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Review: Sure on the Shining Night

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When one thinks of Christmas, music and song undoubtedly come to mind, whether it’s Christmas carollers going door to door, sitting in church listening to the choir, or simply the buzz of Christmas pop as you go about your holiday shopping. The sheer variety of Christmas music through the years then, makes for perfect material for a holiday-themed recital, showcasing some of the most talented local vocalists around.

Sure on this Shining Night takes audiences on a journey through the ages, bringing us across the world and presenting songs that range from the spiritually uplifting, to simply songs in good fun. With a repertoire that included songs from ‘He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands’ to ‘Ave Maria’, the sheer variety on show tonight was a delight to witness, and certainly, we can’t think of a better place to have held it than the cosy and warm Esplanade Recital Studio.

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Opening the night was a glorious rendition of Christian favourite ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ from all four performers, an apt song that summed up the mood of the entire performance, celebrating the joy of the Christmas season and spreading love and good cheer to the audience. Next up, the eponymous ‘Sure on This Shining Night’ arranged by Lauridsen was performed by soprano Teng Xian Ting and tenor Leslie Tay. Over the years, Xiang Ting has grown to be a recognizable and rising force in the local opera scene, handling the material with aplomb and infusing each line with genuine emotion, in perfect control of the melody, while Leslie’s voice eased the crowd into the song nicely.

Later on, Xiang Ting would also impress again with Laudale Dominum, showcasing her vocal range and control, competently singing in Italian. In her performance of Britten’s “I Wonder As I Wander”, it felt almost as if she was having a conversation with pianist Pauline Lee, as Xiang Ting’s pure voice interacted well with Pauline’s trills on the keys. Meanwhile, baritone Alvin Tan’s voice was sonorous, making his rendition of ‘Ave Maria’ resonate throughout the Recital Studio, while his sincere, rousing performance of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ brought us straight back to church, reminiscing about the times we sang it each Sunday. Finally, Leslie Tay’s vocal range was fully on display tonight in Ravel’s ‘Noel des jouets’, while he brought on the emotions when he dedicated his performance of Rowley’s ‘Three Mystical Songs’ to his late teacher and well known baritone Robert Honeysucker, from when he was studying at the Boston Conservatory. He had previously also performed this number at his own graduating performance from the Conservatory, and all three songs came together, flowing easily from piece to piece to tell a complete story.

In an alternative take on Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion’s ‘The Prayer’, this time around, they decided to perform it with two male vocalists instead. This worked surprisingly well, and both Alvin and Leslie showcased good vocal control and chemistry with each other, helping the song gel and really played to their strengths. It wasn’t just the singing that was impressive though; the performers truly had strong onstage presence and delivered not just in vocals, but also facial expressions and gestures, and this was best reflected in the all new song ‘Christmas Shopping’, locally composed by Lee Jin Jun with lyrics by Aaron Lee. The humorous take on Singapore’s favourite past time tickled the audience, as the performers donned festive headgear and outlandish sunglasses and showed off their lighter side. Even so, the performers handled their sharps and naturals well, a technically complicated piece that tested them as they juggled shopping bags and wrestled for gifts.

Sure On This Shining Night was a timely reminder of the power and importance of music especially during this festive music. Showcasing a wide variety of genres and well arranged pieces, the entire performance flowed very well, and easily acted as a strong platform to display these vocalists’ talents. We left the studio with a lightness in our hearts and a smile on our faces, and filled indubitably with an overwhelming sense of love and joy.

Performance attended 16/12/17, 6pm

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