Singing from the heart

> This year, The Can­ti­cle Singers go back to ba­sics to de­liver a show fo­cused purely on the mu­sic and fea­tur­ing fresh lo­cal tal­ents


THOSE who caught The Can­ti­cle Singers’ (TCS) En­core per­for­mance last year were blown away by how the choir, ac­com­pa­nied by guest soloists and dancers, belted out a va­ri­ety of songs rang­ing from show tunes and pop­u­lar ev­er­green favourites.

This year, The Can­ti­cle Singers re­turn with Mu­sic of Your Life, fea­tur­ing a to­tal of 18 songs.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view re­cently, founder and mu­sic di­rec­tor H.K. Chong said: “Ba­si­cally, a lot of the songs are re­flec­tions of life, whether they are fic­ti­tious or real.

“The theme song, Mu­sic of Your Life, ex­plains that the is­sues and prob­lems we face are all part of life. You just have to lis­ten, ac­cept them and work around that.”

The song was orginally writ­ten in 1998 by the Broad­way duo of com­poser Zina Goldrich and lyri­cist Marcy Heisler.

“We have sung a num­ber of their songs [be­fore],” Chong added. “They are thought­ful, provoca­tive and down-to-earth. Not many peo­ple write songs like that.

“We have taken it as our theme and it will be per­formed as a solo by one of our singers.”

Chong added that most of their per­for­mances are a mix of song gen­res, be­cause they cater to a wide au­di­ence.

“There are happy songs and sad songs. We find that it works well for [any] au­di­ence.”

Last year, there were guest soloists who sang opera and jazz num­bers. There were also dancers on stage ac­com­pa­ny­ing the singers.

But Chong said they de­cided to scale down their pro­duc­tion this time.

“We have 18 singers who will do so­los as well as small group num­bers,” he said, adding that the line-up will change de­pend­ing on who is avail­able.

“We do have a core group of peo­ple. Some have been with us since 2004.”

Choir master Melvyn Lau, who has been a part of TCS since 2016, said: “I wouldn’t view my­self as a tra­di­tional, strict choral master.

“The way TCS works is that [the singers] tend to self-di­rect. I just give them the keys to [do so].”

Lau ex­plained that he does not stand in front of the cho­rus, but in­stead give them cues and then blends into the group.

“TCS fo­cuses strongly on the cho­rus it­self,” he said. “It is up to each in­di­vid­ual singer to de­velop [his/her] own im­pe­tus and [make hid/her own de­ci­sions].

“The re­hearsals are less about telling the singers what to do, but in­stead [are about giv­ing] the singers the tools that they need for their per­for­mance.”

One of the new per­form­ers in the TCS choir is Shaun Chen, whom Chong ap­proached and per­son­ally in­vited to join Mu­sic of Your Life.

Chen is a tal­ented first-year stu­dent at the In­ter­na­tional Col­lege of Mu­sic (ICOM), and will soon be head­ing off to Berke­ley Col­lege in Boston un­der a mu­sic schol­ar­ship.

“The jour­ney pre­par­ing for the con­cert has been fun. I have learned a lot,” said Chen, who added that he has no is­sues singing ‘old’ songs.

“Grow­ing up, my par­ents ex­posed me to all kinds of mu­sic. I used to watch films like The Sound of Mu­sic and Oliver!. I love singing older songs like show tunes and clas­sics.”

The Mu­sic of Your Life per­for­mance by The Can­ti­cle Singers is hap­pen­ing on Oct 28 and 29 at 8pm at the Da­mansara Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre (DPAC)’s Black Box.

For more, visit DPAC web­site.

(left) United in a love for mu­sic ... (from left) Lau, Chen and Chong.

(be­low) The Can­ti­cle Singers at last year’s show.

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