Singapore Symphony lines up with sinking Malaysia

Singapore Symphony lines up with sinking Malaysia


norman lebrecht

July 06, 2021

The following message on the Malaysian Philharmonic situation has been released by the CEO of the Singapore Symphony, Hak Peng-Chng:


This has not been an easy time for orchestras around the world, with entire orchestras in the US and UK put on long furlough when the pandemic hit in April 2020.
Here in Asia, where societies prioritised a communal approach and the saving of jobs, orchestras like MPO and SSO have kept musicians on full salaries. As such, all the major Asian orchestras have had to struggle with a bleak financial reality.
While we in Singapore have had small ensembles perform live concerts and carry out some fundraising since November 2020, our friends in Malaysia have performed to a live audience only twice in more than a year, remaining in lockdown for the weeks ahead.
I was in touch with the CEO of the MPO today to share our concern. We both look forward to the new normal when thing will be clearer. MPO’s priorities will still continue to focus on performing for the public, and MPO will remain as a sizable ensemble so that music-making can continue there.
The MPO and SSO, as well as the MPYO and SNYO, are close partners, as good neighbours always are. Our youth orchestras have annual exchanges and camps, and members have formed firm friendships with one another. I expressed my hope that, whatever path is chosen after the re-evaluation, the MPO will take good care and do its utmost fairest for the music community, its own musicians, and the music-loving audience that it has grown since its formation 23 years ago.



  • Concerned says:

    Sadly, very poor leadership on the part of the Singapore Symphony CEO to make this statement! Hak Peng is either completely naive or supportive of the kind of behavior the MPO management has displayed time and time again. Malaysia killed their orchestra by firing more than half of their players. The SSO CEO brags about their fruitful collaborations from the past and looks forward to more in the future….. wtf….Watch out SSO you are next… there is precedent!

    • JP says:

      The funding situation of the SSO is very different from the MPO’s, not to mention the attitudes of the two Govs towards orchestra. So it’s definitely an exaggeration to say the SSO will go down the road of the MPO.

      But it’s very true that under Mr Chng’s ignorant so-called leadership, staff and musician morale even pre-Covid has not sunk any lower in recent years, something he brushes off and continues his merry way of doing things that benefits no one other than himself. After all, if everyone at work is talking to him superficially politely all the time anyway, no one could be said to be unhappy with him, right?

      If he had his way, I am positive he would be only too happy to take bows during curtain calls at every concert. But not before promoting his photo from the inside cover of SSO publications to the front!

    • Jeff says:

      You will now be caned….

    • SSOviolin says:

      The reason that Hak-Peng is sympathetic to the Malaysian Philharmonic is that he is like every past and present CEO of the MPO in that he was given his position despite having absolutely no orchestra management

      • Inside SSO says:

        You technically don’t need to have orchestra management experience to be the CEO of an orchestra(or company). What you do need is basic management experience, conscience, and humanity, which have been questionable since day one.

        The guy is so insecure at his own ineptness, he covers it up by gaslighting all capable (current and ex) administrators, musicians and conductors; and brought in an army of his own pals who themselves are just as incompetent and holding high ranks too.

        The way he has managed the company/orchestra throughout covid has been an utter disgrace. Every staff meeting he spends at least 30min giving the whole team a silly Covid report like the newscaster he wishes he was, as if we aren’t already reading/watching the news – absolute bloody waste of time.

        Never mind the fact that the man blatantly lies about everything. Says one thing to one department, a second to another, and a third to the other. Essentially he’s managed to pit one department against the other.

        Can we do anything about it? Of course not –
        1. his own pals are at the helm of HR except neither are HR trained so can only listen to their leader instead of making their own sound judgements
        2. we’re constantly having to cleanup after 2 children (being the CEO in question and his protégé Hans Sorenson)
        3. there’s the national orchestra’s name at stake that we’re so desperately trying to protect, since the 2 goons are just flicking everything out of the sand box
        4. we all have mouths to feed

        So we shut the f up and deal with the bullshit, and just hope that the board does something about it.

        Whichever company Mr Chng gets sent to in the future is only going to suffer the same fate the SSO has.

        He just shouldn’t be leading any company, period.

        One SSO family? Sure. It’s all smoke and mirrors at this point.

