Elegy is a piece for solo cello, and was composed as a tribute to the Bukit Brown Cemetery in Singapore, as well to the deceased resting in Bukit Brown.
In 2012, the Singapore Government announced that a significant portion of the graves in the cemetery would be exhumed to make way for the construction of a four-lane road, and that the entire cemetery would eventually be demolished within forty years’ time for further urban redevelopment. This move has sparked a public outcry in Singapore, prompting heritage enthusiasts, historians, environmentalists and other members of the public to speak out against the government’s urban redevelopment plan.
The Bukit Brown Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Singapore, as well as the eventual resting place of many key historical figures of the country. It also holds immense historical significance for its role as a battlefield site during the Japanese Occupation which occurred during the Second World War. Brimming with biodiversity, it is also a natural habitat to a rich variety of flora and fauna, and is notably rich in birdlife with 91 species (resident and migratory) recorded so far, including 13 nationally-threatened species.
This elegy has been composed not just as a gesture to honor the deceased resting in Bukit Brown, but also as a gesture of mourning for the eventual demise of the cemetery. While we look forward towards progress in the form of urbanization, what price are we really paying?
Premiered by cellist Pedro Sánchez on 25 September 2014 in Hatch Recital Hall, Eastman Theatre, Rochester, New York, USA