Creative Collaborators of A Prince’s Journey

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A Prince’s Journey is a heartwarming tale of passion and courage inspired by an ancient Song Dynasty painting, Along the River During the Qing Ming Festival <<清明上河图>>. As part ofOctoburst! – a Children’s Day Festival at Esplanade, it opens on 5 and 6 October 2013.

Ding Yi Music Company’s 12-piece ensemble will collaborate with Nanyang Polytechnic School of Interactive & Digital Media Design to bring about this adventurous tale of a little prince’s journey through an entertaining animated film accompanied by live Chinese music.

Little Day Out met up with James Lee, Lecturer from Nanyang Polytechnic School of Interactive & Digital Media Design, and Phang Kok Jun, Composer in Residence of Ding Yi Music Company, to find out what makes A Prince’s Journey different from any other straightforward film or music production and one that is suited for children.

Tell us a bit about the concept behind A Prince’s Journey?
James: We wanted to really engage the children who attend the performance, to make it contemporary yet culturally rich. Hence, we came up with the idea of a simple narrative to weave the music and visuals together.

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Kok Jun: It is an educational programme, introducing Chinese stringed instruments through live storytelling, live motion graphics, and of course, live music performance!

Why do you think young children will be able to relate to this performance?
James: It’s a very light-hearted performance, but with engaging visuals and rich diverse music from Ding Yi Music Company.

Kok Jun: It is a cartoon! – with an exciting storyline! Of course they’d relate to it!

How did the painting ‘Along the River During the Qing Ming Festival’ inspire you?
James: It’s hard not to be inspired by such an epic painting. It’s over 5.25 metres long, with 814 humans depicting a landscape from the countryside to the palace, detailing the life and culture of the people in that era. It’s a very deep well of resource to draw from.

Kok Jun: I first saw the painting when I was very young, while touring south China where the painting originated. I’ve always been intrigued by the details and the magnitude of the painting and hope to introduce it the younger generation. But just the painting alone may not appeal to the children who live in the age of television and computers today. Hence, we picked a few scenes from the painting, recreated them with modern-day motion graphics and threw in a storyline!

Who initiated the collaboration between Ding Yi Music Company and Nanyang Polytechnic School of Interactive & Digital Media?
James: Surprisingly, it was neither of us. It was Esplanade’s Assistant Producer of Programming, the most “awesome-est” Sara Joan Fang, who made the introduction in 2008. We have been collaborating since.

Kok Jun: Ding Yi has had a long working relationship with Nanyang Polytechnic School of Interactive & Digital Media since 2010, when we worked on our first Feed Your Imagination (FYI) programme at the Esplanade. Since then, we’ve worked on many projects, including the consecutive FYI shows, the Esplanade 10th Anniversary Concert and this time, Octoburst! 2013. We are always impressed with the quality of work the students produce and kudos to the lecturers for a great working experience!

What was it like working together on the creative process? Does the music, narration or the animation lead the production? Who makes the final creative decisions?
James: I’m happy to say that our creative process is quite organic. Sometimes it’s the music that comes first and at other times, the visuals and narrative come first. Ultimately, we will sit down at the end of the day and decide which is the most effective way to reach out to our audience, the children.

Kok Jun: This is essentially a music programme and I would think that the music leads the production. But as we go along, I always find that it is a two-way process. The students often take cues from the music and instruments while I find myself influenced by the visuals as well. Most often, we come to a consensus on the creative decisions, but ultimately, I think the musical decisions take priority.

Chinese InstrumentsFrom left to right: Yvonne Tay with the Gu Zheng, Koh Rui Hong on the Pipa and Yick Jue Ru on the Yang Qin.

Is the music being performed original? Who composed it?
James: The very talented Kok Jun! It’s really a joy working with such a passionate individual backed up by a skillful Music Company.

Kok Jun: Well, the combination in the show is so unique that we can’t find pre-existing materials that could fit in well. Therefore, I wrote a piece of music, tailor-made for this programme.

Was the animated film updated from its last presentation in 2011? What was done to it?
James: There will be some changes to it to give it even more polish.

As this is the second time A Prince’s Journey has been staged, was it easier collaborating this time around?
James: It’s a maturing relationship, as you get to know a person better, trust is developed. It certainly gets easier.

Kok Jun: Of course it’s much easier! Both the music and animation were completed earlier and we only need to apply some finishing touches. But we’re working with different musicians, narrators, and a smaller group of designers controlling the motion graphics, so there are still various challenges we have to face!

What advice would you give to parents interested in exposing their children to traditional Chinese music and culture?
James: Immerse them into the culture and heritage, by taking them to see this show!

Kok Jun: Many people have a stereotypical impression of what they think Chinese music is like, be it Chinese New Year songs, Chinese opera, or perhaps even Chinese funeral music. But in fact, Chinese instruments are versatile and are able to produce many, many beautiful sounds.

Chinese Instruments

From left to right: Jim Tan Zhong Xiao with the Zhong Ruan, Chia Wei Jian on the Da Ruan and Jonathan Ngeow with the Gao Yin Ruan.

One thing you would like children and parents to take away from A Prince’s Journey is …
James: Chinese Orchestra music/history/heritage/culture isn’t boring at all!

Kok Jun: Can I say two? On the surface, I hope the parents and children would be able to recognise, both aurally and visually, some of these Chinese stringed instruments in the future! But on a deeper level, I hope they’d come to appreciate Chinese music and instruments better, and hopefully be intrigued enough to start watching more concerts!


Watch A Prince’s Journey

A Prince’s Journey is one of the three productions held as part of Octoburst! – A Children’s Day Festival by Esplanade Presents from 4 to 6 October 2013. Book your tickets to watch this wonderful production through SISTIC now!

Read our story “Celebrate Children’s Day at Octoburst!” to find out more about the many other exciting ticketed and free programmes taking place at Octoburst! 2013 – A Children’s Day Festival.

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