Thursday, 12 November 2015

FIVE / The Graduate Singers / Review

The Graduate Singers
Chijmes Hall
Tuesday (10 November 2015)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 12 November 2015 with the title "Elevating choral music".

The high ceilinged nave of Chijmes Hall (once the chapel of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus) provides such a natural space for voices to resound that it is a surprise why it is not regularly used as a venue for choral concerts. For the 5th anniversary concert of The Graduate Singers (TGS), its reverberant acoustics was exploited in the best possible way.

Formed by alumni of the National University of Singapore Choir, the Singers are mostly in their 20s and 30s. Led by young conductor Adyll Hardy, their voices enveloped the hall with a warm and welcoming glow, beginning with American composer-conductor Eric Whitacre's Lux Nova. In this stunning opener, the singers stood far apart, spread out within its wide confines, and the surround-sound effect made an immediate impact.

The rest of the concert was performed on stage, and completely from memory. The succession of songs, from Josef Rheinberger's Abendlied (Evening Song) in German, Toru Takemitsu's Shima-E (To The Island) in Japanese, Guy Forbes' O Nata Lux in Latin and Whitacre's Water Night in English, all made a luxuriant play of rich harmonies.

Morphing through a wide range of dynamics, the swell of voices as they hit climactic highs was a joy to behold. In the Mongolian Se Enkhbayar's Ba Jun Ma (Eight Chestnut Horses) sung in Mandarin, a galloping rhythm was provided over which Gabriel Cheow's rousing tenor voice (above) rode through with brimming gusto.

Composer Chen Zhangyi speaks
to the audience about his works.

The world premiere of Singaporean Chen Zhangyi's Three Nansi Songs seemed to break the mould of the choral fare offered. These are varied and interesting settings of selected poems by Indian-Singaporean writer Pooja Nansi. Harping On What Should Be is an excerpt from A Rant, which made a repetition of the words “think”, “dream” and “harping” like a broken record that its title suggested. Listening To Mukesh mimicked a popular Hindi song heard on a radio, while It Will Never Be The Same saw a simulation of the drone of traditional Indian instruments.

A TGS Christmas Medley, arranged by three singers of the choir, brought together verses from five carols including Joy To The World, Hark! The Herald Angels Sings and Angels We Had Heard On High, if anything to remind listeners of the festive season ahead. Gabriel Cheow's arrangement of Dick Lee's ubiquitous Home had several unusual touches, including an erhu solo from Aditya Santoso, conductor Adyll's crooning tenor voice, and a soaring descant solo.

There was time for two encores, a groovy arrangement of Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror and a more traditional send off in the form of the Scottish hymn Auld Lang Syne

Photographs by the kind permission of The Graduate Singers. 

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