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Singaporean music conductor who became a delivery rider due to Covid-19 gets advisory role in arts charity

SINGAPORE — Singaporean conductor Chiya Amos, who became a Foodpanda delivery rider last year when his conducting stints around Europe and Russia dried up, has been appointed as creative advisor for Foundation for the Arts and Social Enterprise, a local arts charity.

Chiya Amos in his food delivery work outfit (left), and performing at the Spring Festival in Tokyo.

Chiya Amos in his food delivery work outfit (left), and performing at the Spring Festival in Tokyo.

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  • Singaporean Chiya Amos has been appointed creative advisor of local arts charity the Foundation for the Arts and Social Enterprise
  • His new role could involve setting up a new Singapore choir
  • The international conductor made headlines earlier this year after the pandemic wiped out his conducting gigs
  • Mr Amos worked as a food delivery rider in Singapore to get by, which gave him a sense of purpose
  • His financial situation is better now, and he has returned to Russia

 

SINGAPORE — Singaporean conductor Chiya Amos, who became a Foodpanda delivery rider last year when his conducting stints around Europe and Russia dried up, has been appointed as creative advisor for Foundation for the Arts and Social Enterprise, a local arts charity.

In his new role, Mr Amos, 31, will help extend the reach of a symphony inspired by Singapore by promoting it internationally, said the foundation in a statement on Friday (June 4).

The symphony, titled the Utopia Symphony, is by Russian composer Vladimir Martynov. 

Mr Michael Tay, the foundation’s founder and a former Singapore ambassador to Russia, said: “Even as the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted all our daily lives and impacted artists like Chiya, there is a silver lining as it has also uncovered talents we didn’t know about and brought them home.

“In these hard times, the foundation wants to do its part to support our Singapore artistes with their financial situation as well as to reconfigure their mission for the new global landscape,” he added.

Mr Amos had written in TODAY’s Gen Y Speaks column earlier this year about his financial instability amid the pandemic, sharing his experience trying to make ends meet by working long hours to deliver food.

This was a far cry from his pre-pandemic days as a prize-winning conductor specialising in opera and ballet, after first moving to Saint Petersburg in Russia to complete his postgraduate studies in conducting in 2013 with an FJ Benjamin-Singapore Symphony Orchestra bursary.

He was also the first foreign Asian and Singaporean assistant conductor of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre in Russia, and the permanent guest conductor of the famed Mariinsky Theatre’s North Ossetia-Alania Branch.

Nevertheless, the experience as a food delivery rider had given him a clearer sense of purpose and allowed him to continue bringing joy to people’s lives, he wrote.

Speaking to TODAY from St Petersburg in Russia, Mr Amos said on Sunday that the days of being fully booked for conducting engagements have not yet returned, as Covid-19 is still wreaking havoc around the world.

But his situation has improved from last December, when he had only S$12 to his name. Giving an update, he said his wife, who is Russian, was headhunted and is now employed in Russia while he is working freelance.

“(I’m doing) just a little better; I’m out of my slump and I’m not homeless or penniless anymore… For me, my concerts are not all back but I did have a couple of engagements and I am giving webinars and virtual master classes to stay afloat,” said Mr Amos, who moved back to Russia last month.

Mr Amos had travelled there from Japan, where he was able to conduct the Tokyo Harusai Orchestra, an outfit made up of young musicians and principal players from three Japanese orchestras, at the Spring Festival in Tokyo in April.

“I am also taking several online courses to gain more skills and be more employable,” he said.

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UTOPIA SYMPHONY

With him now taking on the creative advisor role at the foundation, Mr Amos said he looks forward to working with the arts charity on its plans when he is back in Singapore later on, as well as other personal projects.

Mr Amos was picked because the foundation “values Chiya’s experience and breadth of international exposure and how he can promote the Utopia Symphony and further its reach, which was one of our objectives after we got the symphony recorded,” said Mr Tay, who had commissioned the symphony in 2004.

Through a “five-year strategic outreach plan”, the organisation hopes to spread the symphony to more culture capitals to include it in their repertoire.

“The vision is to bring the symphony to the global stage to become a universal work in the annals of music history,” said Mr Tay of the effort.

He added that although Covid-19 presented numerous obstacles, the foundation is continually finding ways to introduce the symphony to more people and garnering more support for the arts among Singaporeans.

The piece, which comprises two parts and features choral segments, had premiered in 2005 in the Russian language and was known then as the Singapore Symphony. It was later renamed and its choral parts reworked to English in 2018.

Mr Amos hopes to build a Singapore choir who would be professionally trained to sing the symphony chorale in the Russian “oratorio” tradition, and this choir would be given the opportunity to travel and perform with the orchestra overseas.

“This cultural and artistic exchange would also be good for Singaporeans and the hosting orchestra,” said the conductor.

Mr Amos’ role as a creative advisor is a paid one, whereby he is paid an honorarium fee to be negotiated between the conductor and the foundation, a spokesman told TODAY.

When asked if this is enough to get by, Mr Amos said the honorarium has not been discussed and that he took the role not because it was a paid job, but because “it is exciting to work towards establishing Singapore as a cultural destination”.

“I would have (accepted the role), paid or not! If they told me tomorrow that the honorarium is S$50 a month, I’d still do it,” said Mr Amos.

He hopes to return to Singapore soon, though the cost of the three-week stay-home notice period is too high for him currently, he added.

“I hope things will change, and perhaps those vaccinated, like I am with the Sputnik V (vaccine), will only be required to do a very short stay-home notice,” said Mr Amos.

The Utopia Symphony is being exhibited at the National Library Board’s library@harbourfront, and will travel to Central Public Library in July, library@esplanade in August, and Tampines Regional Library for the first two weeks of September.

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Covid-19 coronavirus food delivery Foodpanda Chiya Amos

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