Panic! At The PAC: Musicfeste 2016

by Agatha Sacha Lim (16A01B), Monica Lee (16S06J), and Gao Yanxin Esther (16S03N)
Photos by Amy Goh Shun Yu (16A13A)

On the 26th of February, the school came together to celebrate house spirit in a spectacular display of musical talent at MusicFeste, with performances running the gamut from rock to indie. It was clear from the sheer number of people who showed up – those unable to find empty seats had to settle for the floor or the Performing Arts Center’s steps– that Musicfeste was a highly anticipated event. Whether the audience members were there to cheer on their friends and their houses, or to enjoy a night of good music, it was evident by the end of the night that the performances did not disappoint.

This year’s Musicfeste was jointly organised by Raffles Jazz and Raffles Rock – or, as they like to call themselves, the ‘Jocks’. Houses were required to perform three songs, one of which had to adhere to a specific, predetermined genre’s conventions, pushing the houses to expand their boundaries and perform songs from genres they would not normally have considered. Additionally, of the remaining two songs, one had to be house-related. Judging the house’s performances were home-grown, established artists as well as our very own teachers – Mr. Sowden, who joined his first band at the tender age of 16, and Mr. Tham, who is well known for his covers of Beyoncé at school events.

The judges getting ready for the first performance of the night.

The judges getting ready for the first performance of the night.

On the whole, houses displayed great ingenuity in creating afresh their various arrangements and mash-ups  of well-known songs. Audience members were treated to performances that utilised a dazzling multitude of instruments, including many not commonly associated with pop or rock– such as the melodica and the kazoo– and in one extremely inventive move, a loudspeaker. The singers who took to the stage were, as the songs called for, at turns beguiling, edgy or upbeat, effectively showcasing their abilities with a variety of techniques ranging from scat singing to melismata. Instrumentalists were likewise talented. The arrangements left plenty of room for performers to display their proficiencies at their individual instruments, impressing the audience with guitar riffs and drum solos. Memorably, HH’s rendition of Plug in Baby by Muse featured a stunning and sinister keyboard adaptation of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which as the judges said, was ‘innovative and interesting.’

The night began with BB’s set, who started off their performance with a convincing rendition of I Know What You Did Last Summer composed by Shawn Mendes. The performers skillfully built up suspense, allowing a moment of tense silence before the drums came crashing  in for the climax. Their next item was a mash-up of I Lived by OneRepublic and Paint The Town Green by The Script, notable for BB’s expert segueing from the buoyant lyrics ‘I swear I lived’ to the gritty ‘It’s alright/’Cause tonight/We’re gonna paint the town green’. BB’s exuberant house committee flanked their performers, waving their flags in a rousing display of house spirit. Closing with their genre piece- the rock classic Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi– the vocalists growled out the beginning words of the song to remarkable effect; the performers adroitly stoked the crowd, in a lead up to a virtuosic, rapid guitar solo and the exhilarating rush to the end.

BB’s team performing a rendition of I Know What You Did Last Summer.

BB’s team performing a rendition of I Know What You Did Last Summer.

With wild cheers from the crowd, BW opened its performance with Feeling Good by Nina Simone. The vocals charmed the audience with BB’s impressive stage presence. However, it was Kelsie who blew the crowd off their feet when she whipped out a loudhailer, and sang through it with much verve. This was followed by a reggae rendition of Hotline Bling by Drake, a clear favourite amongst the crowd as they cheered fervently. It started on an unconventional note as a cellphone ringtone rang across the PAC, and the team went on to pull the song off with perfection. Finally, they performed a mash-up of Runaway Baby and Happy which sparked exhilarated screams from the crowd. It is worthy to note that they had also put extra thought into their appearances– when the show began, most of the team were covered in black, but as the show went on, the team subtly donned more yellow clothing in a great show of their House pride.

BW’s team performing Hotline Bling by Drake.

BW’s team performing Hotline Bling by Drake.