        • exsso says:

          @Inside SSO, that’s really hilarious! I suppose he’s very in love with his own voice (my god, when he sang or rather shouted at one of our dinners into the mic… loudly… like he is josh groban or something…), and the covid updates are in line with the MOH reposts he puts on his desperate facebook page. maybe it’s part of the job description as next MOH perm sec position he is angling for? how’s his relationship with the current minister? maybe minister can play his guitar, and hp can sing xinyao like tone-deaf jj lin… oh dear, just the thought makes my hair stand!

          • CL0 says:

            There must be some reason he can remain as CEO right? If not the company would have folded.

  • Unstrung says:

    Wow, to turn nothing more than a gossip on the phone with the MPO chief into a full-on post, modeled after a country leadership’s PR / diplomacy playbook, that is helpful to absolutely nobody. Then you remember that the poor Singapore orchestra is led by people with mindsets and ambitions of senior bureaucrats, and it all kind of makes sense.

  • JP says:

    Rather than spend time minding the business of others without actually being helpful, Mr Chng should be spending more of his time, his efforts and his enthusiasm on taking care of his own shop in his own backyard!

  • fflambeau says:

    Lots of things wrong with this post:

    1) “The MPO and SSO, as well as the MPYO and SNYO, are close partners, as good neighbours always are.” Good neighbours? Not really, they hate each other.

    2) “MPO’s priorities will still continue to focus on performing for the public, and MPO will remain as a sizable ensemble so that music-making can continue there.” Not in touch with reality.

    3) “Here in Asia, where societies prioritised a communal approach and the saving of jobs….” What nonsense. And hasn’t the MPO just been axed? How is that “saving jobs”?

  • Anon says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with showing support for a fellow neighbour in times of need…thats what good neighbours do…at least thats was what I was taught growing up.

    • Neighbours says:

      Good neighbours also call their neighbours out when they’re doing bad things. Example: ASEAN countries call Myanmar out for killing their own people.

    • Ka Chng says:

      Is there a need to show such support publicly when the details are not even clear from mpo’s own mouth, when mpo is intentionally leaving things unclear? what purpose does it serve? which part of Lebrecht’s post is an unfounded rumour by Chng’s definition: all of it? there aren’t going to be mass dismissals by Christmas, really? mpo is not saying one way or another, but the sso chief seems to be. who is he anyway to confirm there are not going to be mass dismissals?

      i fully support showing support. but Chng’s post is far more loaded than just that and totally unnecessary. it helps nobody. it’s attention seeking and to all the wrong things.

      at this very time, the best thing to do is to shut up and wait for clearer news. and if you must, call your friend in the mpo to get information, and offer your support there. not write a public post like he did, and worse, bringing the organisation he works for with him. what other purpose could it serve other than to draw attention to himself? Who does he think he is, a minister?

    • jeff says:

      How gullible you are, Anon. If only Hak Peng’s intentions were so simple and pure…

      • SSO guy says:

        He only cares about himself, Hak Peng thinks he is the GOD of the Singapore arts scene. Everyone here knows he was an incompetent musician when he was still playing….. I am sure he thinks the SSO respects him……. To his face, people show him respect and attention, but behind the scenes, we all roll our eyes….. His post was not surprising to us but affirming……

        • fflanders says:

          To be fair, you don’t need to be a competent musician to be a competent CEO of an Orchestra. Apolitical and music-centric decisions are more important than how well he plays an instrument

          • SSO Guy says:

            He’s doing the artistic planning. I really think you need to have been a competent musician at some point to do this CEO/Artistic planning post. To be honest it is quite pathetic. The SSO deserves someone much more qualified.

          • JP says:

            Apolitical and music-centric he most certainly is NOT! Total opposite, in fact!!

            True he doesn’t need to actually play an instrument well to be CEO, but how about musical knowledge at least? Anyway, what business does this CEO have doing programming in the first place? His skillset and job description are management and running the organisation, not artistic planning. To do the artistic stuff, even if he’s not a competent musician, he must surely understand the business, the industry, have a good grasp of the breadth of the repertoire, have good taste, and make musical choices. He’s a rookie, masquerading as an expert. At no time are his decisions based on balancing the needs of the orchestra, the audience and box office pressure. He programs based on vanity. What he can claim credit for. Which soloist he can fanboy with. Which piece to build some meaningless statistic. I’m not saying these things are not important, but when they are all he is using to make decisions, then he should be drawing up playlists for Classic FM, not messing with the national orchestra’s artistic development.

