Carnegie date for Singapore choir

Fresh off its debut concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall last week, Singapore choral group Vocal Associates will be performing at New York City's prestigious Carnegie Hall next Tuesday.

Its 30-minute set will see the 55-member choir performing songs with Chinese, Malay and Indian influences while wearing ethnic costumes. The members range in age from seven to 72.

The performance will be part of the New York Sounds of Summer International Music Festival, the second edition of the annual event.

Also performing in the same concert are Puerto Rican orchestra Academia Musical Da Capo, Lynbrook High School Festival Band from California and Denver Young Artists Orchestra.

Vocal Associates will perform at the 2,804-seat main hall of Carnegie Hall, the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, which has seen performers such as the New York Philharmonic and Sir Paul McCartney grace its stage.

Tickets to the show, which cost between US$15 (S$20.40) and $30, have almost all sold out.

Besides the indoor concert, the group will also perform at the Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem on Monday.

Says Ms Khor Ai Ming, Vocal Associates' artistic director: "It is a milestone for our choir. It's a great recognition as artists to be singing on the stage of the biggest auditorium in Carnegie Hall."

The non-profit choral group was formed in 2014.

While its recent concert was billed as its solo debut, Vocal Associates has taken part in performances here including The Lord Of The Rings - The Two Towers concert with Metropolitan Festival Orchestra in 2014 and Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony with the Orchestra of the Music Makers last year.

"We've been building our reputation for the past two years," says Ms Khor, 45.

She had applied to World Projects, a company which organises international performance tours for music ensembles, last year and was offered her pick of festivals held in four international concert halls - Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Hawaii Theatre, the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall.

She chose the largest of the lot, Carnegie Hall.

The team has to pay a fee of US$2,000 a person to be part of the festival, which covers everything except flights.

Seventy-three people will be flying to New York, including the 55 members of the choir, three musicians, staff and family members.

The trip is funded by the members themselves.

Audience members who attended the choir's sold-out debut concert, John Rutter's Mass Of The Children, at the Esplanade's Concert Hall last month, would have seen a preview of the Carnegie Hall show.

Five of the six songs which they will perform in New York were from the Asian repertoire from that concert.

These are Dragon Dance by Leong Yoon Pin; P. Ramlee's Getaran Jiwa; What Pattern? by Tony Makarome, which features South Indian-style chanting; Taiwanese folk song Autumn Cicadas; and a xinyao medley. The last one will be a song from Mass Of The Children.

In addition to the Asian sounds in the concert, the group will be wearing ethnic costumes.

Ms Khor says: "I think it's important to present our own Asian culture. Even if the audience might not know much about Singapore, we must show them who we are, our culture and heritage, and what we can do.

"We may be a Western-trained choral group, but we are proud to do our own thing."

This article was first published on June 7, 2016.
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