Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Singapore Symphony Children's Choir 4th Anniversary Concert / Review


Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir

Victoria Concert Hall

Sunday (13 June 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 15 June 2010.

When the Singapore Symphony Orchestra formed its children’s choir four years ago, the ostensible aim was to perform works like Mahler’s Third Symphony and Orff’s Carmina Burana, works that relied on children’s voices. Now it looks to be a long-term investment in equipping young people with skills to sing a variety of languages and styles within the classical context.

The 70-strong group impressed with its discipline and deportment. The girls were striking in their ruby red gowns and just 8 boys looked smart in black vests. Better still, their 90-minute programme, conducted by the partnership of Quek Soo Hiang (better known as Mrs Lim Yau) and Wong Lai Foon, was performed entirely from memory, a feat of sheer commitment and concentration.

The first number was, however, wordless. Bach’s Air on G String warmed up their collective vocal cords, accompanied by SSO bassist Ma Li Ming. Then came songs in German (Schubert), French (Faure) and Hungarian (Kodaly). All were delivered with confidence, even if the ear could not always differentiate the diverse tongues.

The choir was also comfortable with different styles and textures. Unison melodies were evenly spread, and svelte legatos, such as in Bob Chilcott’s Can You Hear Me?, lovingly rendered. The Asian songs fared particularly well, with rhythmic patterns in Ko Matsushita’s Ari No Natsu (Ant’s Summer) and exuberant chants in the traditional Chinese folksong Dongdongkui resounding headily.

With the “serious” segment of the music accomplished, there was time to relax. Irving Fine’s Three Choruses from Alice in Wonderland were lighter in feel but by no means simple. Wittily injected with a sense of fun, even the Duchess’ Lullaby swung with a tango beat in the manner of Stravinsky.

Saccharine sweetness was the rule with John Rutter’s The Lord Bless You and Keep You while a tinge of sadness and verses in Hebrew coloured When You Believe from The Prince of Egypt by Stephen Schwartz. The concert closed happily with two songs from The Sound of Music and the African-American spiritual Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit.

A little piece of advice to these young talents: Try and smile a bit more. That will make your fine singing sound that little bit more convincing.

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