By Khoo Wei Cyn
You may think that to join a choir group, you need to be able to sing well from the get-go. That’s got some truth to it, but only to a certain extent. What you really need in a group is the spirit of teamwork. We breathe together. We hit the high notes and low ones together. And we cover for each other when one of us runs out of breath. That’s what a choir is for; we sound good collectively when we can’t on our own.
Choral singing had been my lifeblood since 2010. The weekly practices with the Penang Philharmonic Chorus (PPC) are my panacea from life’s doldrums. Meeting friendly and familiar faces, taking part in the chatter and for two hours, breathing deeply then singing my heart out distracts my mind from trivial tribulations. Over the years, I’ve even learned to like the sound of my voice. I know the flaws in my voice and I appreciate the strengths that I have, experimenting with my breath and vocal articulations wherever I am least likely to embarrass myself.
I’d parted ways with the chorus after Martin Rutherford left. He had been our chorus master before he made penangpac his new “home”. However, the number of chorus members who remained at PPC weren’t enough to perform any major choral works in his absence, and when I heard news that he was appointed chorus master for The Actors Studio Chorus (TASC), I decided to join this new group, hoping to sing more grand pieces such as the Hallelujah Chorus and Zadok the Priest.
TASC was well into Week 6 of practice when I joined them. I had been swamped with Short+Sweet Theatre Festival before that, and between academic studies and my day job, I was stretched thin. Banking on my assumption that most of the carols were the ones I’d sung before at PPC, I hoped I could catch up with the choristers. Then I asked Martin if I could sing with them. The answer was yes.
Although there were many new and strange faces in the chorus, I warmed up to them very quickly. Now they are my new family, even though I hadn’t been looking for a new home. And I love the melody of all the carols! The Cowboy Carol, The First Nowell, Jubilate Domino and Sing Gloria are some of them. But the two songs titled The Holly and the Ivy and the Hallelujah Chorus are my all-time favourites as they feature uniquely polyphonic, contrapuntal music which sound amazing when performed flawlessly with an orchestral backing.
Martin is conducting with his usual emphasis on consonants and synchrony. It’s pronounced “lit-tel”, he keeps reminding us. Don’t sing during the two-beat rest unless you want your name to be in the programme as a soloist! he teases. But after 17 rehearsals, those words don’t faze us anymore. We’re ready to sing our hearts out. We’re ready to draw you into the beauty of choral music. And we’re dead serious about making good music for everybody!
A neophyte to theatre, Khoo Wei Cyn has just survived a thespian’s adventure at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2013 in Penang. She enjoys writing, reading and appreciating art in all forms. Her latest adventure will see her perform on stage in the The Actors Studio Chorus’s Family Christmas Concert 2013.