Friday, 19 November 2010

Season of Songs from the Heart / NUSS Choir / Review

NUSS Choir
University Cultural Centre
Wednesday (17 November 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 19 November 2010.

It is never too old to join a choir and make a joyful noise. That is the message of the 50-strong National University of Singapore Society Choir, comprising singers of the senior citizen retiree category, many of whom prominent members of society.

One is struck by its sprightliness and attentiveness. Singing 18 songs mostly from memory, the singers obliged what choirmasters yearn for but do not often get – they all looked up. It was not too difficult, as its leader Darius Lim is a strapping youth who could have been their grandson. Choirs do not always have to be led by crusty old maids.

Opening with Zulu song Siyahamba, their robust a cappella voices were amplified to advantage. The song arrangements were friendly, opening with unison voices and later branching into simple divisi for harmonic variation. Singing in Latin, the choir sounded comfortable in Laudate Dominum and Gaudete, but Mediaeval Baebes (below) they were not.

There was rawness, as in Ave Verum Corpus / Agnus Dei where the choir struggled with pitch, and there were untrained voices standing out, but there was no doubting its commitment and enthusiasm. The women were a more homogeneous group, and their Japanese song Kimi O No Sete was a delight. The 12-men were weaker in Wherever You Are but held their own. Together they gave conductor Lim’s own Life (below), a new commission, a touch of Broadway glitz.

Christmas songs seemed appropriate, and the choir steered clear from the more commercial kind. Would You Bring A Song and Christmas Isn’t Chritsmas benefited from meaningful lyrics, while Voices of Winter had no words, the sound effects, oohs and aahs told an evocative story. The lighting for One Single Light was flawed on the outset, making this look like some Halloween number.

Songs from the heart featured popular favourites. While Memory (Cats) was tainted with overfamiliarity, Climb Every Mountain (The Sound of Music) was both uplifting and touching. The audience was also given a chance to sing along in You Raise Me Up and Mandarin song Peng You (Friends). Say A Little Prayer and encore Candle On The Water brought out giggles and chuckles with the simple choreography, and seven couples within the choir linking their hands in one united voice. Not highbrow stuff but plainly engaging.

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