Rhapsody in Verse – Post Event Report

Picture from Zaobao.sg

Rhapsody in Verse is a four-act concert billed as a literary concert. Lasting approximately 90 minutes, the concert was a highlight of this year’s Singapore Writers Festival as it also coincided with the year-long 95th Anniversary celebrations of the local Chinese mainstream newspaper Lianhe Zaobao.

The concert features Schola Cantorum Singapore performing alongside big leagues in the music community: mezzo-soprano Anna Koor, tenor Johnathan Charles Tay, soprano Phoebe Chee, baritone Sun Zhaorui, the Dingyi Music Company, and other brilliant musicians and thespians at the Victoria Theatre.

Members of the SCS Festival Chorus consisted of the SCS Chamber Choir and members who joined through the open call. The set of four songs for the performance was indeed special for the choir of 30, as they were all premieres by local composers based on their interpretation of the works of local writers.

The first immediate reactions by SCS members was the Mandarin texts. SCS members are no stranger to the language, SCS members has just finished a year-long exploration with Mandarin and Chinese dialect songs through our performances at “Fighter Writer – Yu”, and at Cantus 2017 with the Formosa Singers (Taiwan).

As a choir with diverse demographics, the language did pose as a challenge for some of our members who had to learn how to make the Chinese seem native while singing it. Caleb Liu, an open call member shares, “My mandarin is atrocious so I fear I did not do this music justice, but I learned a great deal, made many new friends and fell in love with new pieces of music.”

“The sense of community and lightheartedness in the culture of the choir makes every single session so enjoyable and fulfilling. Also, I think this really creates a conducive environment for learning, where all our hearts are and can be aligned with the music!” Aigner Sng, new member to the SCS Chamber Choir recounts of the rehearsals leading up to the performance.

The involvement of composers in the music-making process is a rare chance for the performers to have a glimpse into what was intended, as well as offer composers a more organic way to further their understanding about writing for choirs and vocal ensembles. Thus as part of SCS’ philosophy to support musical excellence and continuing education of music professionals and amateurs alike, a special rehearsal was set aside for the choir to meet the composers and hear what they have to say about the performance of the pieces.

“The meet-the-composers session was great as well since it was with that that we could understand and feel the music as it should be.” Bryan Choo, another new member of SCS Chamber Choir shared with us.

Non-music preparatory work for SCS included two staging rehearsals at the SPH Auditorium with the full cast, where Staging Director Mr Lim Chin Huat shared with everybody his vision for the production. Derrick Kam, choir manager, shares of the staging rehearsals, “The sessions were really informative and really provided SCS members with the destination in mind for each act of the show. Chin Huat has succinctly addressed movement and made sure that the performers are comfortable and effectively intuitive to aid memory.”

SCS continuing after staging rehearsals at the SPH Auditorium

The result is a beautiful, breath-taking presentation that covers the themes of Space, Feelings, Seasons and the Earth in four acts.

KAMSG and SCS are grateful to Ms Woo Mun Ngan, Lianhe Zaobao Fukan Editor, for the opportunity to lend our voices to the event, as well as the brilliantly talented composers (Chen Zhangyi, Liong Kit Yeng, Phang Kok Jun, and Wang Chenwei) and writers (Chen Weibiao, Dan Ying, Du Hong, and Tong Nuan) for their work on the pieces.

Not forgetting our gratitude to the artistic vision and guidance of Mr Lim Chin Huat and for his patience while working with us, as well as the wonderful Neo Ming Wei who accompanied us on the piano for the concert.