By Clarine See (18S03G) and Yeo Kee Hwan (18S03Q)
The Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) is a biennial event for performing arts CCAs to showcase their talents, and entails hundreds of hours of hard work and practice behind the scenes. Raffles Chorale’s months of preparation and dedication culminated in an enchanting 15-minute presentation on 20th April, at the SOTA concert hall.
Although Chorale’s performance was scheduled in the late afternoon on a weekday, there was still a heartwarming turnout of supporters who came to cheer them on. The concert hall was fully packed, and Chorale was met with thunderous applause and shouts of encouragement when they finally took the stage.
The girls cut a solemn figure in their red-lined black dresses, and the boys livened up the conventional suit with a dash of red for their bow ties. Chorister Ganesh Gunasekaran (17S06D) introduced their three pieces, adding that the members had learnt to work together for a common cause, before wishing that the audience would enjoy their performance. Conductor Mr Toh Ban Sheng then took the reins and the performance commenced.
Chorale’s first song was Timor et Tremor, a Latin motet whose title means ‘trembling and fear’. Indeed, they opened it with a bang, with a bold soprano line grounded by a strong bass. The strong start was continued by a crystal-clear melody that soared above the repetitive motifs in the lower registers. It was fortunate that the female soloist had a bright and resonating voice that held strong despite surges in volume in the bass parts, such that the lyrical melody could be maintained in tandem with the solid beat.
In a display of their skill, Chorale also played with changes in volume and rhythm to great effect, effectively embodying the dark and dramatic nature of the song, while demonstrating impressive vocal control, teamwork, and a variety in tonal colours.
Their next song, Bunga Sayang, is this year’s set piece (a piece that every participating choir must present). Composed by Dick Lee, a celebrated composer in the local arts scene, the song’s Malay title translates to ‘flower of love’, and through its gentle, rocking melody and sweet flowing harmonies, conveys a uniquely Singaporean flair.
Beginning with words that call to mind the fishing village we began as, the breathy voices of the soprano line set the tender mood of the song. Before long, the tenor line joined in, creating a rich layered effect between the upper and lower lines.
In the second part of the chorus, the bass joined in at the same time as the rest of the choir, adding more substance to the song. This then continued as the girls utilised a lower register than before and the boys’ voices begin to dominate, utilising a range of ornamentation like turns, as well as an offbeat rhythm at a faster pace. The song was rounded off with the return of the lyrical soprano line as all the voices melded as one before ending off on, quite literally, a high note.
Their last piece was The Conversion of Saul, a piece based on a Biblical account of Saul the Apostle, who was an active persecutor of followers of Jesus before being struck by a divine revelation on his journey to Damascus, leading to his conversion to Christianity.
Quite aptly, it began with a lone male voice, before the other boys and eventually girls joined in. The vehemence in the initial part of the song was amplified by the entire choir stomping in unison, further punctuated by the soprano line’s forceful melody, highlighting Saul’s initial hatred of the Christians. Here, a transition occurs as the boys begin chanting, creating a sense of unease by combining a series of descending chromatic scales with dissonant harmonies, before resolving and ends off on a high pitched, plaintive note.
Keeping in accordance to the story, the boys broke the silence with their plaintive question ‘why do you persecute me?’ as the girls maintained an almost modal tune. Finally, the leading of the piece returned to the hands of the soprano line, with the bass line quietening and slowing, accompanied by drawn out, dissonant chords that eventually, rather appropriately, end in a perfect cadence, highlighting the revelatory nature of Saul’s conversion.
Within a short span of 15 minutes, Raffles Chorale enraptured their entire audience, be they supportive parents and friends, or simply members of the public. The mastery in skill and the passion with which they delivered their songs was admirable, and reflected the age-old power of music in conveying emotion and touching hearts.
Raffles Press would like to congratulate Chorale on earning a Distinction in their arts presentation, and wish them all the best in their upcoming concert!
Timor et Tremor (Francis Poulenc)
Bunga Sayang (acapella, arr. Zechariah Goh)
Conversion of Saul (Randall Stroope)