The first time I heard Shadowcatcher by Robert Casteels was when I have yet to join SYC and was scrolling through their YouTube channel, chancing upon a video which showcased the song itself.

Shadowcatcher Shadowcatcher urban-shaman

Simply paint my shadow white and make me someone.

It was one of the songs that caught my attention and its tune was etched in my mind. The words in the song made no sense because I didn’t know the context of the song. This song even has a rapper and I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know that choral songs could involve a rapper. How does one compose a choral song with a rapper? What a revelation! This is such an interesting fusion because we mostly listen to rappers in modern pop songs accompanied by a back track and here we are, finding a rapper in a choral piece! Instead of pop music, the choristers are now the ones who readily provide the ‘background track’ giving this piece a sort of unique ambience. Pretty cool huh!

As I listened to the YouTube recording, I imagined the amount of work that had to be done and wondered how they pulled this off. The video showed parts of the score as the members sang the piece. There were also claps, snaps, and chants whilst singing was in progress. The coordination of speaking in rhythm as well as making the different parts of the song respond to each other was amazing. Words the rapper had skillfully articulated were re-sung by the choristers moments later, not only making it rhythmically catchy and pleasing to the ear, but emphasising the words and shaping the character and imagery of the piece.

No hit no catch no match

So go and get the torch

Hey we need to scorch

Hey we need to scorch

The shadows of your mind…

Catch, march, torch, hey need to scorch

Now as a member of SYCES, I have a chance to be exposed to many different types of music, and interestingly enough, the choir recently picked up Shadowcatcher once more. Although the music of the piece remained similar, this score was actually an updated version of the Shadowcatcher that I watched and listened to on YouTube. As I held the score in my hands and started flipping through this complex piece of music, flashbacks of what I heard and saw on YouTube filled my head and I was so excited to give this piece a shot! There were fun and interesting parts to the song such as singing the words “monkey” and “donkey”, which made me ask myself: “What am I actually singing?” and “What do these words mean?”

Thin and fat and lean and mean all forming a black meltdown

Black on white black on white say it right and be forthright

Black Black White White Meltdown.

Since the music was not in any fixed key, getting the notes and the interval jumps were tough initially. With tuning forks in everyone’s hands, we tried our best to get the notes. It was only after observing patterns were we able to piece the entire song together.

Another challenging and sometimes scary bit of the song would be how fast paced it is! With so many things going on, you have got to be on your toes when singing this piece. Subdivisions:“1 and 2 and 1e and a 2e and a…”, tuning fork ready, take your note from others, re-tune. Entry! And… cut! Wait for the call; respond! Count count count. Whenever this song was being rehearsed, there would always be a little tension in the air because we all understand the stamina as well as amount of effort needed in perfecting the music (so thrilling!). When everybody’s hard work and concentration is pumped into singing this song, magic happens. We all know how piecing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle feels like: the end result is a beautiful picture which could only formed from piecing the puzzle together, giving us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, kind of how I felt when we completed the song!

Sha-dow cat-cher Shadowcatcher (spoken in rhythm =166)

I think at the end of the day, this piece has taught me that when we embark on a challenge, the start is not going to be easy, but it is this mindset of thinking it is too tough for us that we must be able to get rid of in order for us to progress. Once we bear the correct mindset, constant familiarizing as well as hard work is what we need to make things possible. With that, I’m looking forward to conquering more challenging pieces in future!

Let us continue to catch shadows.