        • Adonis says:

          @SSO Guy – He was a musician??! What did he play?? I thought he’s at best a pretend musician and a fanboy of Milos and (insert name of any goodlooking male player).

  • former SSO subscriber says:

    Narcissus Chng HP thinks he’s the Minister of the Arts for Singapore, leading his Orchestra into musical mediocrity. Don’t be fooled by the gramophone nomination.
    The SSO typically puts up perfunctory performances, the musicians seem to be doing phoning it in just for their monthly paycheck. Waste of time.

    • JP says:

      Narcissus isn’t the Minister. He’s the Minister’s shoe-polisher. The orchestra is the polish, and National Day propaganda concerts are his cloth.

  • Peter says:

    Wrong picture. The home of the SSO is the Esplanade, not Marina Bay Sands. Photographer should be facing the other way.

    • Pan says:

      Their home is Victoria Concert Hall. The SSO rents the Esplanade.

      • Peter says:

        Thanks for the correction Pan. Can you elaborate ? Wiki (not always reliable) captions VCH as “home of SSO since 1980”, and Esplanade as “principle performing venue”. What is the distinction ? And what is the formal relationship between SSO and VCH ?

    • Nick2 says:

      Another reason for getting rid of that Marina Bay Sands photo is that it is a ghastly monster of a hotel. Checking in? Queue for 30 minutes. Want the lift to your floor? Queue for around 10 minutes. Want breakfast? Queue for 30 minutes. Checking out? Same as checking in. Oh, I know that infinity pool at the top looks great. It isn’t! You become a sideshow with many dozens who pay to get up there for the views standing behind the pool taking photos of you as you swim. I got a free room when addressing a music conference. Never again!

  • Sad Player says:

    chng hp is best when he thinks of himself as artistic planner. thanks to him, we had a season of pretty boys for soloists, and a laughing stock of a conductor of video games music.

    • SSO guy says:

      I know right… can you do artistic planning when you spend all day looking in the mirror complimenting yourself on how great you think you are? The programming has been abysmal….

      • Not an SSO guy says:

        What about Hans Sorensen? Wasn’t he supposed to come in and run the artistic planning side and provide some artistic vision for once?

        • JP says:

          Sorensen only does what the boss tells him to do. He has very little autonomy. Not that he needs the autonomy to bring any great programming ideas of his own… but that’s another story!

          Because the boss thinks of the SSO as half jukebox half tool for personal benefit, Sorensen doesn’t need to contribute much at all!

          You would think all this unprofessional behavior would come to a stop with the appointment of Hans Graf. But no. Since Graf could barely start doing his job fully when he started his appointment, COVID helped prolong this dismal situation.

          No one says anything because everyone is just grateful to have a job and still be paid, and no one wants to rock the boat. It gives the boss and his bosses even more room to think he is doing a fantastic job!

        • Rob says:

          What vision?

        • Ex SSO says:

          Hans Sorensen is a waste of resources. Barely knows how to programme works outside of a fixed repertoire. He has no understanding of how to manage orchestral planning and his work has to be “cleaned up” constantly to avoid any irreparable errors/ disastrous execution. The guy is just having a long tropical holiday, while the narcissistic CEO programmes work under the pretext of “working with” the AP

      • Curious reader says:

        sounds like the guy has narcissistic personal disorder. the Trump of the SSO. how unfortunate. how much has the board been protecting this person?

        • facepalm says:

          Curious reader – don’t give him too much credit. Trump speaks better.

          this guy has allies on the sso board. he himself is on the board, so there is plenty of opportunity to pull wool over everyone’s eyes. so many on the board are new people who don’t know a thing about the music business, so it’s perfect for him to tell everyone he knows what he’s doing and he’s very good at what he does. his idea of a peer review in the company is to ownself say ownself very wonderful, so that must be the truth, period. all singaporeans might think that sounds a little familiar 😉

          when your every move is calculated to build a story you can boast about and claim credit for, few will stop to think if it was all an empty gesture. in spirit, it’s about as meaningless as the civil service paying tribute to frontline healthcare workers, by asking the workers themselves to perform in a concert. as if the nurses don’t already have enough things to do. all very touching and hypocritical at the same time, but you can be sure someone is boldly claiming credit for it and everyone is either fooled or too polite to call him out.

