In 2010, Woon Wen Kin was given a difficult task: take over the reins of amateur orchestra Penang Philharmonic (then known as the Penang State Symphony Orchestra and Chorus or Pessoc) and turn it into a respectable outfit. It’s a tall order for any new orchestra, much less one operating in Penang on a shoestring budget. But Woon is nothing if not ambitious.
“We want the Penang Philharmonic to be developed into an internationally recognised orchestra,” he said.
“We want it to represent the future of Penang culture, especially in music.”
Today, the orchestra has some 80 members, playing everything from the violin to the oboe to the double bass. Its members consist of the young and the old, ranging from students to engineers to company presidents. Woon keeps them busy with hours of rehearsals a week at the Dewan Sri Pinang, and has them playing a concert every two or three months. Tasked with building up the standard of the orchestra, he has regularly brought in guest conductors and artistes to perform, including violinist Raymond Ng and cellist Elizabeth Tan; and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music associate professor Chan Tze Law conducted a workshop concert in November 2011.
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