Written by: Tan Zher Min
Edited by: Vivien Tang
Amplitude, an annual combined hall choir concert organized by King Edward VII Hall, was held on 26 February, the Thursday of recess week. This year’s Amplitude was themed ‘Films’ and featured a wide range of musical numbers from old and new films alike. If you were wondering if these pieces include songs from Frozen, yes – but (thankfully) not Let It Go/ Do You Wanna Build a Snowman. Read on to see which underrated Frozen song was featured and more importantly, what happened on this fun-filled night.
- Jaiho – A. R. Rahman, in Slumdog Millionaire(2008)
- Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland, in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The concert kicked off with EH Choir’s rendition of classic songs, Jaiho and Over the Rainbow. With the choristers donning sarees and kurtas, it was indeed a colourful start to the concert. Jaiho started in the song’s original language — Hindi, which was an impressive feat, considering that all members of the choir were Chinese. However, it transited to the English version, as covered by the Pussycat Dolls, shortly after a few verses (to my disappointment). Nevertheless, the duet sung was quite cute, accompanied by some cheesy Bollywood moves. It was quite a good take on A. R. Rahman’s piece, and definitely a brilliant way to start the concert.
Over the Rainbow, on the other hand, was a nice and calming contrast to the upbeat Jaiho. Together with the melodious piano accompaniments, the lullaby brought back many childhood memories from The Wizard of Oz.
- Say Something (A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera cover) – Pentatonix, in If I Stay(2014)
- 那些年 – 胡夏, in 那些年我们一起追的女孩(You Are the Apple of My Eye, 2011)
KR Acapella’s first song was a cover of Pentatonix’s version of Say Something. Similar to Pentatonix’s version, the female lead had an incredibly sexy voice, supported amply by the bassist (also known as Benjesus/Chinese Jesu). Besides having luscious curly locks, Benjesus also had an amazing vocal range and his voice had just the right amount of raspiness. The two other singers’ harmonies were lovely as well, and they complemented the lead singer perfectly. Their parts started to add layers to the song one by one after the bridge, providing support to the lead and bringing the song up to a climatic finish. I must say, it really did the Pentatonix cover justice.
The next item, 那些年 was performed by five of the best male singers in KR. Handpicked by their seniors, the singers sounded really good – as individuals as well as a vocal group. Just the simple humming set the mood for the nostalgic piece that brought back my JC memories. For what it’s worth, the lead singer, Bryan, sounded authentically Taiwanese (although he’s not). One of the singers also mimicked a saxophone during the strings’ melody, which was on point and was a nice touch to the piece. Although I think that they could have attempted a harder song with their capabilities, they executed the song perfectly, considering that the song had more complex chords.
- Ecce Homo Qui Est Faba – in Mr Bean
- Kimi Wo Nosete – Azumi Inoue, in Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
- For Good – Idina Menzel & Kristin Chenoweth, in Wicked (2003 Musical, aimed to be released in 2016)
The lonely spotlight shines as Mr Bean falls to the street – hands up if the theme song is already playing in your head! Both a visual and audio treat – a little drama went on with “Mr Bean” introducing the choir. This short but sweet introduction led up to the poignant theme song from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which I’m sure most people are familiar with. Although this piece is commonly sung by choirs, SH Chorale’s take on it kept the audience engaged with their melodious harmonies. Also a shout out to the sopranos who sang the melody line really beautifully; I got goose bumps just by watching to their performance.
Wicked!!! I was really really looking forward to this performance because For Good is one of my favourite songs of all time. Just think of the beautiful image painted by the Broadway singers’ beautiful voices and the poetic lyrics. Wicked is not a film… yet, but the song is still a good addition to the concert. The male lead’s voice was a perfect blend of dreaminess and boyish charm, whereas the lead girl sounded pretty similar to Idina Menzel as well (just imagine a less nasal version). Their duet was pretty cute as they charmed the audiences with this amazing song.
