PAGDIRIWANG – A choral atelier with Jonathan Velasco


Young Musicians’ Society presents
a choral atelier with Jonathan Velasco (Philippines)

Bringing together singers of different ages, professions and musical backgrounds, the atelier platform seeks to provide the singing public with the opportunity to explore choral music from around the world with our guest conductors.

This December, join Filipino choral conductor, Jonathan Velasco, in a celebration of the holiday season in our second atelier to date. Together with fellow choral enthusiasts, explore seasonal and Advent music in the week-long atelier (5 – 11 Dec), which culminates in a concert performance at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

Singers must be able to read music and have at least 3 years’ experience singing in a choir.  As the atelier can only accommodate a maximum of 48 singers in a balanced number of voice parts, you may be asked to audition.

Application closes 31 October 2013.

Download the brochure and application form here, or email us at for more information.

Atelier Sessions

Thu         5 Dec 2013       2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Fri           6 Dec 2013       9:30 am – 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Sat          7 Dec 2013       9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Sun         8 Dec 2013       Evening dress rehearsal (Esplanade Concert Hall)
Mon        9 Dec 2013       2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Wed       11 Dec 2013      Atelier performance

Fee: $120 (inclusive of scores)

Atelier Performance (as a concert segment)
PAGDIRIWANG A celebration of the holiday season
With Jonathan Velasco, Jennifer Tham and the SYC Ensemble Singers

Date: 11 December 2013
Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall


A Non-Singaporean’s view on “We Are Singapore”

Being Filipino, I found it somewhat ironic that my first full concert with the choir was “We Are Singapore”. In many ways, after just 14 months of living in Singapore and 8 months with the group, I am still an outsider trying to fit in to this new world that is simultaneously strange and familiar. However, the journey of preparing for the concert has given me new perspectives and heightened appreciation for what it means to be Singaporean.

Like the melting pot of cultures that Singapore is, we sang compositions and arrangements of musicians from all over the world. Like a true meeting of East and West, we sang English nursery rhymes, contemporary Italian madrigals, and Latin sacred music together with Chinese songs and a Japanese lullaby. A few local arrangements were surprisingly introspective and self-critical, with lines such as “we are the catered for” and “we will be silent, we will obey.” Some people might see Singapore as an efficient tropical paradise, but if the music of its local composers are any indication, the country’s psyche and sense of identity seem to still be in a state of flux and development, reflecting in dissonances and unconventional harmonies and chord progressions.

My personal favorite in this concert was “The Happiness of Fish”, which set a philosophical discourse between Zhuangzi and Huizi about perspective and knowledge to music. A Chinese friend who watched the concert marveled at how this famous text was made into a song. Arranged by Singaporean composer Zechariah Goh, to me this represented the Singaporean’s subtle adventurousness, and, similar to how more and more spectacular man-made creations are being built in this country, a desire to create beauty and wonder even in the most unexpected places.

I am often asked how Filipino choirs are different from Singaporean choirs. While many Filipino choirs and singers (at least in my experience) rely a lot more on feel, Singaporeans on the other hand, true to some stereotypes, focus on precision and adherence to the composer’s musical vision as transcribed on the score. I think this makes Singaporean choirs, SYCES in particular, excellent vessels for composers to make their music come to life. Many of my Singaporean friends praise Filipinos for having a natural talent for singing (obviously they have not heard some of my other friends sing, HA!), but I am also learning so much by being a part of the group in terms of singing intelligently and bringing the composer’s vision at the forefront.

I’m really looking forward to the concert in December — Pagdiriwang — which means “Celebration” in Filipino. While SYCES is sure to bring its Singaporean-ness to the music, it should have a distinct Filipino flavor as well with accomplished conductor Jonathan Velasco at the helm. Meanwhile, despite what my passport says, I think my being a part of the group and living in this country, trying to build a new home, is part of what Singapore is all about. Maybe I can join in saying “We Are Singapore!” after all.

