Ramblings of a (new mummy) singer

This blog post (baby) took 9 months in the making…ok maybe a couple of weeks, the blog post, I mean.

The pieces that we pick up in the choir (The screams of a hungry and impatient baby).
Music to the ears of the beholder.

Having a newborn and singing in a choir sorta parallels Life =)

Dragging a tired body and mind to the SONG and MUSIC at choir rehearsals (twice weekly, over 12 years now. Wow. 12 already?), at the end of a challenging school / work/ day…

Can I still sing while preggy? What will the bodily (hormonal!!) changes do to my voice?
Trepidations aplenty. I remember…

feeling breathless singing within ONE bar

*breathe breathe. skip a couple of notes. Smile =) Sing. breathe breathe*

wondering if I’ll still fit into my choir uniform
looking like a hippo in a borrowed larger uniform
singing with the choir on stage at 7 months in *achievement unlocked!*


Soothing a seemingly inconsolable crying newborn (EVERY DAY) with SONG and MUSIC… Soothes so many raw nerves.

I recently re-discovered a stash of SYC concert recordings and dug out 2 of my favourites – Poverello (2004) & Dobrogosz Plays Dobrogosz (2011). Okay. I also put these 2 recordings on play and repeat and repeat mode because I was desperate to calm the newborn. Whatever works!

Some take lonely roads that never meet…
Some take long roads, some take hard roads…

Listening…humming along…singing along aloud (I remember the words to my parts and OTHER people’s parts!) soothes and even baby falls asleep more quickly and soundly. Hurray!! *Huge sigh of relief*

Lord I’m free… (when baby’s sleeping)…
Lord I’m free… (
when she’s fast asleep)…

The power of music. The magic of choral singing. Waiting for that opportunity to go back to singing with the group again.

Any way the wind blows…

Can’t wait for the day too when this little one embarks and explores her own musical journey

And they all come back to Thee.



5 (not so odd) months

Some 5 odd months ago, I stumbled on a peculiar video on youtube that featured a group that just walked out of The Matrix, producing a myriad of sounds, dissonances, whispers, chants, and seamless music. I was amazed, and did the unimaginable.

Some 5 odd months later, I am racking my brains, trying to think of something to adequately describe how the past 5 months in SYC has been. How surreal it is, from being an online spectator, a virtual audience, to actually singing with choristers who seem so much more larger than life on stage, but are people who only possess a simple, yet epic joy, for singing.

It has been a ride with SYC, from the initial audition where I harboured no hope or expectation of result after the overwhelming experience; but was shocked, and exhilarated after my news of acceptance into the choir. Albeit it being such a short time since I’ve joined the choir, I’m thankful for being a part of We are Singapore, and it is really only by constant concern and advice from fellow choristers that I am able to learn such a rigorous repertoire and be on stage with the choir.

SYC has inevitably allowed me to  grow as a musician, and in my ensembleship. I am thankful for all my fellow choristers, and despite differences in age, profession, nationality, we all somehow converge into one voice, one spirit, all for a greater purpose to spread our joy for singing to the our audiences.

Ultimately I look forward to the process of turning ink on paper into beautiful oscillations of pressure, into wrinkles in the air, into music that speaks so wonderfully to the heart and soul. Albeit the exhausting rehearsals, I am thankful for every moment I get to spend with the choir in music-making, for every bad practice, for every good practice, and for every sound that not only comes from vocal cords, but also, from the heart.

Now, watching the very first video that introduced me to SYC brings back a rush of joy, reverence, awe, and satisfaction.


Happy National Day

思念 (Nostalgia) was one of the Singapore Youth Choir’s first commissioned pieces.

This is what composer Leong Yoon Pin (1931-2011) has to say about the work:

Nostalgia is actually about a person – again, the name of a poem – going away from one’s country. Although in person you are away, the heart is difficult to be away. The heart is always coming back.*

On this our 48th National Day, our wish for Singapore is for her to be that country to which our hearts will always come back.

We also remember Leong, who was born on 5 August, and whose works illuminated the way for so many who came after.

*from the National Archives Oral History Centre,  Oral History Interview with Leong Yoon Pin (001490/04), 4 June 1994.

Singing Scientists

Having recently met a fellow neurobiologist at Europa Cantat, a choral
festival in Turin, Italy, I wondered if there are many other scientists out there that
sing. Thinking back, my roommate in graduate school sang in an acapella group
while several of my lab-mates used to sing in choirs. Life as a scientist can get pretty
frustrating and I guess singing is an easy way of de-stressing.

Here’s a hilarious Lady Gaga parody produced by a bunch of biology graduate
students back in 2011. It’s a surprisingly accurate depiction of what life in science is
like, and all done through song. Enjoy!


What a difference a year makes

What a year 2011 has been.

It started with THREE

Although I missed the second installment in Japan, it was good to come full circle (or maybe triangle in this case) with the third THREE concert in Manila, reuniting with friends from the Ateneo Chamber Singers and Gaia Philharmonic Choir. And also friends from the UST Singers who came to support.