- Always with Me (Itsumo Nandodemo) – Youmi Kimura, in Spirited Away (2001)
- Mulan Medley (1998)
Always with Me was a very tough song to learn simply because of the language barrier. Right before the concert, we were still struggling to remember the lyrics. (Quote Ille, an exchange student from Germany and also our bassist, “[The lyrics] are just syllables that don’t make any sense!”) Despite that I really liked the song, which had a really elegant melody. This acapella piece, which was conducted by Gareth, started off with the altos, tenors and basses accompanying the sopranos’ melody in a waltz-like manner that just makes you want to sway along with the song. It then climaxed when the piece was transposed to a tone higher, before eventually slowing down and coming to an end.
Our second piece, Mulan Medley was arranged by KE’s very own talented Samantha and Gareth. It featured two songs from the Mulan OST, namely Honour to Us All and A Girl Worth Fighting For (no Reflection and Be A Man?! Yes I know, calm down). We were also very honoured (pun unintended) to have Elanor as our pianist for this piece. The performance was accompanied by a little dance, choreographed by Sherene and Samantha, which greatly enlivened the mood of the piece.
Honour to Us All was sung near the beginning of the film, when our favourite Asian Disney protagonist, Mulan, was whisked off to the beauty parlour where she was ‘primped and polished till she glows with pride” before meeting a matchmaker. (Fun fact: Choir head Zher Yin used to get nightmares after watching Mulan because of this song). In our rendition of this number, Gloria took on the role of Mulan, while Evelyn took on the role of her grandmother. In the starting verses, the girls fussed over Mulan and prepped her up so that she could strike a good match and bring honour to her family.
After dressing Mulan up, the girls sent the guys off to war in A Girl Worth Fighting For. Gareth was the soloist for this segment and besides singing, his acting brought laughter to the audiences, especially when Xian Yun and Cheryl fan-girled over his non-existent abs/muscles. Colin and Ilja, who played Mulan’s suitors, also tried to win her heart (spoiler alert: Mulan went with Colin in the end). All in all, it was a fun song to perform and in the end, Gareth prompted the audience to echo, “A girl worth fighting for!” with the choir too. Much to our surprise, the song was well received and some members of the audience did sing along.
- Shape of My Heart – Sting, in Blue Rodeo (1996)
- Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison, in Pretty Woman (1990)
- Skyfall – Adele, in Skyfall (2012)
RHythm, despite being an acapella group, had a lot of members (even enough to form a choir). Tonight, they put up three performances – all featuring different group members. The arrangement for RHythm’s pieces was also generally interesting and more engaging for the audience.
The lights turned on with seven well-dressed singers onstage. Shape of My Heart had a dramatic entrance with soprano Kai Jun bringing the opening notes in a red-hot number. The male lead singer, Choong Hou, dazzled the audience with his sexy voice while the spotlight was on him.
Oh, Pretty Woman, a cute number by Roy Orbison, started off with the bass riff just like the song. The lead singers brought cheesiness to an all-time high as they put up a really adorable performance, complete with the guys flirting and trying to win the pretty women’s hearts.
The theme song for the 23rd James Bond Film, Skyfall was a dramatic twist to RHythm’s previous cutesy number. When the song started, the six accompanists moved out which revealed the lead singer who had a very melodious and well-controlled voice. After the somber first verse, the chorus was more upbeat and was a refreshing cover that was different from Adele’s grand but solemn version. I loved the female lead’s voice and she wowed the audience with stunningly high notes towards the end of the piece.
- You Can’t Stop the Beat – in Hairspray (2007)
- The Bear Necessities – Phil Harris & Bruce Reitherman, in The Jungle Book (1967)
- We Go Together – in Grease (1978)
After the 10-minute interval, TH Choir was up with the cheerful ending number, You Can’t Stop the Beat, from Hairspray. It did sound a tad empty, as there were no accompaniment and harmony to the verses. The joyous original was reduced to something that sounded a bit mechanical, but kudos to the choristers who sang the lyrics perfectly though; the verses were really a mouthful.
