The classical music scene in Singapore will be poorer with the absence of a personality such as Dr Marc Rochester, esteemed Gramophone and International Record Review music critic and official annotator of Singapore Symphony Orchestra's programme notes, who leaves our shores for the deserts of the Middle East in May. Hopefully this would be a short hiatus when he takes a breather from the crazy musical world of Southeast Asia to the international music festival in oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
Marc and his lovely family arrived in Singapore four years ago, having left his post at the oil-rich Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra where he was its musical consultant, organist and annotator. My first impulse was to grab him to write concert reviews for The Straits Times, its readers having been inflicted with my point of view for long enough and deserved an alternative voice. We shared reviewing duties, especially increasingly on evenings when there were concerts at both Esplanade and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory. "No good concert should be left uncriticised," seemed to be our shared mission, and it was great see our reviews side-by-side (great for me, at least). There was one crazy weekend in last August which saw four of our concert reviews appear in the Monday morning post!
Marc's reviews are always insightful, entertaining and often hilarious. He will always get you to see his point of view, even if you do not necessarily agree with it. Never shying away from being totally frank and honest, controversy is always around the corner. You can catch his must-read, no-holds-barred blog at: http://drmarcsblog.marcrochester.com
Perhaps it takes a non-Singaporean to burst the myth that Esplanade Concert Hall's acoustics are perfect and without blemish, or to state point blank that the SSO does not hold a candle to the MPO (for now, that is), or that the classical musical scene in Singapore is provincially amateurish. It has cost him some a fair bit, knowing that Esplanade (Singapore's biggest presenter of classical music) has dispensed of his writing services as a result of his opinions. It is wholly their loss, not his.
He is almost always right, and as a mirror held against our pretensions, he tells it as he sees it, and we would be fools to ignore him (like our provincially amateurish classical radio station invariably will). For all this, we say "Thank You" and I hope the powers that be do listen, take notes and actually do something about it. Perhaps The Arts House would replace their Shigeru Kawai (Marc's bete noire) with a Steinway grand!
Singapore's "Golden Age" of music criticism? Discuss.