Elevating choral music

Formed by alumni of the National University of Singapore Choir, The Graduate Singers performed their fifth anniversary concert in the Chimjes Hall.
Formed by alumni of the National University of Singapore Choir, The Graduate Singers performed their fifth anniversary concert in the Chimjes Hall.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/THE GRADUATE SINGERS

The high ceiling in the 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 should be regularly used as a venue for choral concerts.

For the fifth anniversary concert of The Graduate Singers (TGS), its reverberant acoustics were 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.

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The succession of songs - from Josef Rheinberger's Abendlied (Evening Song) in German and Toru Takemitsu's Shima-E (To The Island) in Japanese to Guy Forbes' O Nata Lux in Latin and Whitacre's Water Night in English - made a luxuriant play of rich harmonies.

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 rode through with gusto.

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 IndianSingaporean 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 radio, while It Will Never Be The Same saw a simulation of the drone of traditional Indian instruments.

Cheow's arrangement of Dick Lee's Home had several unusual touches, including an erhu solo from Aditya Santoso, conductor Hardy'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, Scottish hymn Auld Lang Syne.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Elevating choral music'. Print Edition | Subscribe