  • Jong says:

    I don’t care so much for the original post, but totally loving the comments! He is certainly the most self-centered, political GM the SSO has ever had.

  • Tan says:

    Where is this announcement? I don’t see it on the SSO website or Facebook?

  • Non-sso player says:

    It’s not just sso musicians. Hak Peng thinks he’s well loved by industry peers. Other than very few like minded allies, the rest of us can only shake our heads at the things he says and does, while we maintain professional courtesy. One of the most smug and ignorant arts administrators in high positions that I have ever come across.

  • spiccato says:

    i feel very sorry for the sso, to be stuck with a buffoon like him. the SSO deserves much much better!!!!!

  • Inside SSO says:

    Anyone sensible would have kept quiet publicly about what’s going on in MPO until later, when there is more certainty. Just as Hak Peng is an embarrassment, his post was embarrassing, and it’s very sad he had to drag us all into it by speaking for us. No, thank you!!!!!!

  • Musician says:

    Can anyone recall how we ended up with this narcissistic joker? Wasn’t there an international search for a replacement of the previous GM? An international search, and we ended up with this??

    • Ex SSO says:

      He was parachuted into the role by the Board. So you can bet that he has some allies on the SSO board that are actively turning a blind eye to how he is messing up the orchestra

      • Musician says:

        Ah, parachuted in. PAP style. Because Big Brother knows best. Ok.

        So I guess him getting fired to get rid of this toxic work culture isn’t happening anytime soon.

  • SSO gal says:

    I have a feeling “SSO guy” is the person who lives on a boat and always brags about how awesome and grateful he is, yet talks badly about anyone and everyone behind their backs. If he is truly grateful, he should also stay quiet. He’s like a living wrecking ball.

    • Gastronomy says:

      Who’s that? And who are you? Not sure why you’re assuming identities here and disrupting the flow of the beautiful thread that has been going on perfectly. Be smart and stay on the right topic. Gosh.

      • SSO gal says:

        Thanks for the intelligent advice. Will stick to bashing one narcissist at a time. You can continue with this “beautiful thread”. Gee whiz.

  • SSO Insider says:

    There was only the façade of an international search before Chng Hak-Peng’s appointment. Many questioned how a person with absolutely zero orchestra management experience could be offered this top-level position. Especially when Hak-Peng’s entire prior work history was far from stellar. In his early career he worked for a private equity fund which overall had abysmal performance and eventually was shut down. Hak-Peng then went on to spend 8 years as a “management consultant” with Bain & Company. Word on the street is that he could not cope with the pressure at such a demanding company as Bain (Hak-Peng was in “way over his head” as one former Bain colleague stated), and he never was promoted from the bottom rungs at Bain.

    In the meantime, he had become friends with SSO Board Chair Goh Yew Lin. Frustrated at his lack of progression at Bain, Hak-Peng manipulated Yew Lin and other Board members to give him the SSO job. At that time SSO did not even have a CEO but rather two General Managers (Chng Kai Jin and Anthony Brice). Using his so-called “management skills” acquired at Bain, Hak-Peng unscrupulously convinced Yew Lin to dismiss Kai Jin and Anthony, and instate him as CEO in their place.

    At the time, Anthony and Kai Jin were considered rather unremarkable managers, but almost immediately after self-installed Emperor Hak-Peng took control, SSO staff and musicians alike realised that his appointment was a disastrous mistake and lamented the good old days under Anthony and Kai Jin. As reflected in the previous comments, Hak-Peng is one one of the most vain and narcissistic people in the entire industry, ten times worse than even the most egocentric conductors out there!

    • Sad Player says:

      dont forget its not just orchestra management experience he doesnt have. he has no management experience of any kind, period. no role in the past involved running an organisation. at best, he was an armchair critic. i say shame on the board for allowing this!

    • Mahleria says:

      Spore has evolved 40+ years since the SSO was founded, and we still have a mindset of putting a so-called world class orchestra in the hands of someone with no-class no experience. What’s worse, executing the job for himself rather than the organization. Just great. Very professional. I applaud.

