Wednesday, August 25, 2021

' Songs Of Hope & Yearning' in Review

By Jeremy Lee

22 Aug, 2021

If one wants to perform “live” amid a pandemic, persistence is a requirement, especially if it involves singing in Singapore.

When 4 friends decided to put on a vocal recital in 2020, they probably didn’t foresee that their dream would be postponed a few times, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the authorities.

On Sunday, 22 August - almost a year from their initial date - it finally took place with the title Songs Of Hope & Yearning, possibly an inadvertent reflection of our collective desire to be free from this pandemic.

As the audience sat down in the cosy VOS@Adelphi studio and held the programme booklet in their hands, it would’ve been clear that a lot of thought was put into this show.

First of all, the very fact that a physical programme booklet (which included lyrics!) was given out in the first place is a rarity, in these days of QR codes and e-programmes.

In it was laid out a story that tied together the songs we were about to listen to, painstakingly crafted to fit the thoughtfully curated music - a selection of classical, musical and traditional pieces that were seemingly disparate but flowed remarkably smoothly.

The solos gave each performer -- 4 of them ran the gamut of male voices from bass to countertenor -- a chance to shine, which each man seized admirably.

Thus, each singer had their highlight: Dennis Lin playing the melodica like a dream and vocally nailed the sublime B-flat in the tricky Till I Hear You Sing, Tan Kian Wee’s soaring melodies in heartwarming dialect, Jireh Koh’s effortless switching from bass in one song to countertenor in another, and Law Kai Xiang’s capable classical confections.

But where they excelled on their own, the singers showed that they’re good together as well. On ditties like the 4-part version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and closing number Auld Lang Syne, the harmonies blended appealingly.

Incidentally, the arrangement for Hallelujah was a group effort started by Jireh with input from the rest, while Auld Lang Syne and Edelweiss were specially arranged by Bernard Lee - these creations another indication of the effort that went into this production and how much it represents the collective.

The only quibble was that the concert was too short. Just as we became immersed in their world, we alas had to leave it too soon.

However, what the audience would’ve taken away is a sense that we were fortunate -- to be able to behold the passion and blossoming artistry of young musicians, even as the authorities continue to restrict activities that involve expulsion of airborne droplets.

Hopefully, pandemic situation permitting, this won’t be the last time we’ll hear Singapore’s answer to Il Divo!

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