CCA Previews ’21: Raffles Chorale

By Praakhar Agrawal (21S03B), Chairperson and Gwen Wu (21S06G), Welfairy

Melodies intertwine, and pristine harmonies coalesce into a hushed chord, holding the audience in bated breath. With the gentlest raise of the conductor’s palms, the music swells to its crescendo and voices unite, soaring to fill the concert hall with all its triumph, and the beauty of music shines through. When emotions run high on the stage—excitement, and perhaps a bit of anxiety—and you finally hit that difficult note perfectly after months of hard work, you hear that perfect blend of harmony. Truly, this is what music is all about. 

Raffles Chorale is a blend of singers hailing from diverse backgrounds—be it the passionate chorister or occasional bathroom singer. Wander near LT1, and you might hear voices singing. Don’t worry, it isn’t a resident ghost, you’ve just happened to catch us during practice! 

Typically, Chorale holds its practices every Wednesday and Friday in the school’s lecture theatre. Training sessions are divided into sectionals and combined, where the various choral sections—Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass—meet to embark on the pursuit of music-making. As a choir, we explore a wide variety of musical works—ranging from the sacred to the romantic, church to the classical and baroque to the contemporary—exploring numerous languages and cultures.

This year has certainly been different from the others, however. COVID-19 has affected us in more ways than one—most notably, we are unable to meet up for physical practices. But we’ve made the best of our situation. We now hold our practices over video conferences. Singing individually to avoid the dreaded lag had sounded intimidating at first, but singing in a non-judgemental, safe environment has definitely helped mould us to become better, more confident singers! 

We’ve found other ways to bond, too: playing virtual games like skribbl.io, staying back after sectionals to collectively mourn the approaching exams, and even discussing (or bickering) about riddles (we’ve got a great one about pelican meat). 

Raffles Chorale has a long-standing history of endeavouring towards musical excellence, as shown by our continuous achievement of the Distinction award in the biennial Singapore Youth Festival, most recently in 2019, as well as obtaining the Gold Award in the 12th International Choral Festival Orientale Concentus in 2018. Chorale also holds its student-driven, annual charity concert ‘Vocal Delights’ at the end of the year, where we get to explore the realm of acapella pop music. As a member of Chorale, you can look forward to learning acapella compositions, beatboxing and even acting! More than just performances, these experiences enable us to grow into holistic singers. 

A common misconception about Chorale is that singing is relatively easy, and does not require much effort. However, our conductor Mr Toh Ban Sheng always says, “There is a difference between making pitch, and making sound.” Striving for musical excellence, creating those indescribably magical moments when the music makes your hair literally stand on its ends—that is what Chorale is all about. A large part of achieving this high standard in music is about proper technique, and this is why Mr Toh places huge emphasis on teaching us on how to perfect our singing technique. (Fun fact! He used to be a physics teacher, and teaches us the science behind good singing technique!) This isn’t easy, especially because the descriptions of how to achieve this technique tend to sound very abstract, but with the help and support of fellow Chorale members, many of us, including those without prior singing experience, have been able to successfully improve our technique. Training is usually intensive, especially in the lead-up to concerts, with many of us squeezing in the time amidst our hectic schedules for unofficial practices. But, we promise, it’s all worth it.

If you are willing to commit yourself to the art of music-making alongside passionate individuals, if you are looking forward to being a part of an inclusive, supportive community, and if you hope to embark on a journey of self-discovery—come join us in Raffles Chorale, where there is no such beauty as where you belong.

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