Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Radio Orchestra on Caldecott Hill

 The Radio Orchestra (subsequently known as the RTS Orchestra and SBC Orchestra) must be the longest surviving support group on the Hill. It provided good music for more than 50 years for both a Radio and TV programmes. I remember them well as they appeared frequently to support our local singers. And also when we played the RTM/RTS games both in KL and Singapore, the Orchestra was  the team to appear in the exchange of cultural  shows hosted alternately by both stations.
Mun Chor Seng sent the article below to let us remember the Orchestra.

"The Radio Orchestra at it was known then was formed in 1945.  The string section was predominantly made up of the orchestra were filled by expatriate musicians.  In 1959, the Malayanairs was born, it produced music went out of the vogue.  More musicians and woodwind and brass instruments were added to provide a more versatile combination under the leader of the orchestra Mr. Dick Abel.  They provided recorded popular and classical music for transmission to all the section of Radio Singapore.  Some of the programmes featured then were:


b) RAYUN SUKMA, included mainly Malay and popular instrumental numbers for 15 to 30 minutes programmes for all the radio networks.  Three to six musicians were involved for the above programmes.

c) LATIN SIX, a programme that was mainly music from Latin America.

d) MUSICA VIVA, a classical programme mainly involved with Chamber Music, for violin, cello and piano.  During that time I heard over the English Network the complete work of Beethoven's Trio in B-Flat Major, "Archduke" Op. 97.  Such programmes were mainly broadcast over the weekend in the late evening.

e) THE MALAYANAIRS with augmentees where local Malay and Mandarin and Indian singers were involved in the 30 minutes programme recorded for the respective sections.

The Malayanairs, as the new orchestra was known, started with only 9 musicians.  It had to be augmented when the need arose to serve the four different radio networks which closed down at 11 pm nightly.

On 1 July 1960, commercial advertising was introduced on radio.  There was a higher demand for radio orchestra for sponsored programmes which brought in extra revenue and audience participation.  The radio orchestra was then lead by Mr. Gus Steyn who was performing in the Broadcasting House in Caldecott Hill as well as outside venues such as the Cultural Centre, Victoria Theatre, Singapore Badminton Hall and City Hall Steps etc.

In 1963 with the introduction of television, the same orchestra was known as the Radio & Television Singapore (RTS) Orchestra.  The musicians then were Mr. Gus Steyn (piano), Mr. Ahmad Jaafar (Saxophone), Mr. Valentine Otega (Baritone), Mr. Reynaldo Lanchica (1st Alto), Mr. Olimpio Galaura (Trumpet), Mr. Lano (Trombone), Mr. Winston Filmer (Double Bass) and Mr. Rofino Solinao (Drum).  In order to cope with the normal output for radio, it also had to bear the additional responsibility to provide additional music backing for the major live television shows.

On 19 Jan 1965, Gus Steyn gave his farewell performance as leader of the RTS Orchestra at a Chinese Variety show in Victoria Theatre.  At the end of the show, he was garlanded by members of the audience and gave a short speech.  Mr. Loo Koon Fun from the Chinese Programme Section presented a memento to Mr. Gus Steyn on behalf of the management of Radio Singapore.

In 1965, Mr. Ahmad Jaafar was the Deputy Director of Radio Orchestra.  He took over as leader in 1966 and as conductor of the orchestra from 1967 - 1982.  During that period, he established himself as a fine music arranger and composer for theme music for radio and TV productions.

When the station was converted into Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) in February 1980, the total number of musicians was increased to 31.  With those numbers, they could be divided to form two or three groups of smaller orchestras to meet the needs of the rapid bookings of the radio and television services of SBC.  Should the need arise, these musicians could be pooled together to perform as a concert orchestra.

