In 1926, Mr T.W. Hinch founded the first ‘orchestral ensemble’ with the help of Goh Soon Tioe, who was then a student. Hinch, who later became the school principal, believed in the need to instill greater interest in extra-curricular activities, and hence was responsible for the formation of many other societies. Consisting of violins, a cello, a saxophone and a piano, this ‘orchestra’ gave its first concert in 1930, a fund-raising event which saw excellent ticket sales. At that concert, they performed works including Sousa’s Gladiator March and Robert Gibbs ‘Youth Triumphant’
In the ensuring years up to World War II, there were no more records of this orchestra’s activities or existence. After the war, in the late forties and early fifties, various ad hoc ensembles under the banner of ‘ACS Orchestra’ were formed. Most of them were conducted by Mr Goh Soon Tioe, who was by now a violin teacher.
1957 saw the formation of the ACS Music Society by Mr Benjamin Khoo, a teacher. From the beginning, the society proposed to form an orchestra, as its previous incarnations must have died out by this time. The Music Society, amongst organizing music competitions, organized a recital by the world renowned pianist, Julius Katchen.
The official date given for the establishment of the ACS Orchestra is 1962. The orchestra grew under the artistic guidance of Mr. Choo Hwee Lim and Mr. Lim Peng Ann – teachers who also acted as conductors and advisors, from a violin ensemble, into a fully fledged string section. By 1971, the orchestra was a fully fledged symphonic orchestra with wind, brass and percussion sections, and is noted to have performed Handel’s ‘Water Music’ in 1971, and Dvorak’s ‘Slavonic Dances’ in 1976.
In the 1970s, it was recognised as Singapore’s leading school orchestra, taking the top position at the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Central Judging multiple times. The group gradually became known as the String Ensemble in the 1980s. The ensemble won the Certificate of Distinction in the 1995 SYF under the guidance of Ms Tan Peng Tow. With the appointment of Mr. Chan Tze Law as Music Director in 1997, the ensemble was renamed the ACS (I) Chamber Orchestra.
In 1998, they performed their first symphony, Schubert’s 5th Symphony in its entirety. The Chamber Orchestra also performed classical masterpieces such as Mozart’s 40th Symphony and Beethoven’s 8th Symphony in recent years.
Some of our members have also performed in several Singapore Lyric Opera Productions, such as that for Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel, and Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.
In 2004, the Orchestra went on its first overseas tour, to Perth, Australia, performed the world premiere of Professor Bernard Tan’s Missa Bravis, and participated in masterclasses conducted by Maestro Peter Moore. The Orchestra also subsequently performed in the Singapore Sacred Music Festival, in collaboration with the Singapore Lyric Opera Children’s Chorus.
In 2006, the ACS (Independent) Philharmonic Orchestra was formed. In an initiative led by the inaugural cohort of International Baccalaureate students from the ACS (Independent) Chamber Orchestra, students, from the ACS family of schools, both past and present came together to perform as the ACS (Independent) Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006.
The new orchestra’s mission is to cultivate youth leadership through music at ACS (Independent). The orchestra made its debut at the new Tan Sri Tan Chin Tuan Auditorium in July 2006, performing Mendelssohn’s and Beethoven’s 5th Symphonies in its inaugural concert.The successful concert, was entirely managed and presented by the orchestra’s student committee. The debut also marked an important milestone by celebrating Mr. Chan Tze Law’s ten successful years as Music Director and Resident Conductor.
The ensemble can hold several unique achievements to its name. Not only has it clinched the Gold Award at the Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging in 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 making it seven consecutive Gold Awards in recent history, it has also established a glowing international reputation, with invitations from peer institutions and music conservatories abroad, such as the Trinity College of Music London, the Mid-Sussex Youth Orchestra UK, and the Western Australian Youth Orchestra. Recently, the orchestra embarked on its second overseas tour, to the United Kingdom, collaborating with the Trinity College of Music and the Mid-Sussex Youth Orchestra.
With strong support from the school, the orchestra intends to explore the symphonic repertoire under music director Mr Yang Zheng Yi, intends to explore the symphonic repertory as well as seeking further collaborative opportunities around the world, taking its place in Singapore’s increasingly vibrant music scene.
The orchestra make its performing home at the state-of-the-art Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) International Baccalaureate Music Centre in 2007, along with a newly designed Centre for Performing Arts (CPA 2).