Over the past year, everything as we know it has been irrevocably changed. From our daily routines to all our plans tossed out the window, it’s been a struggle, one that’s seen us gone through so much hardship, pain and struggle as one world. And it is in times like these that more than ever, people need some kind of comfort.
That could very well come in the form of music, whether a devotional hymn, scripture or a mantra. The artistry in these musical expressions of faith come out in full force with the Esplanade’s annual secular celebration of music A Tapestry of Sacred Music, returning this April to spread comfort and soothe our anxieties. Featuring music that has outlived centuries of strife and tribulation, it also serves as a reminder that this too shall pass.
In this year’s festival, look out for four evenings of chants and recitations will be taking place at the Esplanade Concourse, featuring Thai Buddhist chants, Mahayana Buddhist chants, Hindu Vedic chants and Quran recitation. At the Esplanade Concert Hall, join Brenda Koh (baroque violin), Choy Siew Woon (sop), Vivienne Tan (alto), Americ Goh (tenor), John Lee (bass) and Phoon Yu (transcriber) in Morimur: Bach’s Secret Epitaph, as you’re taken on a journey of grieving, intercession and hopeful acceptance, a prayer to god to help them carry on.
Pianist Isaac Lee will also be performing his yearly pipe organ performance by Isaac Lee at the Esplanade Concert Hall, with Pipe Organ Recital: O death, where is thy sting?, elucidating these Christian doctrines, edify the listener and enrich the experiences of this season. Meanwhile, in A Feather on the Breath of God: Parallels in Medieval Mysticism and Sufism sees singers from La Voix Médiévale perform the music of Hildegard von Bingen, while Kudsi Erguner will be participating from his abode in Paris—in pre-recorded segments that respond to the music of the mystic abbess composer.
Sikh music takes centrestage in Sikh Kirtans by the teachers and students of the Gurmat Sangeet Academy, as they perform a prayer of protection and a contemplative simran—all featuring traditional Sikh instruments like the rabab, taus and dilruba. Meanwhile, Qasidah: Voices of Devotion, sees Firkatul Huda Lil Mawalidin Nabawiyah Wal Insyad recite maulid and qasidahs, Arabic forms of poetry in praise and love of Prophet Muhammad.
Even Taoism gets a nod, as Taoist Ceremonial Arts are performed by Taoist Orchestra Singapore, the first and only Taoist orchestra in Singapore who will present a vibrant selection of music that typically accompanies Taoist rituals, along with an energetic performance of wudang taiji, otherwise known as Taoist martial arts. Get dancey with Flamenco Sin Fronteras’ The Flamenco Mass, as Catholic high mass chants—sung by a classical choir—combine with appropriate songs of the flamenco repertoire in a cadenza-like style.
Other programmes in the lineup include workshops and talks, such as Albert Tay—the fourth-generation owner of Tay Guan Heng (Giant Joss Stick Maker)—as he hand-crafts a motif of a dragon on a six-foot tall giant joss stick, along with Arabic Calligraphy Workshops, tea appreciation and more.
As with previous editions of the festival, all programmes for A Tapestry of Sacred Music are free of charge. Come with open hearts, and come together to learn and appreciate these offerings from our diverse community and faiths, sharing in human experiences and emotions, where in the face of our present circumstances, offer us solace in darkness.
A Tapestry of Sacred Music 2021 runs from 1st to 4th April 2021 at the Esplanade. Tickets and programme available here