Treats from Taiwan


SG50 CONCERT/Hua Xing Choir Society, Wang Ya-Hui - conductor

Victoria Concert Hall/Last Friday

'Tis the season to be patriotic, and SG50 tribute concerts have come thick and fast, all leading to the great climax of the 50th National Day on Aug 9.

This concert organised under the auspices of Hua Xing Choir Society and Boon Lay Choir, however, had one difference: The leaders and soloists were of Taiwanese extraction or lineage, all of whom have significantly contributed to the music scene of Singapore.

The four participating choirs, which also included the Sing Sheng Choir and Ngee Ann Polytechnic Voices Club, were trained by Taiwan-born singer and vocal teacher Lin Liying.

The concert, conducted by Wang Ya-Hui (above right), opened with the Taiwanese song Yu Ye Hua, sung in the Minnan dialect, and Phoon Yew Tien's colourful arrangement of the very popular Ye Lai Xiang (Evening Primrose).

The young and mature voices blended pleasingly in this mostly unison number.

The orchestral segment was supported by the young musicians of Kids' Philharmonic, which gave a stirring account of the Furiant from Dvorak's Czech Suite, and then ably supported pianist Albert Lin in Mendelssohn's Rondo Brillant Op. 29 by not being distracted by all the virtuosic note-spinning.

Both conductor Wang and pianist Lin are Singaporeans whose parents came from Taiwan.

The only concession to pop songs was offered by the Ngee Ann Polytechnic Voices Club, which sang choral versions of Alan Menken's Go The Distance from the Disney animated movie Hercules and Grammy winner Adele's Skyfall from the James Bond movie of the same title.

The youths were led by young conductor Umar Sirhan and accompanied by pianist Noella Lim.

The art song, operetta and opera selections by Taiwanese tenor Fernando Wang and soprano Jessica Chen were most warmly received.

Accompanied by pianist Aloysius Foong, both sang art songs by Singaporean composer Lee Yuk Chuan and Leong Yoon Pin to begin, warming up for the treats that followed.

Wang's hitting the nine high Cs in Donizetti's Ah! Mes Amies (from Daughter Of The Regiment) was reminiscent of Pavarotti's heroics, while Chen emoted ever so ardently in Lehar's Meine Lippen, Sie Kussen So Heiss (Giuditta).

Both did the waltz together in Lippen Schweigen (The Merry Widow), also by Lehar.

The Kids' Philharmonic played for the whole second half beginning with Phoon's arrangement of a popular Taiwanese song and the rousing Prelude from Bizet's Carmen, which came off with aplomb.

Accompanying singers in opera arias was a lot trickier, especially in Puccini's Signore Ascolta (Turandot) with its short pauses, sung beautifully by soprano Lin Liying.

To complete the popular trio of Turandot arias, soprano Chen polished off In Questa Reggia with steely and ice-cold resolve, while tenor Wang's effort with Nessun Dorma brought down the house.

With the serious part over, all the choirs congregated to sing the familiar Jiangsu folk song Molihua, which also happens to appear in Turandot.

Two senior citizens then joined the throng as amplified soloists for Wong Kah Chun's glitzy arrangement of Dick Lee's Home, now sung in Mandarin.

Finally, as an encore, all the soloists returned for a communal clap-along to the infectious tune of the Taiwanese song Maidens Of Alishan.

If there were a dollar saved for every time Home is heard this month, the problem of poverty would be instantly eradicated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2015, with the headline 'Treats from Taiwan'. Print Edition | Subscribe