Unfortunately, the elevated mood was dampened when technical difficulties surfaced during HH’s performance. Nonetheless, the crowd remained upbeat as they intercepted the break with loud cheers; the HH Musicfeste team spontaneously performed “Hutalu”, the signature HH cheer from behind the curtains in an exuberant display of House pride. The show then began proper with an upbeat song, Plug In Baby by Muse that had the crowd back on their feet again. Musical talent was evident as the team added in a Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor bit at the beginning on the keyboard, which is similar to the riff of Plug In Baby. Their second song, Riptide by Vance Joy, had violinist, Kimberly Tan marvelling the audience as she strummed the violin in the likes of a ukelele, and vocalists who belted their hearts out in an Indie fashion. In paying homage to their mascot, the team ended on a high as they performed Dark Horse by Katy Perry. The biggest surprise definitely came from violinist Joachim Ng, who went all out with his “deafening” rap as he screamed into the microphone, drawing the performance to a close.

HH’s team performing Plug in Baby by Muse.

HH’s team performing Plug in Baby by Muse.

In contrast to the fast-paced songs by HH, MR opted to open with their genre song, a slow-paced mashup of two classics from the 1940s and 1950s respectively, Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra and Disney song When You Wish Upon A Star. Though the throwback may have been unfamiliar to some of the audience members, the transposition to jazz allowed the MRians’ strong vocals to hit all the right notes and shine through. Picking up the tempo with Neon Trees’ Animal, MR performed with zest and vigour and the crowd quickly got on their feet to rave to the music. The lyrics ‘Oh oh / What  are you waiting for? / Take a bite of my heart tonight’ definitely struck a chord with the wolf pack. For their last song, the band chose an encouraging mash-up of Brave by Sara Bareilles and the famous Hey Jude by The Beatles. Overall, it was a bold move deviating from contemporary pop songs, but MR pulled it off well and created a classy atmosphere as the night neared to its close.

MR’s team with their first performance item.

MR’s team with their first performance item.

Though MT faced some technical difficulties, with the guitarist having to make some adjustments even as the song started, MT house captain Wei Shi led the audience to cheer the house on in spite of this hitch. The band rose to the occasion and kicked off their performance with some old-school Maroon 5, Harder to Breathe. Next was the second Muse song of the night, Starlight – the highly emotional song was well-executed, so much so that they were able to connect with the audience. Lastly, the team performed Love Never Felt So Good by by the king of pop, Michael Jackson, and Justin Timberlake. True to their given genre – disco – variegated lights matched the upbeat rendition of the song which injected new, youthful life into the performance, ending the final song of the night on a high note.

MT in their opening act.

MT performing Maroon 5’s Harder to Breathe.

After MT’s performance drew to a close, Jazz and Rock took centre stage with a brief segment, singing the mellow Need The Sun to Break by James Bay and What You Know by Two Door Cinema Club to entertain the crowd while the judges retreated to deliberate. The results were finally released, to much cheering and impromptu drum-rolling:

1st: BW
2nd: BB
3rd: HH
4th: MT
5th: MR

The judges commended every house for well-prepared performances and innovative attempts at recreating well-known songs afresh – and indeed, there was much to be lauded: BB was praised for house spirit; BW for compelling stage charisma; HH for exciting energy; MR for their intricate arrangement of Fly Me To The Moon and When You Wish Upon A Star; and MT for musical tightness. BW, in particular, was singled out for their reggae infused take on Drake’s Hotline Bling; as Mr. Sowden said, ‘If I were Simon Cowell – and I’m wearing a black t-shirt right now – I’d say I really enjoyed myself… I’ve been in this school a long time [and] until now I haven’t heard a student performance of reggae.” Needless to say, the two week duration that the houses were given to put together a 15 minute performance was quite the challenge, and the houses inevitably encountered various difficulties that were made apparent in their performances. This was made evident by Mr. Tham’s comment: “There were hits and misses. No house stood out very strongly… In some cases the vocalists’ voices didn’t blend well, and instruments sometimes overpowered the vocalists.”

Ultimately however, keeping in mind the fact that every house had only 2 weeks to prepare, the effort that each house invested in Musicfeste was certainly applaudable. In the words of the irrepressibly buoyant emcees, “…if you think about, every house has done very well – we’re all in the top 5 every year!” As flippant as the comment may sound, Musicfeste is, fundamentally, more than just about technique. As Ng Zhi Rui (16S05A), one of MR’s 6 singers, said: “Even though MR got 5th, I think the team was really talented and I really enjoyed it, especially since [we] don’t usually have the chance to take part in something like this recreationally.” This year’s Musicfeste did what it always does best – celebrate not merely musical ability, but friendship and teamwork.

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