By Yeo Jun Wei (17S03B) and Ada Lim (17S03B)
Additional Reporting: Elyn Tzen (17S03B)
Photos by Chiow Hui Min and Liu Yanru of Raffles Photographic Society
Viva – a promise to embrace life, a reminder to rejoice in victories, an opportunity to delight in simple pleasures. Such was the invitation warmly extended by Raffles Jazz on the evening of 6 May 2016. And it certainly surpassed all expectations, allowing the audience to experience a myriad of human emotions that we have long taken for granted.
The concert kicked off with the iconic Superstition. Originally performed by American singer-songwriter, Stevie Wonder, the funky, up-tempo pop rhythm got the audience members pumped up for the night of music. Vocalist Sriya Bobba set the stage right as she encouraged the audience to put their hands up in the air and clap along, pushing the atmosphere to an instantaneous high.
An exciting setlist of varied melodies ensued. These included upbeat pieces such as Wave and Bag’s Groove, which, as its name suggests, certainly got the audience members grooving in their seats. These were balanced out by slower, romantic songs such as Stars Fell on Alabama and My Funny Valentine – the vocalists’ soft, almost-whispering tones perfectly lulling the audience into a relaxed bliss. Familiar tunes that one might not have previously associated with having their roots in jazz, such as My Favourite Things and Over the Rainbow were also performed with original twists that blended in well with the respective vocalists’ voices.
What caught the audience members’ attentions was definitely also the creative transitions in between songs. These included clips by the fictitious “GatNeo Channel”, a video showcasing people laughing at cheesy puns which successfully got the audience chortling along; certainly, one could say “My Funny Valentine”. Audience members were also handed colourful pieces of origami paper as they entered the venue, and were encouraged to write notes of appreciation for jazz members whom they came to support, typically in the capacity of a friend or family member, all in the name of the next song – Just the Two Of Us. This was complemented by a homemade montage showcasing members being interviewed regarding their favourite things, leading on, of course, to the song My Favourite Things.
The personal touch of the concert did not stop with the montage, which shone a spotlight on individual members and featured the unity and spirit of the jazz community. It could actually be felt through the skill of each musician. As per jazz tradition, after presenting the main melodies of a number, each player would perform a short improvised solo with their respective instrument. The solos that night were as impressive as they were memorable. Not only were difficult techniques such as scat singing (by the vocalists) and slap-and-pop (on the bass) pulled off without a hitch, the solos truly allowed for each Jazzer to express themselves on stage in a unique, individual way.
The highlight of the concert came just after the fifteen-minute intermission. As jazz members took up their instruments once more behind the curtains, a soundtrack of a rooster’s calls were played over the system, urging the audience to settle down and anticipate the next act. And yet, it was also a perfect indication clueing audience members into the next song. That’s right. It was The Chicken, a wild funky tune, in direct contrast to the mellower timbre of the previous songs, featuring a furious drum beat and blaring brass sounds – a number as loud and obnoxious as its namesake. The audience members were roaring with laughter the moment the curtains lifted, for the bassist was somehow dressed – you guessed it – like a chicken. Immersed in his role, he clucked his way off stage after the song, earning more guffaws from the audience who were thoroughly entertained and amused not just by the get-up, but also by the fun and lively way in which the performance was delivered.
The performers dressed up once more in straw hats during Summer Samba (So Nice). The characteristic Brazilian swing and lulling bossa feel plunged the Performing Arts Centre into a laidback and easygoing mood, effectively transporting the audience to a sunny Hawaiian beach where frothy waves gently caress the shoreline and palm trees dance in the wind.
As the last note of the familiar My Favourite Things drifted to an end, the audience members were reluctant for the concert to conclude, and brought the performers back on stage with their resounding shouts for an encore. And the jazz members happily complied, dropping the dance single Dancing in the Moonlight as the various sections took their time in the limelight and received standing ovation from the audience.
The concert was a resounding success, even by the standards of Raffles Jazz. As Chairperson John Chew says, “Our concert was definitely fun for us Jazzers and we do hope the audience had as much fun as we had! Whether you were there listening to the music as a first timer or as a hardened jazz fan, I hope everyone enjoyed our music and had a pleasant evening.”
The concert would not have been such a success if not for the vision of the organisers to touch the audience’s lives with music, nor the members’ passion to carry it through. Through a rollercoaster of songs that prompted the audience to embrace nature, rejoice love, and find delight in quiet moments, Viva by Raffles Jazz reminded the audience of not just our capacities for human emotion, but of the fact that our ability to feel is what makes us human and gives us purpose in life, for the spectrum of emotions we feel are what make life colourful. The different Jazz songs reflected the different aspects of life, from the quiet moments to the loud ones, celebrating the beauty of life in all its wondrous sounds.
- Bag’s Groove
- Stars Fell on Alabama
- My Funny Valentine
- Just the Two of Us
- There Will Never Be Another You
- The Chicken
- Summer Samba
- Over the Rainbow
- Can’t Take My Eyes off You
- My Favourite Things