    • NG says:

      SSO Insider, that is very interesting. But how can someone with Goh Yew Lin’s experience and history with the SSO be so easily fooled, even manipulated by a rookie like Hak Peng? Even if he had been taken in by Hak Peng’s empty grandstanding, the big question today is, does he still consider Hak Peng a godsend today? Is Hak Peng going to be left to make a joke of a top arts admin job for a long, long time?

  • Jong says:

    Wow, this story has attracted as many or more comments than the original story on the Malaysian orchestra!

  • Lapsed_Donor says:

    I’ve been a fairly regular donor to the SSO for probably close to a decade. In the past year my SSO contacts have all but disappeared (“re-organisation?”) and PR seem to be focused on totally unimportant fluff, like the re-branding of the choruses and SNYO, using costly consultants, right in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    There have been incessant, desperate-sounding calls for donations, at a time when the reduction of concerts surely means that costs have come down too.

    It’s admirable that SSO has obtained special permission for Hans Graf to spend time working with the orchestra, but programming through 2020-21 has been lacklustre.

    I look forward to the time that I’m moved to resume donations, but from what I observe, hear in concert and gather from musician friends (current and ex-SSO), this won’t happen with the current CEO in place.

  • Mirror Mirror on The Wall says:

    So much angst and fury expressed here, all because of one twat! So will he shamelessly pretend he’s still everybody’s favourite boss in the organisation, and the most revered authority figure in classical music? He must surely know of these comments and be reading them religiously. Who else would be giving them the thumbs down?

    • SSO staff says:

      Hak Peng is indeed reading these comments. At first he was shocked that all his minions, musicians and industry peers do not perceive him as the beloved leader he thinks himself to be. Then he really began to fret as the comments continued, and he even tried asking some people to write positive comments in his defence! (To their credit, so far no one has done this.) SSO Board Chair Goh Yew Lin is a smart and classy man, and by now he obviously sees through Chng Hak-Peng. But Yew Lin doesn’t want to rock the boat, and he would lose face if he removed Hak-Peng because that would be admitting that he had made a mistake appointing him. Maybe if enough donors, subscribers, and musicians speak out to the Board, it will get someone’s attention. It is not an exaggeration to say that, at least outside the Board, almost everyone in the SSO organisation believes that Hak-Peng is truly a disgrace and a big embarrassment to the orchestra.

  • Majulah says:

    While the G is flushed with self-congratulatory paper generals, the SSO is headed by a self-congratulatory paper manager. Never managed a whole organization in his life, and the Board is giving him free rein to experiment. That means the SSO isn’t at all the first or only state-owned organization in the country to be run like this. He therefore is just part of the national script. I am not saying it is right, but it is just how it works.

    • Ex SSO says:

      Might be an unpopular opinion, but I think upper management does not need to be an industry expert or even have that much management experience – so long as they have the wisdom to trust the existing staff/musicians’ decades of experience and to allow the field experts to do their job. The problem is the CEO has been barging in, claiming to be an expert on vetting conductors, musicians’ performance standards, programming, soundscaping, narrating, etc etc.

      He is meddling in all these things instead of focusing of his job of MANAGING. So when you have a narcissist and egoistical maniac with half baked understanding of any of the above, but believes he is 100% right, you get the disastrous situation the SSO is in now. Many SSO staff who have disagreed with his awful decisions have been labelled as “troublemakers”, demoted or removed from their posts. This guy is a blight and should not be allowed near ANY organisation.

  • Ex SSO says:

    In the same vein, any SSO people that have been promoted/given leadership roles under his reign, these people are complicit/enabling him in this whole fiasco, because the man loves being surrounded by Yes-Men and Yes-Women

    • S'pore musician says:

      A perfect example of this is Kua Li Leng who for many years was the very capable head of programming. When she resisted inviting all the “pretty boy” artists Hak-Peng desired, he demoted her and brought in this clueless clown Hans Sørensen to be his yes-man.

  • Anybody says:

    I am just a by stander amazed by the flood of stones and rocks thrown at one person who may perhaps deserved it.

    Society is sad these days. People hiding behind anonymity will have surprisingly lots of wise comments. They feel righteous after throwing the stones and rocks. It gives them satisfaction of the day.

    Give them a gun and lawlessness? They may even go shoot this person and feel so good about it that they are doing the music industry a favor.

