of over 800 performers from eight countries this year.

The other participating countries included Australia, France, Latvia, New Zealand, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, along with their US host.

The SAF Central Band playing alongside their military musician counterparts in the massed bands and choir for the show opening.

The SAF Central Band performed an eight-minute long segment comprising four movements, which included nostalgic Singapore classics and popular Western music.

"Music is an international language. Through our performance, we project the professionalism of the SAF and touch the hearts of our audiences," said SAF Central Band's Director of Music, Military Expert (ME) 4 Ignatius Wang.

"We aim to tell not only the Singapore story, but also the American story….and we hope that we will be able to leave an impact and a lasting impression of Singapore," he added.

Here are some of the highlights of their performance:

All eyes are on drum major ME2 Jash Chua as he deftly hurls and his mace into the air and catches it.

The SAF Central Band began strong with We Are Singapore – a little "remember us?" to the American audience. This year is their second time playing at VIT – their debut was back in 2017.

The SAF Central Band and MDC keeps audiences hooked with an electric performance of "Mambo".

The second movement of the set featured the music and dance of Mambo from the American musical film, West Side Story.

Ten dancers from the Music & Drama Company (MDC) took centre stage to thrill the audience in this lively piece. While the dancers are a regular feature with the band, this is the largest number of dancers participating in an international tattoo with them.

Principal Flute ME2 Jasper Goh performing a solo to "America the Beautiful", a heartwarming ballad.

The music took a slower and gentler turn with America the Beautiful in the third movement, where Principal Flute ME2 Jasper Goh took the spotlight with a moving rendition.

The act also featured a string quartet from the MDC – the first time MDC musicians are participating in a military tattoo.

"I was feeling nervous backstage before the first performance – the arena was huge and almost entirely filled. But the feeling of fear quickly turned into serenity as I started playing the piece," said MDC violinist Corporal (CPL) Tay Yong.

It was the first time performing in such a big venue for the full-time national serviceman, who extended his national service to take part in the tattoo.

The third act features a string quartet from MDC. CPL Tay (second violin from left) extended his NS to perform at the tattoo.
Swung backwards, dipped low, and lifted into the air – MDC dancers Chan Chaopeng and Jeslyn Yang performing a dance duet to "America the Beautiful".

Also accompanying the music in America the Beautiful were MDC dancers Chan Chaopeng and Jeslyn Yang.

"It was an honour to be given opportunity to dance to such an iconic song," said Ms Yang, who said that the entire performance aimed to build understanding between different cultures.

She added that the most challenging aspect were the quick changes she had to execute and working with her loose, flowy skirt in the third movement.

"We have to be creative and utilise the skirt to complement the movements, while praying it doesn't come off," she said with a laugh. The dancer made four costume changes throughout the performance, one for each movement.

On having more MDC elements in the performance, ME4 Wang said: "This year, we wanted to do something special, we wanted to raise the stakes.

"We brought in more dancers and a string quartet because there's a lot more that we can do together. And they are brilliantly led by their chief choreographer, Andy Cai."

The SAF Central Band playing their instruments as they step to the beat and perform crisp formations.

In the fourth and final movement, the band paid tribute to Singaporeans with a rousing rendition of Home.

The SAF Central Band's segment was arranged by ME2 Joe Tan and orchestrated by ME2 Dax Wilson Liang and ME1 Gordon Tan. The formations of the show were choreographed by Chief Choreographer ME2 Pee Jun Ming.

Wonder how the cast of the tattoo rehearsed backstage? Check out ME1 Wong taking us backstage here:

An honour for Singapore

The band also joined the mass bands as they returned to the stage for a combined finale.

In the "Last Call" of the tattoo, Amazing Grace was sung by four vocalists including ME1 Isabelle Wong, who is also a bassoonist in the band.

Singapore's Ambassador to the US, Mr Ashok Kumar Mirpuri also received a salute in the finale of the tattoo. The salute is usually reserved for NATO members, and was extended to Singapore as a mark of respect.

"Amazing Grace" is sung by four vocalists, including ME1 Wong (first row, far right).
Singapore's Ambassador to the US, Mr Ashok Kumar Mirpuri (far right), receiving a salute in the finale.
More than 800 performers of VIT line up for the show's closing.

What did audiences think of the SAF Central Band's performance at the tattoo?

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