– John Rae

We are Singapore, We are Music Makers, We are Family.

            It has been many years since SYCES has had an overseas camp and this was our first. During the previous two years when we were in the choir, the camps were held locally and over a day. Moreover, this camp was going to be held over four days! Not knowing what to expect, we headed through the causeway with excited and slightly apprehensive hearts.

Pulai Springs Resort, here we come!

            When we arrived at the resort, it felt pretty welcoming. After a pleasant lunch which relieved us of our hunger pangs, we headed to our practice room for ice-breakers.

The grand-looking practice room where we spent most of our time over the next four days.

            First, we drew lots which had been printed with animal names and we had to look for our fellow group members, whilst being blindfolded, by calling out the sounds of that animal. It was fun yet slightly challenging because it was difficult to identify our fellow group members from the cacophony. Following that, we played more games where we learnt about the acceptance of failure, leading and following. Personally, as followers, we also learnt that if we have an opinion, it would not hurt to voice it out; we just have to be tactful while issuing them. As recipients of feedback, we have to be receptive and be conscious of our body language otherwise it may prevent others from being more forthcoming with their opinions. If the opinion is wrong or does not work, we should take initiative to seek for others’ advice and look for a solution that works for us.

           We were redivided into groups and it was then announced that we had to perform a skit in our respective groups with the theme, “We Are Singapore”. After dinner, we went back to the practice room where Jen and Woon recounted the history of the choral scene in Singapore, as well as that of the SYC Ensemble Singers. We learnt that former conductors of the choir included Benjamin Khoo, who was also the founding figure. Also, we were in awe when we heard the varied repertoire that the choir had sung over the years. More importantly, we could tell how committed the members were, simply from the voice recordings. These recordings spurred us to be more responsible singers and to have greater ownership of the music.

           The highlight of the night was when we were taught The Singapore Medley, which the choir, then known as the Singapore Youth Choir, performed more than a decade ago. It was amazing that several members who were already in the choir back then still remembered the dance moves to the songs and taught them to us. We had a quick song-and-dance tutorial, with the women using the scarves while dancing. Learning the song was a meaningful experience because we as current members were able to experience the history of the choir, and hence in a way become a part of that history. Later on, the senior members of the choir were presented tokens of appreciation for their contribution and dedication to the choir. It was a heartwarming moment. :’)

Learning the choreography of the The Singapore Medley.

           Day two arrived quickly. We had a good morning work-out at the poolside, getting ready for our first rehearsal there. After breakfast, we headed for rehearsal for our coming concert (Have you bought your tickets?! :p). In the afternoon, we had several games where we discovered people who stepped up to lead, and also strengthened us as a team. It was evident that we left no man behind and worked together as one. Though not everyone was a natural leader, a follower was equally treasured. It was also heartening to realise that despite constantly being regrouped for the different games, no conflict arose and everyone worked harmoniously. Nonetheless, there were things to improve on, such as listening to instructions and executing them properly, and to be more caring towards one another. Soon, evening came and we continued with rehearsal, attempting to apply what we had learnt from our games to our role as choristers. We also played some games that helped us understand ourselves better with regards to our ability to focus and our spatial awareness as part of our warm ups.


Carefully carrying the tin and balloons to the pail so that they would not drop.

Playing Human Foosball!

           The next morning, we repeated the cycle of activities from the previous day. By the morning rehearsal, it was evident that we had learnt to be more active members of the choir, be it in terms of helping to listen out for others or improving on our own voices. In the afternoon we had more team building games, where we built up our communication skills and trust. We also learnt not to repeat mistakes. With that, we ended our three-day team building sessions and continued with practice at night. By the end of rehearsal, though there was (and is) still room for improvement on following and executing instructions, we did progress as a group.