In 1980, SBC played host to the visiting Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) Orchestra which performed successfully in Singapore.  In April 1981, the RTS Orchsestra paid a reciprocal performance in Angkasapuri in Kuala Lumpur under the title of "Puspasara" featuring the full RTS Orchestra in Concert.  According to the "Puspasara" programme, which was distributed to the audiences then, there were 31 musicians featured.  It was divided into 4 different sections, strings, brass, woodwinds and rhythm & percussion.  The SBC Orchestra then featured the following musicians: Strings: (1st Violins) - Wong Eit Sun, Braulio Bacsafra Jr, Chow Kum Leng & Quek Peng Hoon, (2nd Violin) Adams Lin Jui Fang, Yeo Teow Meng, Leslie Lim Wave Houng & Tan Kok Hwa, (Viola) - Julai Tan & Ng Boon Eng, (Cello) - Tham Chaik Kong & Patricia Wei. Brass: (1st Trumpet) - Jimmy Fong Pak Lee, (2nd Trumpet) Olimpio Galaura, (3rd Trumpet) Lit Woon Cheong, (1st Trombone) - David Chen Chao Hor, (2nd Trombone) - Tonni Wei Shi Ren, (3rd Trombone) - Louis Castillo.  Woodwinds: (1st Alto) Reynaldo Lachica, (2nd Alto) Celso Lachica, (1st Tenor) - John Lee Boon Eng, (2nd Tenor) -  Leonard St John Fernandez, (Baritone) - Valetine Ortega. Piano & Synthesizer -  (Organ) - Terrence Cyril de Souza.  (Guitar) - Danny Lim Ai Koon, (Drums) - Louis Soliano, Piano & Synthesizer -  Charles Godfrey Lazaroo, (Bass Guitar) -  Winston Malvern Filmer, (Percussion) - Tan Chin Boo. (Leader & Conductor) -  Ahmad Jaafar & (Deputy Leader) - Rufino Varella Soliano. The stage production was by Mr. Vernon Palmer and the stage management by Mr. Steven Lee with Miss Mini Fok Wei Ya as the compere. Orchestrations by: Ahmad Jaafar, Iskandar Ismail, Charles Lazaroo, John Lee & Sam Gan.

Mr. Ahmad Jaafar was honoured with the Pingat Pentadbiran Awan (The Public Administration Medal) award in 1969 and the Cultural Medallion in 1981 for his contribution to music to Singapore.  He retired in 1982 and passed away in 2009.

Rufino Soliano took over the leadership of the orchestra from 1983 till he retired in 1994.

In Jan 1987, Christopher Dainel, a graduate of Boston's Berklee College of Music was appointed as the new Director of the Orchestra.  By the early 1990s, the Radio Singapore Orchestra was disbanded.

Listed below are the photographs taken by me over the years where the Radio Singapore Orchestra took part in the following events:

Photo 1:  Inche Yusof Ishak, the Yang di-Pertuan of Singapore together with Mr. S. Rajarathnam (Minister of Culture) and Mr. John Duclos (Director of Broadcasting) met Mr. Gus Steyn and Radio Singapore Orchestra members  in the Radio Auditorium.

Photo 2: Launching of the Suara Singapura service of Radio Singapore by Inche Yusof Ishak, the Yang de-Pertuan of Singapore with the finale item of the programme on stage.

Photo 3: A sponsored radio programme held at the Singapore Badminton Hall.

Photo 4: A sponsored "Tiger Oil" Chinese radio programme held at the Cultural Centre (Fort Canning).

Photo 5: Group photo of Mr. Gus Steyn (left) with fellow musicians taken in Radio Auditorium of Broadcasting House.

Photo 6: Chinese TV Variety Programme featuring Miss S.K. Poon at the new TV Singapura Studio.

Photo 7: The Radio Orchestra took part in the TV inauguration celebrations at Caldecott Hill.

Photo 8: After the National Day Parade, the Radio Orchestra took part in the multi-cultural variety show at the City Hall Steps.

Photo 9: The National competition of the Asia Broadcasting Union (ABU) Popular Song Contest at Studio 5 of TV Singapore.

Photo 10: RTM/SBC joined production of TV variety programme which took place at Angkasapuri, KL, Malaysia. "


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