Singaporean Jazz-vocalist Joanna Dong teamed up with composer Chok Kerong to release ‘第一章’ (The First Chapter) on the 24th of September, marking the first in the UTOPIA Reimagined series which will see four artists reimagining a symphony written by Russian composer Vladimir Martynov and recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Speaking on the songwriting process, Dong expresses in a press statement: “For most of my career I’ve focused on honing my performance skills instead of songwriting, even though there have been enquiries to do so over the years. Since the pandemic threw most of my life into disarray, I took the opportunity to ‘reset’ myself.”
Enlisting the help of Kerong to write the music, which is a feat that the multi-instrumentalist isn’t unfamiliar with. Most notably, Kerong has worked with Charlie Lim on the singer-songwriter’s acclaimed double-EP ‘Time/Space’.
Lim, who is the executive music producer for UTOPIA and last worked with Dong for single '等睡醒以后' also lends his vocals on the track, with Dong saying: “I also believe this was only possible because both the commissioning body, as well as executive producer Charlie Lim, gave me so much freedom."
"The result is a piece of music that departs from what anyone would consider my ‘usual’ style of music, nor Kerong’s for that matter. I think that it is poetic that in reimagining the UTOPIA Symphony, we were also able to reimagine ourselves.”
Earlier this year, Singaporean arts charity The Foundation, founded for The Arts and Social Enterprise, launched a 10-year commissioning series that spans works across various genres of music to build a canon for Singapore music. Entitled "The Series", it kick-starts the first of ten inaugural commissions, beginning with Singaporean composer and Cultural Medallion recipient Kelly Tang (Dr). On top of orchestral works, "The Series" will employ local artists Charlie Lim, Aisyah Aziz, Shigga Shay, and Dong onboard in reimagining the UTOPIA series.
Listen to ‘第一章’ (The First Chapter) here and leave your review on Hear65.