2018 marks the twenty-fourth year since The Philharmonic Chamber Choir (TPCC) was formed by Lim Yau, its Artistic Director. It has excelled in giving voice to the great traditions of Western classical music: both a cappella, as well as large works for choir and orchestra; and has equally made its mark in performing the Asian a cappella repertoire. Its latest concerts include Equinox (2015): a mélange of little-performed 20th century choral works exploring the duality of night and day; The Silent Realm in Majesty (2016): an exploration of modern German choral works with guest conductor Manfred Schreier; as well as Timeless Skies (2017): a collection of contemporary Asian a cappella choral works — including the world premiere of Yang Guan San Die (阳关三叠): a newly-commissioned work by Singapore composer Zechariah Goh.
TPCC’s exciting journey of choral exploration and performance has been marked by many memorable highlights. Since its inception, TPCC has worked with such noted choral conductors as Stephen Cleobury, Francisco Feliciano, Joseph Flummerfelt, Robert Hollingworth, Chifuru Matsubara, Peter Phillips, Johannes Prinz, Gregory Rose, Manfred Schreier, Masaaki Suzuki, and Nobuaki Tanaka.
At the 19th Béla Bartók International Choral Competition in Debrecen, Hungary in July 2000, TPCC was awarded First Prize in the Mixed Choir Category, and Third Prize in the Chamber Choir category. It also received a Special Prize for the most authentic performance of Zoltán Kodály’s Liszt Ferenchez. In 2002, TPCC was invited to perform at the 1st Performing Arts Festival in Tokyo, where it gave a series of concerts in the Takemitsu Memorial Hall alongside the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus, Asia’s oldest professional chamber choir.
TPCC has often collaborated with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), the Singapore Symphony Chorus (SSC), and The Philharmonic Orchestra (TPO). It has also appeared in productions by the Singapore Dance Theatre, Singapore Lyric Opera, and Canada’s Opera Atelier. Significant collaborations with SSO and SSC include a recording of Zhou Long’s The Future of Fire (2003) — recorded on the BIS record label; Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (2013); Anton Bruckner's Mass No. 3 and Arvo Pärt's Te Deum (2016); and most recently Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem (2017) under the baton of guest conductor Masaaki Suzuki.
Notable performances with TPO include J. S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor (2000 and 2008); as well as a cross-disciplinary production with dance company Arts Fission entitled The Mazu Chronicle (妈祖航志) (2015). In 2017, TPCC collaborated with TPO in Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 'Choral' (2017) as part of the latter’s Beethoven Symphony Cycle celebrating its fifteenth anniversary.
TPCC has also partnered with many other diverse arts groups and organisations involving an equally wide repertoire. These include Esplanade ─ Theatres on the Bay’s presentation of Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light: The Passion of Joan of Arc (2003), together with the celebrated female quartet Anonymous 4; as well as YTL Corporation’s Concert of Celebration 2010 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, featuring Andrea Bocelli.
In recent years, TPCC has sought to bridge East and West in order to extend the choral experience for both the performer and the listener. To this end, Light and a Hundred Colours (2008) demonstrated the musical possibilities and emotional potential of an unorthodox pairing of 16th century English motets with the Indian sarangi played by Sabir Khan; while Zen Renaissance (2012) juxtaposed works by Renaissance masters with the Japanese shakuhachi played by shakuhachi master Ueno Koshuzan.
As a choir based in the heart of Asia, TPCC has always been cognizant of its responsibilities towards its Asian musical heritage. TPCC has not let up in its efforts to explore the wealth of the contemporary Asian choral repertoire since its first all-Asian programme entitled When Will the Flower Bloom?, and the recording of its first Asian a cappella CD (1999), both of which surveyed the new spirit of Asian folksongs. Its most recent Asian a cappella concerts — The Bird of Time (2014) and Timeless Skies (2017) — featured respectively the Singapore premiere of Peng (鹏) and the world premiere of Yang Guan San Die (阳关三叠), both by Zechariah Goh.
In 2018, TPCC will present two concerts on 25 March and 31 August. The former — titled Skywalk — includes a collection of choral works with spiritual motifs, and will feature the Southeast Asian premiere of New Zealander composer Janet Jennings’ Magnificat from a Garden in the Antipodes: a new commission with the support of Creative New Zealand.
* guest singer