Three of Singapore's best choirs

REVIEW / CONCERT

3RD SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL CHORAL FESTIVAL

Opening Concert

Esplanade Concert Hall

Wednesday

This year's Singapore International Choral Festival has attracted 24 choirs from Asia and Australia as well as 16 from Singapore.

With two days of intense competition ahead, Wednesday's opening concert was a showcase for three of the best home-grown choirs.

If prizes were to be awarded for Wednesday's performances, then the one for the best dressed group must go to the Hwa Chung alumni choir, with the members dressed in plush red velvet.

Sounding as opulent as they looked and marshalled expansively by their conductor, Ji Fu Rong, they presented three Mandarin songs with vigour and enthusiasm.

The most rewarding repertory choice came from the Singers Vocal Ensemble.

Expanding imperceptibly from six to nine members during the course of their performance, they might have done better to have stuck with nine from the very start, for their beautifully gentle and meticulously moulded account of Stanford's Beati Quorum Via occasionally sounded dangerously fragile.

However, a sophisticated yet scrumptious setting of Shakespeare's 18th Sonnet (Shall I Compare Thee?) was sung with the kind of warm togetherness only the best choirs can achieve.

The most impressive all-round performance of the evening came from the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir (SSCC).

Carefully manicured by conductor Wong Lai Foon, they were impeccably tuned, infinitely precise in diction and rhythm and projected a tone of such rich variety that one wondered how the small bodies could command such immense vocal power.

This was an object lesson in choral singing of the highest order. Singapore should be proud that, in the SSCC, it boasts one of the best children's choirs in Asia.

Possibly the off-beat accents of the Piazzolla Tango were a little soggy and a song which involved more moving and screeching than genuine singing caused some momentary unease, but with the luscious Nigra Sum by Pablo Casals, they revealed a degree of emotional sensitivity well beyond their years.

The concert was book-ended by two lovely visual presentations.

Elegant dances from the Nrityalaya Aesthetics Society opened the proceedings which were concluded by the Festival's Feature Choir, the Seoul Ladies Singers Primavera.

Dressed like pretty dolls, they pouted and flounced in a song called Shyness and shuffled around with toy-like delicacy in a Korean folk song.

Their one serious item, Gloria from Andre Caplet's Mass, seemed a little mechanical in its overly precise delivery, but wanted for nothing in technical polish and vocal sure-footedness.

The 3rd Singapore International Choral Festival continues to tomorrow with competitions at the NUS Cultural Centre and a Grand Prix and Award Ceremony at the Esplanade.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Three of Singapore's best choirs'. Print Edition | Subscribe