Concert Review

One Review of THREE: A 50th Anniversary Concert with SYC & Friends


Ateneo Chamber Singers with Jonathan Velasco (Philippines) Gaia Philharmonic Choir with Ko Matsushita (Japan) SYC Ensemble Singers with Jennifer Tham (Singapore)

Gaia x ACS x SYCES Vytautas MIŠKINIS ‘My Song’*

SYCES Americ GOH ‘Singapura Permai’ Kelly TANG ‘Sonnet 43’ Ivo ANTOGNINI ‘Life has…’ Eric BANKS ‘Artifacts’*

ACS x SYCES Ryan CAYABYAB ‘Preghiera Semplice’

ACS Ryan CAYABYAB ‘Sanctus/Agnus Dei’ ‘Iduyan Mo’ ‘Hibang sa Await’ ‘Munting Sanggol’


Gaia x SYCES Ko MATSUSHITA ‘Itsuki no Komori Uta’

Gaia Takatomi NOBUNAGA ‘From the Ruins’ – Chapter 1,2,3. Ko MATSUSHITA ‘Tori’

Gaia x ACS x SYCES Ko MATSUSHITA ‘Hoc est praeceptum meum’ Ryan CAYABYAB/arr. Gianpaolo ELERIA ‘Better World’

*world premiere N.B. The above follows the actual performance order and reflects the change in Gaia’s programme order.

The ‘World Choral Day‘ proclamation read by the THREE renowned international conductors is certainly a reflection of what is happening onstage… “Sing, choirs of the world!” and sang they certainly did!  For those of you who might be new to THREE, check out the following writeup!

THREE Introduction

A combined chorus composed of THREE of Asia’s finest choirs from THREE countries totalling over a 100 singers opened the concert with the world premiere of Lithuanian composer-conductor Vytautas Miškinis’s ‘My Song’ conducted by the composer himself!

Ateneo Chamber Singers’s (ACS) superb Bel Canto vocal production was married with an expression of text in the most musical of ways. Both choir and conductor possess a sensitive sense of proportion, crescendos evident in the singing AND programming – starting with Sanctus/Agnus Dei, a layering of pulsating ostinatos that creates a sense of constantly falling forward, the ACS programme climaxes with ‘Hibang sa Awit’ before ending the first half with ‘Munting Sanggol’, a excellent example of well-crafted melodic ‘hooks’, giving audience something to hum to during the intermission.  The all Cayabyab programme showcases the dual facets of a versatile composer who is equally at home with ‘Art Music’ (if there be such a thing) and equally well-written choral music that is closer to ‘commercial music’.  Adding much shine to the performance was the participation of the famed composer himself accompanying ACS on the piano. Kudos to the FUNTASTIC vocal soloists from the choir as well!

Gaia Philharmonic Choir performed Takatomi Nobunaga’s ‘From the Ruins’.  Inspired by the world war, the work is sophisticated, angular and dark.  Well sung with disconcerting wails, impeccable precision of ensemble and intonation, the smallest choir (in terms of numbers) amongst the THREE were big on artistry and singing.  Takatomi Nobunaga himself was in attendance during the concert! Conducted by composer-conductor Ko Matsushita arguably one of Asia’s biggest choral ‘rock star’, Gaia also performed well, ‘Tori’ a work of well-crafted melodic writing and rich harmonies.

SYC Ensemble Singers performed admirably, choral works by local composers – ‘Singapura Permai’ by Americ Goh and in bringing out the counterpoint of Dr. Kelly Tang’s ‘Sonnet 43’.  However, the choir shone brightest in the world premiere of ‘Artifacts’ by American composer Eric Banks.  Setting music to 50 lines (not a coincidence, in view of the 50th Anniversary of SYC) written by SYC member Samuel Lee, with a title that reflects SYC’s trip down memory lane with ’50 Artefacts X 50 Years’ the mercurial music organised in 15 quatrains/sections perhaps reflects best what SYC does, surprising us at every musical turn, transforming from one musical idea to the next.

Interspersed between individual choir items were combined choir items that showcased pieces that SYC has performed before but now conducted by the conductors hailing from the composers’ native countries.  All of these were sung beautifully – there were just too many highlights in this concert and fully describing these would have made the post overly long.  The official last piece for the concert, the official anthem for THREE is ‘Better World’ and showcased the combined chorus’s full potential with a resounding fortissi(sisisisisi)mo.

The well-attended concert by diplomats, composers and conductors (a veritable Who’s Who in  the international and local choral music scene) was extended by two surprise gifts of music from Ko (performed by Gaia) and Vytautas Miškinis (performed by combined choir Gaia and ACS).  Ko remarked publicly (to chuckles from the audience) how difficult it was to ‘sneak in rehearsals behind closed doors’.  As an encore, the concert ended on a beautiful note with a simple choral arrangement by Cultural Medallion winner Dick Lee, (who is an alumnus of SYC by the way) with ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ conducted by Jennifer Tham.

THREE Finale

This concert is truly, a milestone in Singapore’s choral history, with the unofficial national choir lighting the way for collaborative concerts, a living example that ‘there had to be more to being a choir than a mess of trophies’ (‘Life begins at 40’ concert programme booklet, 28 February 2004).  There is much love, hope and joy indeed for the Singaporean choral scene if we have younger conductors following in the footsteps of such visionaries.  Congratulations!