    • Jane Tan says:

      You’re one to talk, pot calling the kettle black, you’re hiding just as well.

      Have a think about why inside staff and musicians haven’t dared to speak up. If you read properly, the ones who did have so clearly been silenced and removed, the rest have mouths to feed.

    • Armchair director says:

      Well said Anybody! People love thrashing others and they feel sooo good doing it. It’s always a sad day when this happens whether the person derserved it or not. Enough is enough….
      Let’s move on or else go lead the Orchestra if you’re so wonderful.

      • Suffering Musiclover says:

        Nice try, Armchair director Chng Hak-Peng. Until you are removed for the fraud that you are, it’s NEVER ENOUGH!

      • Jane Tan says:

        Dear Armchair Director,

        I commend your valour and ally (to your liege) – you sound like one whom the CEO asked to help support (this action in itself is deplorable and laughable).

        Though really, it’s about time to get off that armchair, smell (and look at) the shit that has been served directly to your doorstep – I don’t think you can even begin to walk across the massive shit pile unscathed.

        Crew can tell when their Captain is a good one – taking them to paradise isles and reaping rewards and treasures for all the hard work.

        By the sounds of it, this Captain appears to have sailed into one too many storms (more than likely unnecessarily too) and evidently the crew are tired (and angry).

        The Captain may also want to take heed, actually LISTEN and maybe get off the ship before he gets thrown overboard without a lifejacket.

        National treasure at stake here.

        What an embarrassment of a Captain.

  • Cruella says:

    Mirror Mirror On The Wall
    Why am I not liked at all?
    Other than a danish I hang with in the mall
    And a balding writer at my beck and call

    And a fellow pretender whose name rhymes with million
    Who thinks I am pretty even if I’m dressed in vermilion
    Forty years of history I plan my first season
    I get top billing over blue water for no rhyme or reason

    My two-page spread with my gorgeous headshot
    Goes brilliantly with ray and milos, and boy they’re so hot
    I have become the queen of the arts world
    Now what’s trending on Spotify, that’s my next pearl

    Annually I draw company august
    No Brahms or Beethoven or my scheme will go bust
    Bland transcriptions of songs to keep grace singing along
    Embrace an east coast plan to keep promotion prospects strong

    Mirror Mirror On The Wall
    I really am the genius of them all.

  • SSOviolin says:

    I suggest that we keep the language clean and direct here and focus more on specifics which will ultimately be what the SSO Board is interested in and needs to remove this incompetent CEO. Hak-Peng’s loyalty to and respect for the SSO is questionable: I heard a first-hand account of how Hak-Peng used to socialise and dine with the former despot (CEO Raina Yeong) of the Malaysian Philharmonic. At one such lunch, when Raina was complaining about the MPO musicians, Hak-Peng commiserated and told her that the SSO musicians were “babies and whiners” too! This is from a primary source (a former SSO librarian who now holds a MPO management position).

    • Ex Claim says:

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but if this Board wanted to do anything, it would have long ago. If they can sweep under the carpet some of his dishonest behaviour with payments in his early days, they will continue to protect him.

      • Shocked says:

        What dishonest behaviour with payments??! And he wasn’t fired on the spot!? wtf

        • exsso says:

          The man has a great ability to manipulate information to anyone, and everyone.

          Exactly as Inside SSO mentions, he’s a blatant liar. Nothing he says holds truth.

          God only know what he reports to the board. Wouldn’t be surprised if they only got painted part of the picture.

        • Ex Claim says:

          @Shocked – let’s just say if the Auditor General came visiting, they would have had a field day, just as they did with the various ministries and stat boards in the news today 😉

      • SSOviolin says:

        @Ex Claim: Could you perhaps give some concrete examples of Hak-Peng’s dishonest behaviour with payments in his early days? Some Board members have been reading these comments, and it might help at least to get an investigation started…

        • Ridiculous Chng says:

          While they are at it, ask them to audit how much the local composers were paid for their commissions for Narcissus’s trademark national day concert! It is a horrifyingly low amount akin to the rounding off error from the pretty boys’ fees.

        • Ex Claim says:

          @SSOviolin But the Board knew about it and swept it under the carpet!

          • Jane Tan says:

            Not surprising at all.