           On the last day of the camp, it was time to showcase the hard work everyone had put in for our skits. Over the past four days, our respective groups had cracked our brains as we met up during allocated time slots as well as before and after rehearsals. Now, we were going to perform for everyone. The hour we spent was crazily entertaining; each group was simply witty, making use of the items that we had brought that reminded us of Singapore and inserting National Day songs wherever appropriate into the skit. Pictures speak more than a thousand words, so here are some that we have collated!

Lumber Hwan



Green Team

           Soon, it was time to leave. Though it was a short four days, the camp was an enriching one and we are really grateful for the experience. The absence of distraction during this period of time was truly a blessing. May we continue to apply what we have learnt from the camp in future practices and also in our personal lives!

Our hearty meal before heading back for Singapore.

Pulai Springs Resort, we will always remember you! ❤

-Charlene and Siew Lin-

hello for the first time

My virgin post here, and my thoughts on SYC so far! 🙂

It has been one year since I joined SYC though it felt like a short period of time that has passed so quickly. It feels rather surreal to have been part of SYC’s 2 major concerts, Due North, and Black & White for the amazing experience that I have taken away thus far. In the beginning it was not really a clear answer as to why I wanted to continue my choral journey after my years in secondary school and JC other than the joy of singing, and there seemed to be some other reason I wanted to join SYC that I could not really put my finger to it initially. After having performed and sung with them this time, it may sound rather cliché but I did end up figuring the true reason why I really wanted to do this, in a way that I can finally put it to words. It was the emotions and feelings that arise when performing and singing the songs each time, not just that from myself but more importantly feeling the passion and emotions of the person next to me. To me it was a blessing to be able to sing on the same stage with the people around me, i.e. the same talented people producing such beautiful sounds and chords that feel like they’re going to burst out of the basement studio/recital studio/room anytime, and create music, delivering interpretations of different pieces of music. The intense set of repertoire also felt as though we were telling a story from a book, each concert one book, each song one chapter, songs that excite or tickle the senses of the audience.  Feels kind of exciting to do that haha!

For me it was a really liberating and comforting feeling, especially with the stresses of daily life, to indulge in the energy and the passion surrounding you, (and feeding on each other’s energy) and that is the kind of happiness I got to experience, the feeling that I really enjoyed in singing in a choir!

I look forward to more of such experiences to come in this SYC journey, and also working harder and improving myself musically. But more importantly I’m just really thankful for the earcandy and for being able to make music with such a passionate group of individuals, so for all the SYC peeps, thanks! 😀 for the incredible experience and all the effort that you guys have put in. 🙂

– Jia Rong

The Hills Are Alive

I’m currently in Troyes of France, which is about a 3-hour ride from Paris. Just in three weekends, and I’ve lost count of the number of churches I’ve been to. Every time I enter one church, I am captivated by the beauty of the interior and overwhelmed with waves of urge to sing. Some churches play spirituals in the background really softly, and I am reminded of the times I sang in a church. Even though the last time I sang in a church was 7 years ago in Prague, yes I still cannot forget the sensation.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to practice. First it was the exams and now it’s the summer exchange programme. My idea of choral music was always very related to SYC, and my long absence made me feel like I was physically very out of touch with choir music. Sure, I hum and play choral music in my head all the time but ultimately I need to sing with others. NEED.

The school over here in Troyes brings us out every weekend, and after the recent weekend trip, I’ve come to realise that choral music can be anywhere. We went to somewhere near Lake Geneva, across the banks of Switzerland. So yes, with the Swiss Alps behind me, I had to do a Sound of Music meme shot. I just had to.


(PS, there is some form of similarity here. There just is.)

I was told that this town that we stayed in was the birthplace of Evian water, yes that overpriced bottled water was still overpriced over there. And as we explored the small town, in one of the churches, there was a choir singing! Of course I was the only one excited about it. I just whipped out my camera and used whatever remaining memory I had to film it all down. In all the hype of course I did not realise that my group of friends had left to explore other places, with only a few remaining to watch me wet myself with excitement. It was a small choir of about 25, with little kids and adults singing together, and they were singing one of those catchy upbeat tunes I’m not sure if I have heard it before or if it was so catchy that I find it familiar.