Full of Love, full of Hope, full of Joy! Together for a better world, there was much to celebrate about. But maybe we under-estimated the power of our rain chant..

Then there was Super Duper Steve D

Who could have asked for more. Soul + Jazz + Classical + Tropical/Caribbean/Oohgachaka all in one. It was such fun working with Steve Dobrogosz, getting to speak with him on his musical ideas behind the pieces and singing his newly written Singapore Songs. It was also great sharing the stage again with local musicians Tamagoh and Tony Makarome.

Singers of the World, Unite!

As if we heeded a cry to gather, we then headed for Sopot, Poland to take part in the 7th International Choir Festival – Mundus Cantat Sopot 2011. Traveling halfway around the world in slightly over 24 hours, we forged new friendships with fellow choristers from Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Turkey. One of the highlights of the festival was the march down Bohaterów Monte Cassino Street. I still vividly recall us waving our flags proudly. “This is my country, this is my flag…this is my family, these are my friends. We are Singapore, Singaporeans!” loudly we proclaimed. Feelings of pride and patriotism coupled with excitement and open-hearts filled the air as we embraced each others’ cultures while sharing our own. As we sang our much-loved local pop-song – Bunga Sayang, it felt like we had transported our new found friends to our village by the sea (we even had special effects from the cool sea breeze).

Singing Ko Matsushita’s Cantate Domino with the other choirs at Sopot Pier brought a different meaning to caring and sharing. I’m happy that we could also do our part as instruments of peace to help our friends in Japan. After all, what would a voice be if there were no heart?

Japan came to us – Astrordinary

With a blast (literally), we were brought into a different universe by Ko and our fellow friends from Gaia as he came to conduct us at yoKOso! As we flew across time and space continents, we visited music from the different periods, genre and languages. Parlez-vous français?

I love early music as much as I love contemporary works. Thank you for the chance to sing one of my favourite pieces – Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium.

And also for the chance to experience onsen-dipping, snowy mountains and fishing villages.

In exchange, some of us went over..


Amid the packed schedule, we took time to roll-crawl-hop-skip-run all in the name of bonding and fun. I really enjoyed our brief taste of touch rugby and water-bombing. Let’s do it again!


On a separate note, congratulations again to 2011 Cultural Medallion recipient, Dr. Kelly Tang. Thank you for sharing your music and vision with us!

Of black on black & more patriotism

Talking about realm, rehearsing the Rothko Chapel can sometimes send one pondering much, reflecting on shades of black on black..Ohm.

And then there was the performance day itself. That day will definitely be one of the most memorable days of 2011 for me. So you see, some of us hold what one might call a ‘day job’ that sometimes being called a ‘day’ job is a misnomer.  We were supposed to report at the Esplanade at 630pm. 545pm, an urgent issue at work cropped up. 620pm, the scenic sprint across Esplanade Drive/Bridge from One Raffles Quay began. 635pm, arrive at Esplanade fully warmed up. 730pm, performance. It was a good performance. 8pm, done with Rothko Chapel and off to the Singapore Conference Hall for our rehearsal with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. We were rehearsing for a performance for Poh & Co’s anniversary which featured one of Mr. Poh’s own composition “愛” – love your country like how you would love your family. 10pm, done with rehearsal and back to work. So who said bankers have no life?!

No more ‘do-the-shoulder’ bogey for me for a while though..

Kodaly & Caroling

What better way to end the year by lending our voices to the Kodaly Seminar as we played demo choir for the participants, as well as carol with the St Andrew’s Secondary School choir.

Looking back at 2011, I must say that it has been a very eventful year. All these against the backdrop of losing our home at 54 Waterloo Street. But evidently it can only get more exciting from here. Have road, will travel. Thank you SYCES for a fantastic 2011. Thanks for the music, the friendships and for keeping me sane. Until 2012, wishing all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Working the Magic

For many weeks, we would set the magic in motion on Wednesday evenings. We called out to Sister Rain repeatedly, learning, in the meantime, to sync our unruly limbs to our voices and to each other, tapping into the mysteries of Eurhythmics (ah, Big Magic Word).

And on Thursdays, the rain would fall.
Lluvia besa la tierra. Rain that kisses the earth.

(above: The SYC Ensemble Singers performing “Hermana Lluvia” in January 2011, in the Philippines)

We are Magicians. We’ve made it rain in Singapore, Manila, and Spain (on the plains!). Now, on to the shores of Sopot, Poland, the power of our incantation growing from strength to strength.

Choral music awakens this sense of wonder in me. I become five again, and I believe in magic. If I sing it, I can make it happen.

And this belief in the power of song is universal.

(above: The pray and dance song, an Okinawan folk song)

The Kuicha is a traditional song and dance from Miyako Island, Okinawa in Japan. The word is derived from the Miyako dialect; Kui means “voice” and Cha-su means “to join”.

The first song, Parumizu nu Kuicha is a prayer of sorts (Magic Chant, if you will) for the eradication of an ancient cruel taxation system against farmers, while Amagoi nu Kuicha is (also!) a prayer for rain. To “join voices”, in hope and prayer.


– Seow Boon