            I will put money on the comms team (there is one I would assume, unless the CEO has also taken on this role?) and board keeping tabs on this, yet completely ignoring this whole episode.

            Mention only the good, and ignore the bad.

  • Mahleria says:

    SSOviolin: What Hak Peng said to Raina Yeong behind closed doors is not at all surprising. And, please, I also won’t be surprised if key Board members feel just like he does.

    He is adequately thick skinned and shameless. He will brush off criticism, including all those made here and to his face. He will carry on his narcissistic ways, thinking he is high authority of the local arts scene at best, and misunderstood and martyred for being the best thing that’s ever happened to the SSO at worst. Best of all, his allies on the board will be waving their magic wands to shut out the noise and keep him there.

    But NOTHING will save his dignity, as he walks around the office, the concert halls, the streets, among his staff and musicians, among colleagues, among industry peers. He will continue to parade his ignorance, ego and his New Clothes proudly for all to see. Everyone knows what he did last summer. Everyone is too polite to say anything in his presence. But everyone is laughing loudly at him and shaking their heads behind his back.

    It’s just too bad the dignity of the national treasure he is manhandling will be collateral damage. Kudos to those still hanging on to its last shreds. Hang in there. Bad management won’t last. The indomitable spirit of doing things right and well, will. Eventually.

    • Not Outside says:

      Liar, dishonest wayang queen Hak Peng’s shamelessness definitely knows no limits. We may not show it to him in his face, but we all know it.

    • Jane Tan says:

      You’re absolutely right. For such poorly behaviour to persist, we should also have to look beyond at who is (are?) paving the way for him to continue so.

      1. Perhaps his lackeys, those whom he brought in as so called experts
      2. Presumably by now, there’d be an army of his own senior managers (likely prematurely elevated and would do anything to serve their liege)
      3. Board members, who will never take heavy action if only to save face

      The unfortunate thing is that for this many parties to comment on the nasty behaviours of Mr Chng, one can easily deduce that his actions and words have had a severe impact on the general population of the orchestra (and admin), and yet nothing appears to have been done about it.

      I will put more money down on the following:
      1. Mr Chng will likely receive but a teeny tiny slap on the wrist (again)
      2. New (HR?) policies will be rolled out to the company, to protect the baby of a man who cried foul and feels slighted from all you commentators on Slipped Disc

      Any takers on my bet?

      Seconding Mahleria, hang in there everyone.

      • Hopeless says:

        Slap on the wrist? Probably mollycoddled!

        1. Experts? I thought he is the self-professed expert of everything, isn’t it? Except Library: he not interested, and not glamorous enough.
        2. He has got in his bag HR, PR, AD… (sounds like a disease) at his bidding. If he had his way, sooner or later, conductors too.
        3. The old guards on Board since the time they put him there are his biggest fans. Maybe also his closest detractors, but like you say, they lose face if they got rid of him. That is really selfish. You would think directors are supposed to act in the best interest of the company.

        • Popcorn says:

          Correction – he doesn’t have PR at his bidding.

          He fired the PR head and replaced her with… himself.

        • Mahleria says:

          I think the old guard Board members sit in an ivory tower rather than listen to the ground. Their idea of what is in the best interest of the company would be quite incomplete and tone deaf. Hak Peng, who isn’t old guard but mixes among them, and literally tone deaf, adds dissonance to the score.

        • Hao Lian says:

          @Hopeless – Be careful what you wish for. He’s gotten rid of Joshua Tan. Now he has the vacancy he’s always wanted to hire someone he’s eyeing. Not for artistic reasons, mind you. But to fuel his vanity, to chase some meaningless statistic, and use for (more!) empty bragging to the Board, the Arts Council, the Ministry, his pet iguana…

          • Royal Flush says:

            You mean exactly like how he got rid of cultural medallion winners Lim Yau and Lan Shui under the pretexts of retirement? Don’t forget BBC-ed Jason Lai too.

            What about the musicians he managed to axe under false pretences?

            So many artistic executions by a CEO, in one tenure.

            What skills! Surely he deserves a perfect 10… AND it’s GOLD for Chng!

