By Anamika Ragu (23A01A), Noh Sangeun (23S06Q), and Saara Katyal (23S05A)
On what some like to call ‘the finest Friday of July’ (the 29th), the Din and Tonics, Harvard University’s premier a capella group, made their post-pandemic return to RI, having last been here in 2018.
In response, the lecture theatre filled up with students, teachers, alumni and Central Singapore Community Development Council (Central CDC) officials, ready to be dazzled.
Kennis Tan (23S03P) had actually been to a Dins performance before — back in 2018, when they performed at Raffles Girls’ School as a thank-you present from the Central CDC. “I’m so excited to see them perform again!”
Alysa Cheng (23S03L), the emcee, had been to the same performance, and shared the excitement. Following her introduction, the audience looked to the wings, eagerly awaiting the Dins’ entrance.
Instead, the applause was broken by rapid footsteps coming from the LT’s left entrance.
Out came the group’s Business Manager and baritone Mattheus Carpenter, followed by Music Director and tenor Karalyn Joseph, going from a speedwalk to a sprint as they scrambled to get into position. The other Dins entered in a similar fashion, some running in from backstage, the group’s President Samuel Zwickel leaping on-stage from the front, and the rest shuffling between mics before commencing their first piece.
This chaos, while catching the audience off-guard, prepared them for an evening filled with laughter. As such, the performers began with a medley of songs centred around flight: a mashup of Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me and Fly Me To The Moon, and Nat King Cole’s Straighten Up and Fly Right.
The Dins, however, had made it clear that they weren’t just any jazz group singing iconic tunes of yore. Between the harmonies cropped up phrases such as ‘Fly like a G6’ and, ‘Watch out for cooties’ (after the lyric, ‘Darling, kiss me’) earning affectionate chuckles from enraptured audience members.
Next came Sh’boom by The Chords, followed by You’ve Got A Friend In Me from the Pixar film Toy Story where the soloists wove light, easygoing, and nostalgic tunes, taking the audience through a series of nostalgic memories as the entire LT sat entranced by their sound.
To end off the first segment of the show, Chew Jay Hong, RI alumnus from the class of 2019, stepped forward for a solo on the Dins’ Rainbow Medley (Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Rainbow Connections), followed by Elio, as the entire LT sat entranced by the group’s sound.
Jay Hong’s solo drew loud whoops from the audience, especially from his old friends and schoolmates who came by to support him. As Ashvin Sivakumar (19A01D), who is currently working as a relief teacher in RI said, “The bunch of us here today know him from PB or council… it’s really cool being able to see him perform with his new friends today.”
After a melodious rendition of It’s a Lovely Day Today by Ella Fitzgerald came an audience favourite: McDonald’s Girl. From the start, it was clear that this was no regular serenade, as the speaker confessed their love for an “angel in a polyester uniform”.
In a mid-song monologue, the picture of a wobbly-voiced hopeless romantic, Elio announced: “Together we can make every meal a Happy Meal — so what do you say? Am I for here… or to go?” As the audience erupted into applause, the song came to a jubilant end, and the Dins rounded up the comedic quartet with a hilarious performance of Keepsake followed by a medley of John Williams’ most iconic tunes.
This started with the Star Wars, E.T., and Harry Potter theme songs accompanied by little skits of potion-brewing and finger aligning, then progressed into the Jaws music, featuring cries of “shark!”, and finally Clark Kent’s heroic overture (during which Jay Hong duly opened his shirt to reveal a blue suit below).
After a series of songs popularised by American pop culture, the Dins launched into a surprise performance of some local favourites – Where I Belong and Home, with the latter featuring a solo by Jay Hong. As the performers beckoned to the audience to sing along, the entire lecture theatre felt, at least momentarily, united. Eyewitness accounts report that Jay Hong may even have shed a tear on stage.
According to the Dins, they (rather impressively) learnt the National Day songs in just a day. “We really love Singapore… it exceeded the expectations Jay Hong set for us,” said Mattheus.
The final song (on the programme) was New York, New York. As the music faded away, the audience rose for a well-deserved standing ovation. A singular shout of “Encore!” soon turned into a collective chant. The ever-gracious Dins relented, popping back on stage for their encore performance of All of Me. Mattheus took the central mic for the final solo, a tender yet cheery piece dotted with playful vocalisations.
Their final bows were met with another standing ovation that lasted a full minute.
This year was the first time the Din & Tonics traversed on a world tour having expanded beyond an all-male ensemble. Karalyn, the first woman to join the Dins in 2018, recounted the story with great enthusiasm: “I didn’t even know… I walked into a room to audition and found it full of men,” she admitted. “But good thing the Dins had just changed their Constitution to include people of all races and identities, so I got in!”
What a good thing it was too; together with affording the group a much wider vocal range, this move was one that inspired and empowered a whole new demographic of young people.
The performance left the audience on a high that filled the space outside LT4 with a pleasant sense of warmth. It was a testament to the Dins’ highly reputed showmanship that they had won over hundreds of audience members in the span of a short hour, made evident by the flurry around the merchandise booth and a frenzy for pictures and signatures.
While many audience members were still collecting themselves from their post-performance highs, the time came for the Rafflesians to wave goodbye to their pseudo-counterparts also clad in green, black, and white. With that, the magical evening came to a close, leaving everyone present with full hearts.