Effectively from Jan 1, Mr Kenneth Kwok takes over as chief executive of the Singapore Symphony Group (SSG) as Chng Hak-Peng steps down on Dec 31 to spend time with family and thereafter returning to the private sector. The 49-year-old first joined the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) as a volunteer in 2008, working pro bono on strategy and organisational change with the company’s management, before joining the board in 2011.
He became the CEO in October 2015.
In a recent open letter to the readers at Bravissimo, he began by saying: “…After some seven-and-a-half years, it does not feel like the end of a marathon, but merely the end of one leg of a relay. I am excited to pass the baton to Mr Kenneth Kwok. This baton is everyone’s national treasure and our role is to set the conditions for the treasure to shine.”
Kwok, 47, is a familiar face in the arts scene. Prior to becoming CEO, he was a senior director of service quality and community engagement at the Municipal Services Office at the Ministry of National Development. He was assistant chief executive of the National Arts Council, and has sat on the boards and advisory council of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and the Arts House Limited, among other arts institutions. Kwok was also a literature and drama teacher.
The open letter also went on to highlight some of the recent achievements garnered by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. In 2021, Gramophone Magazine placed the SSO in third place under the list of ‘Orchestra of the year 2021’. And the 21 world’s best orchestras by BBC Music Magazine in November 2022.
That SSO strives to bring music till the very last moment before the Circuit Breaker, a Singaporean version of the lockdown period. Launching its own digital concert hall, SSOLOUNGE in 2021 to bring music right into homes.
Music education and development have always been at the heart of the Singapore government’s route to progress. In this aspect, the Singapore Symphony Choruses and the Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO) have made efforts to attract members from across Singapore. They received positive reviews from recordings with the SSO on the BIS label in 2021 and 2022, while fresh from their transfer from the Ministry of Education into the arts group in 2016 and acclaimed Southern China tour in 2018.
To connect on a deeper level with the community, the SSO and SNYO’s repertoire was extended and performed regularly in neighbourhoods and schools. And even providing musical experiences to social service agencies and welfare organisations.
It is true that no one should be denied access to the beauty of music.
Founded in 1979, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra is Singapore’s flagship orchestra, touching lives through classical music.
Making her Singapore debut, the up-and-coming young Japanese pianist Seika Ishida performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 twice over two nights, showing why her name is surely one to watch in the future.
Seika’s encores were Liadov’s Prelude (No.1) in D-flat from 3 Pieces, Op. 11 (Wednesday) and Scriabin’s Etude No. 10 in D-flat major, from his Op. 8 collection of 12 Etudes (Thursday).
The concert also featured our Principal Flute Jin Ta, taking the stage again for a rare miniature flute concerto, Charles Griffes’s Poem. SSO former Principal Guest Conductor Andrew Litton led the orchestra in these works as well as Tchaikovsky’s Orchestral Suite No. 3.