Singapore has been rather risk-averse when it comes to managing the COVID-19 situation, and only in late 2021 have choirs been allowed to come together to perform. Even then, choirs are limited to 20 singers on stage, and this has been a barrier for the larger community choirs to come together. Despite these challenges, some choirs have come up with different ways of meeting up to rehearse and to perform. One of these choirs is the NUSS Choir, who put up an amazing concert in their home ground of the NUS Guild Hall at Kent Ridge. The choir is led by accomplished choral director Mr Adyll Hardy and accompanied by Mr. Aditya Santoso on piano and percussion.
The NUSS Choir is an interest group formed by members of the National University of Singapore Society, an alumni association of NUS. The choir has had more than 20 years of music making and community building under their belt. They have about 50 or so members, and most of them older adults. Given the limitation on the number of singers allowed, the NUSS choir has embraced this constraint and formed three smaller choirs.
The concert began with Raymond Wise’s gospel song “Shine The Light”. This choice was a good choice; it made for easy listening and it warmed the audience with it’s rousing tune. Following which another section of the choir then performed Gerald Tan’s arrangement of “Di Tanjong Katong”. Despite being a small group of singers, the choir’s enthusiastic and stentorian singing overpowered the piano accompaniment. This did not detract the beauty of the performance, but rather enhanced the role of melody sung by the singers. The next part of the choir then performed the hauntingly beautiful work “Omnia Sol” which was written by Z. Randall Stroope, where the choir’s sensitive performance beautifully conveys the bittersweet moments of the parting of ways.
The next choir next performed James E. Moore’s “An Irish Blessing”, followed by the rousing Christmas tune “Gaudete” arranged by Mark Burrows, where Mr. Aditya expertly accompanied the choir on the hand drum. Eric Whitacre’s “Sing Gently” was performed next, where the piano’s soft playing allowed the choir to take on a broader emotional performance to this lovely work. The other choir then performed “故乡之恋 Gu Xiang Zhi Lian” (translated: My hometown Love), whose lovely tune won the approval of many audience members that night.
The choir then performed Victor C Johnson’s “Stars I shall find” with a warm tone that highlighted the colorful harmonies and the soaring melodies. The next piece was Mark Burrow’s Circa Mea, which was clearly a notable highlight of the evening. I was mesmerised by the solo line which was beautifully performed by Loh Wai Sim, and the choir matched the intensity of the work with deft precision and percussive delivery of the work. The catchy Samoan Folk Song “Minoi Minoi”, arranged by Christopher Marshall, was the next piece, where the groovy tune received a fair number of nods and bodies swaying amongst the audience.
Two pieces marked the end of the concert. The first was the choral classic work “Why we Sing”, written by Greg Gilpin. The last piece was Mark Hayes’ arrangement of “You’ll never walk alone / Climb Every Mountain”, two works coming out of the music of Rogers and Hammerstein.
All in all, this show was beautifully performed and wonderfully put together, although I found out much later that the reason why the piano was so soft was due to a technical issue. That said, splitting the choir into three ensembles was indeed a brilliant move that worked well- each ensemble only sings a few songs for the concert, and each ensemble take turns to be on centre stage. This strategy lowers the musical and cognitive load of the singers, who then were able to perform each song with a sense of freshness and vibrancy. The probable drawback to this will probably be on the shoulders of Mr Adyll Hardy and the organizing team, who would probably have to find creative ways to rehearse the three groups. It gives me courage and hope to see NUSS coming out of the constraints of COVID-19 to sing on the stage again, and I hope this this is a sign for better tomorrows for choirs in Singapore.
To Life We Sing, a concert by the NUSS Choir took place on 19 March 2022 at the Della and Seng Gee Guild Hall – Kent Ridge Guild House, Singapore.