IT was a rare and unique musical experience when the Singapore Chinese Orchestra appeared at The Sage, Gateshead, on one of only three dates on its European concert tour.

Featuring a fusion of traditional and modern music, with a fascinating mix of instruments, including an erhu (python skin and rosewood fiddle) and sheng (bassoon cum pipe organ), the programme included a world premiere to boot.

The evening, under the zestful baton of Tsung Yeh, began with Tang Jian Ping's piece Hou Tu, which was underlaid by ghostly recordings of folk songs from remote corners of China.

On a more populist note, the orchestra played a selection from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Xu Wen Jing, dressed in dazzling pink, had her instruments singing in modulated tones that would give any violin a run for its money.

he highlight of evening was a premiere of Melody Waves, the orchestra's first composition commissioned from a Western composer.

Written by Michael Nyman in the wake of Asian tsunami disaster, the score makes use of the Chinese orchestration to stunning effect.

The string and wind sections swirled independently of each other, merging in surges of energy and building to a crescendo, before dissipating to resolution.

This was followed by the woodwind concerto Divine Melody, showcasing the virtuoso skills of soloist Yin Zhi Yang on ancient instruments.

The Yellow River at Hukou unfolded with a dazzling display of calligraphy by Tan Swie Hian. A performance that refreshed the soul.

Published: 05/04/2005