Not to mention that elderly choir in the cafeteria of the hostel we were staying at. I they were just visiting the area or touring, but they brought out a birthday cake for one of the elderly men, and started singing Happy Birthday in French! And then they just had to sing another short 4-part all men piece in celebration of his birthday. At that point of time I was so proud to be a choir geek I swear, albeit a closet one. I was thinking: holy, all choirs around the world do this! It reminded me of my secondary school and JC choir, bursting out in short pieces and celebrating birthdays randomly.

It helped that I found a fellow choir geek on this trip, and we could get excited together, talk about our different choir experiences together, and sing two parts out of four-part songs because we have to make do 🙂

– Germaine –

Have you sung with 300 people?

well not like during morning assembly where you start to wake up for real by tunefully mumbling lines of the national anthem with say a thousand of your fellow sch mates (sch is great btw)

also not quite like when you decide to follow the patriotism of your heart and go for a national day parade and the whole floating platform (downgrade for recession eh) follow the choir along their tunes (NDP is great btw)

nor is it like when u go down to Singapore Indoor Stadium to watch SNSD perform and you scream your lungs out of your mouth together with 3000 delirious SONEs (SNSD is DAEBAK/GREAT/AWESOME btw)

no, what I’m talking about is when 300 people join together to make song, music, harmony, where each individual in this huge mass of people termed a “choir” has a specific purpose, a specific role, a specific contribution to make to the success of the single entity called the “choir”. Where everyone has a unique voice, unique history, unique country. Like the combinations of all the colours in the spectrum coming together to form this clear beam of light that illuminates the world with music and explodes in all shades of hues and luminosity upon reaching the listener’s ears. Like the transmission of this iridescence explosion from many to one, so marvelous and miraculous some call it magic.

Imagine the moment when you realize the music is so much bigger than you, that the relationships made with those who sing with you are as sacred, as pure as the words and harmonies that have been forged and refined in the kiln of tears and sweat.
Then you realize, you have sung with 300 people, and 300 people have sung with you.

So, have you sung with 300 people?

I have, and I testify, after the song has ended, one emerges a changed, new being.

-benlee tan

Happy days are over… NOT!!

With 25th December behind our backs at the strike of 12 midnight, gone is the day of us wishing each other “Feliz Navidad” (Merry Christmas in Spanish) and singing joyful christmas carols with our friends and families. As we usher in Boxing day and open our presents from our “Secret Santas”, one would think that there is probably nothing much more to look forward to, other than the upcoming new year just round the corner as 2012 comes to an end. However, I am extremely excited and looking forward to January next year!! This is because SYCES will be going to… Wait for it… Hokkaido, Japan!! 😀

With the THREE instalment having come full circle after 6 long years, we are once again embarking on another trip to Japan, where we will have another combined performance!! 🙂 I honestly cannot suppress the excitement and joy of meeting up with the people from Ateneo Chamber Singers and Gaia Philharmonic Choir. I am looking forward to the opportunity to sing together with them again and I am sure that it is going to be a night filled with wonderful music and choral camaraderie.

Of course, how can I forget the ever energetic Ko Matsushita and happy-go-lucky Jonathan Velasco?? I am sooo looking forward to being able to be conducted by them in our 3-choir combined pieces!! Of course, we will also have our lovely Ms Jennifer Tham conducting a combined piece composed by our very own local talent, Americ Goh! Wah… just typing down all these things is already making me uber excited!!

With just 2 more practices to go before we fly over to Hokkaido, I am all geared up to put on a wonderful concert together with ACS and Gaia from 4-7th Jan 2013! Looks like SYCES is going to have a belated white christmas after all!! Snow angels, anyone? 😛

– Song Ern