SINGAPORE, 26 January 2022 – Award winners in their respective pop and classical music fields, singer-songwriter Charlie Lim and Ng Pei-Sian, Principal Cellist of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, teamed up for the first time to release a single, “Into Dreams”, which will be released on 4 February 2022 on all major digital platforms.
“Into Dreams” rounds off the UTOPIA Reimagined initiative, commissioned by the Foundation for the Arts and Social Enterprise (“The Foundation”). This initiative consists of four reimaginations of the Singapore-inspired UTOPIA Symphony (“the Symphony”) written by Russian composer Vladimir Martynov and recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). The Symphony was originally commissioned in 2003 by then Ambassador to Russia Michael Tay, who currently serves as Founder and Executive Director of The Foundation, then recorded by the LPO on its label and released in November 2019.
“My interpretation came from a more personal space,” says Charlie of the songwriting process. “Thematically it builds on ShiGGa Shay’s Reimagined single, which questions what we are chasing and striving towards. With ‘Into Dreams’, I wanted to talk about the difficult balance between our ambition – which always pushes us to do better – and the tension of not always being able to achieve what we want to, due to things being beyond our control. It’s a reminder that our work, our dreams, and goals, shouldn’t define us entirely.”
“I’ve always wanted to write and arrange for a project that incorporates neo-classical and romantic influences,” explains Charlie. “Pei-Sian coming on board was the perfect fit, not only is he a master of his instrument, but he’s constantly pushing his own boundaries as an artist and open to trying new things. We got really obsessive over every nuance and detail when we were putting the song together.”
“Into Dreams” features Ng Pei-Sian on cello, with elements of his favourite classical repertoire woven into the song. Pei-Sian’s creative input features prominently in the bridge, where he gives a nod to famed Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s lyricism and melodies, establishing yet another Russia-Singapore connection in the piece.
“My brother actually plays for the LPO, although he was not among the musicians who recorded the Symphony back in 2019. I found it fascinating that a Russian composer was writing about Singapore, and that it was a Russian interpretation of Singapore,” says Pei-Sian. On this collaboration, Pei-Sian adds: “I’ve been a fan of Charlie for years – I stumbled upon his music on Spotify and fell in love with his sound and lyrics, which goes right to the heart. To work with him is a dream come true, and even though he’s a pop musician, and I am from the classical world, it is so exciting to see what can come out of our collaboration.”
Charlie’s direction for the UTOPIA Reimagined Initiative stems from the opportunity to work with artistes from different backgrounds across various genres, in a bid to raise awareness for the UTOPIA Symphony, as well as The Foundation’s aim to bring Singapore art and artistes on to the global stage. Through this project, he hopes to make listeners question what “utopia” means to them, and how to achieve it.
Charlie adds: “It was a huge privilege to help oversee the entire project, where I got to wear different hats: with Joanna, I was more of a sounding board to help make sure that it would be a song that her fans would enjoy; with Aisyah, I was a little more hands on and got to session on guitar while guiding the production and arrangement; and with ShiGGa Shay, whose producer is based in the UK, I worked with him to pick beats that would best work with what ShiGGa was writing about, and even got to produce and record his vocals, which was a first for me.”
Michael Tay, The Foundation’s founder, notes: “Charlie’s single marks the end of the first edition of our UTOPIA Reimagined Initiative, and coincidentally, is a powerful example of how Singapore can be plugged into the global world of the arts – as shown by this Symphony that was first written in Moscow but touches the lives of musicians in London and Singapore.
“We’ve also seen our four commissioned artists talk about their own ‘utopia’ and what it means to them,” says Michael. “We hope that listeners of our four artists have found new meaning in ‘utopia’ in these turbulent times, and are inspired to strive towards their very own ‘utopia’. We are also looking towards future iterations, which could encompass different artists and different mediums of art.”
Young Artist Award recipient Charlie first broke into the music scene with his self-titled debut EP in 2011, and has extensive touring experience playing major festivals such as Singapore’s Mosaic Music Festival, Korea’s Jarasum International Jazz Festival, Kuala Lumpur’s Urbanscapes, Hong Kong’s Clockenflap, Indonesia’s Java Jazz Festival, and Australia’s Brisbane Festival, amongst others. He released double EP TIME/SPACE in 2015, following it up with CHECK-HOOK in 2018. Charlie was commissioned to write two theme songs for the 28th Southeast Asian Games in 2015, and was also behind the updated version of National Day song “We are Singapore”, performed at the National Day Parade in 2018 and 2020.
The first track of the UTOPIA Reimagined Initiative, jazz vocalist Joanna Dong’s 《第一章》(The First Chapter), was released in September 2021. This was followed by Aisyah Aziz’s “Euphoria” in October, and ShiGGa Shay’s “Chasing” in November. All four album covers for the series are reimaginations of the original art used for the CD cover of the LPO’s UTOPIA Symphony album, by Singapore artist Kenny Low.
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Dawn Wong, Project Director, The Foundation