Celebrating diversity

Celebrating diversity
The AcoustiKa Jazz Quartet, comprising (above from left) Miyata Masato, Rafaee Mahmood, Karen de Silva and Cai Xiang Lun.

You would expect to hear French songs at the annual French festival of music, Fete De La Musique, but Tagalog? Singapore-based Filipino choir PsalmiDeo Chorale is one of 40 acts performing at the festival which returns tomorrow.

It is the first time the chorale will be performing at the event at the Alliance Francaise de Singapour and they plan to sing a mix of English and Tagalog songs.

"At first, we were thinking of singing French songs," says Mr Orlando Cruz, 31, a financial analyst who has lived in Singapore for six years and has been singing with the chorale for five years. "But we realised that we didn't have to, that the whole idea of the festival is about variety and diversity."

Besides PsalmiDeo Chorale, the festival will also have performances by the Singapore Lyric Opera's Children's Chorus; AcoustiKa Jazz Quartet, which plays jazz standards as well as jazzed-up French classics such as La Vie En Rose; and Kopi Cafe, a French hip-hop, reggae, funk and folk trio.

More than 500 people are expected to attend Fete De La Musique, which is free and open to the public.

The festival, first held here in 1997, will include 250 Singaporean and international musicians on four stages throughout the Alliance Francaise in Sarkies Road. About 50 per cent of the acts are local.

"The concept is French, but it is open to everyone," says the French cultural centre's executive director, Ms Claire-Lise Dautry, 58.

Many of the 40 acts will perform mainly in English. There will be pop and rock performances in the centre's gallery and classical and jazz in its theatre. Piano music and jazz await in the lobby, where there will also be a wine and aperitif buffet at 7pm. Children can look forward to musical storytelling in the library.

Most performances will be 10 to 30 minutes long so visitors can go easily from one performance and venue to another.

"It's fun to do a gig which has a connection to our home country when we are so far away. It is an event which is close to our hearts and hopefully we will get to know other French acts here," says Mr Stew Bamrah, 26, a member of Kopi Cafe and a French-born Briton who works as a field hockey coach in Singapore.

Kopi Cafe also comprises Anne Sophie Aly Beril, 25, from Reunion Island and Rohan Houssein, 24, from France. All three members grew up going to Fete De La Musique events.

Started in France in 1982 by then- French minister of culture Jack Lang, the day-long festival is held every year on June 21, the summer solstice and the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

It aims to encourage musical appreciation and practice across all genres of music, including jazz, classical, pop and rock, in an informal and lively setting, and is celebrated in more than 100 countries around the world, from Botswana to Bangladesh. Thousands of concerts are held across France in its honour, where music often continues into the early hours of the morning.

"Walking down the street in France, you could hear someone singing opera at their window or children playing drums outside your door all night long. It could be wonderful or it could be terrible, but you cannot complain, not for this one night," says the Alliance Francaise's Ms Dautry.

"I like that people come to share music, which is an international language. It is a happy, friendly party for people from six to 70 years old," she adds. "We live in a world that is not friendly every day and I like that these events build a kind of bridge for people to be happy together."

Book it
Where: Alliance Francaise de Singapour, 1 Sarkies Road
When: Tomorrow, 10am to 11pm
Admission: Free
Info: www.alliance francaise.org.sg

This article was first published on June 20, 2014.
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