Songs that transcend age and nationality
Homegrown independent choir, The Joyful Voices, performing at the Singapore International Choral Festival in 2017. (Photo: Singapore International Choral Festival)

Songs that transcend age and nationality

Few cultural activities are as universal as singing, and the Singapore International Choral Festival embodies that to a T.

The annual festival will feature more than 80 choirs from seven countries, including 33 from Singapore, for its latest edition, which runs from 1 to 4 Aug. This edition has both the largest number of participants and the most culturally diverse representation since the festival’s inception in 2014, when it hosted 49 choirs.

It is jointly organised by music company SourceWerkz and events company Rave, with Ms Jennifer Tham, Singapore’s Cultural Medallion recipient, offering artistic direction. The festival includes a choral competition, public performances, consultations with the competition jury, and a sharing session among choral groups.

Mr Ong Wei Meng, marketing director at SourceWerkz, says: “The atmosphere at the festival is always very energetic and invigorating. There are just so many emotions on display.”

At any point in the competition, there are choirs awaiting their turn on the stage at the Esplanade Concert Hall, putting the final touches to their costumes or celebrating a successful performance with hugs and tears of relief. This might sound like a scene right out of the musical comedy Pitch Perfect 2 and its World Championships finale, but things at the festival are far less stressful. The reason: Most of the groups participate in the festival not to compete, but to bond over their shared love for singing.

Among the participating groups is homegrown independent choir, The Joyful Voices. The 35-strong group comprises members who range in age from five to 55 years old. Most of its members are parent-child pairs, with the parents looking for a fun way to bond with their children. Often, however, it is the children who end up teaching their parents how to sing, says the group’s conductor Ms Angila Tan.

Tan, who conducts five other choral groups for the festival, says choral singing not only encourages bonding, it also imparts values such as perseverance and teamwork in the choristers. What she finds most fulfilling as a choral conductor with 15 years of experience, however, is seeing the children “enjoy what they’re doing on stage.”

The Joyful Voices is competing in the folklore category, one of 10 categories in the competition. It will be performing a selection of Chinese, Filipino and Indonesian vocal arrangements by Singaporean composers.

Choral singing, it seems, is a universally shared love, regardless of age, language or culture.

Details on the 6th Singapore International Choral Festival here.

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