          • Les Miserables says:

            Royal Flush, he is eyeing a Yes-man to replace Joshua. Someone who will pander to the Prima Donna’s amateur whims and fancies like Sorenson does. If Darrell Ang and Wong Kah Chun didn’t already have a better deal somewhere else, I think they’d fall under Hak Peng’s spell. My guess is Gerard Salonga – ultimate smiley nice guy Yes-man who will serve Hak Peng’s ego. He will also put some positive spin on the appointment to buy more love from the old guards on the Board. And he gets to be close to Salonga’s famous sister and quench his Broadway wet dreams! A whole new world!

          • Ex SSO says:

            That relation with Lea Salonga is indeed key. The man thinks he can actually hold a tune, and fancies himself an expert on all manner of operatic singing, despite sounding like a hoarse duck. His tortured belting/karaoke performances at staff events have been one of the lowest points of my music career.

          • Pris says:

            “Reflection”, one of Lea Salonga’s greatest hits, belted out by her biggest fan, who happens to be the Chief Executive of a certain orchestra. In drag.

            “Look at me
            You may think you see
            Who I really am
            But you’ll never know me
            Every day
            It’s as if I play a part

            Now I see
            If I wear a mask
            I can fool the world
            But I cannot fool my heart

            Who is that girl I see
            Staring straight back at me?
            When will my reflection show
            The Narcissistic Queen I am inside?!!!!!!”

  • choa tan yah says:

    national day is coming! box ticking exercise in full swing!!

  • Man Man says:

    I love all the cute boys as much as the CEO does! Who needs art when sex alone sells, right?

  • Convent Garden says:

    Sharing a tweet I came across:

    I learnt about The Narcissist’s Prayer, and how gaslighting works with them:

    That didn’t happen.
    And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
    And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
    And if it is, that’s not my fault.
    And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
    And if I did, you deserved it.

  • Non SSO says:

    It’s not just SSO employees who can’t stand him. Coming from outside the SSO, I can tell you that he’s made a complete mockery of himself and the organisation he represents before other arts groups, holding himself out to be patronising at best. Everything he says is borne out of either ignorance or self-promotion. Thanks to him, the SSO has lost its identity as a serious classical music ensemble with rising international standing. It’s become so bad that they even had to pay for a worthless Gramophone Award nomination, decided not on merit but on a popularity vote by anyone and everyone.

    For this simple reason, donors should look at putting their money and getting their tax credits somewhere else. The nomination and, God forbid, a win over the Berlin Philharmonic, is as empty and illusory as the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    • Royal Flush says:

      To be fair, a nomination for a Gramaphone award is a tall order, and you cannot receive one from doing nothing.

      Maestro Lan Shui spent many years building up the capabilities of the SSO, and the nomination is a nod to that.

      No one else will ever take credit from the Maestro and the team who worked hard over those 20 years he had been around.

      This man will never ever be afforded the honour. Money cannot buy integrity.

      • Prada-wearing Devil says:

        Oh, make no mistake, Hak Peng is ever ready to take full credit for himself for everything and anything. Don’t you know? He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to the SSO!

      • Mahleria says:

        I would like to say you are right, Royal Flush, but to be nominated in the only category in the Gramophone Awards that is won by open public popular vote, I am fairly certain there is money changing hands behind. Granted, I do not think Gramophone would compromise on having some standard at the very least, and fortunately, Lan Shui’s high-quality last recordings with the SSO offered that to justify a nomination.

        But in reality, since Lan Shui’s last concert in January 2019, there has been a full year of programmes before Covid hit. There is a lot of damage you can do in just one year. What is more, Hak Peng’s meddling with artistic matters started well before that final farewell concert, probably as soon as Lan Shui announced his decision to step down in January 2017. That is a good two years before the farewell concert! The orchestra’s development is no longer part of the artistic plan: programming is now at the service of the ignorant CEO’s inexperience, musically uneducated views, ego and vanity. Mind you, he even went around claiming credit for that farewell concert. He was very keen to make sure everyone he met knew it was his idea to engage the two Swedish soloists, both famous Mahlerians apparently.

        • Ordinary Folk says:

          OMG, I now remember him belabouring the point that the soloists were his, and not Maestro’s, first choice!

  • CL0 says:

    Someone once commented that Hak-Peng is a miracle worker so could it be a case of tough love and that beyond what you see, there is a person who has devoted his time to save an orchestra from ruin at the hands of complacency.

    Maybe he is just too ahead of his time and people fail to see his great vision?? Look at the new season that was just launched