The Bear Necessities – a song from my childhood days – was another classic that brought back many memories. Remember that scene from the Jungle Book where Baloo the bear taught Mowgli to be contented with life? TH Choir did a really nice “doowop” cover of this piece that was also fun to listen to. Although the sopranos struggled with the high notes towards the ends, the song finished nicely with a cute “Yeah!”
TH’s third song, We Go Together, is another cute number from the classic film, Grease (*70’s disco moves* Greased Lightnin’, go Greased Lightnin’!). You have probably heard this song somewhere before and like You Can’t Stop the Beat, it has some pretty confusing lyrics as well (chang chang changitty chang shoobop / dip da dip da dip doowop da doobee doo). To manage these lyrics and sing it in unison is definitely not an easy feat and TH should be applauded for doing it so flawlessly.
- Eatnemen Vuelie – Cantus, in Frozen (2013)
- When You Believe – in Prince of Egypt (1998)
Interestingly, the two songs performed by RH Voices were both from cartoon films. Eatnemen Vuelie – the Norwegian opening number of Frozen (aka the ice song) – was accompanied by a percussionist on toms, mimicking the bass drums in the movie and completed with wind chimes and a crash symbol as well. RH Voices’ rendition of the song was moving and it brought us to a faraway land, where we could visualize Viking ships and the Nordic community there hacking into the ice while singing the song. This is definitely one of the most underrated songs in Frozen and thumbs up for RH Voices for a great take on the song.
When You Believe is a song from the Dreamwork’s movie, Prince of Egypt, which I believe is an essential part of many people’s childhood. Also sung by divas Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, the song is definitely not an easy one to pull off. The female and male soloists had a nice duet in the verse and when the rest of the choir joined in the chorus, it was magical; the audience (or at least, me) was brought to a wide meadow, with the euphonious music playing in the background. The song was also completed with the tribal verse in the original film. The soloist had a mellower timbre as compare to the little girl in the movie, but she pulled it off nicely. After the bridge, the soft blue lighting at the backdrop accompanied the climax of the song, which ended in perfect harmony.
- 那些年你不知道的事 (Medley) – 胡夏/王力宏, in You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011) /恋爱通告(Love in Disguise, 2010)
- Pitch Perfect Medley (2012)
The mando-pop medley featured two talented singers and thus, although many people sang these songs, there haven’t been many versions that can beat the originals. The first song from the medley was a repeat of KR acapella’s item. If I were to choose, I would say that KR’s lead singer was better. The key was a tad too high for most of the singers, causing the female accompaniments to sound rather airy, but the performance was still quite enjoyable. Overall, nothing extraordinary, but I liked the simplicity and sincerity of this performance.
The Pitch Perfect Medley, on the other hand, was not as well executed. This medley featured songs from the film such as Cups (When You’re Gone), Just the Way You Are, Just a Dream and Price Tag. The female leads have really sweet voices, but at times they do not blend well with the supporting male voices. Besides that, there were some intonation problems throughout the performance. Despite that, I’m sure the audience welcomed the more familiar and upbeat pop songs for a change.
- Seasons of Love – in Rent (2005)
- Lion King Medley (1994)
“Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure a year?” KR choir, conducted by Benjesus, was the group with the most number of people for this year’s Amplitude. They delivered this classic from the Broadway musical rather nicely, but I feel that there is something lacking in the arrangement; if the bass line were stronger it’d be perfect.
The second piece, Lion King Medley, features my favourite music from Disney – Circle of Life, Can You Feel the Love Tonight (Elton John’s version), I Just Can’t Wait to be King and Hakuna Matata. As a die-hard Lion King fan, I approve the reprise of Circle of Life with the guys chanting the African lines, which gave me goose bumps.
- James Bond Medley
- Kung Fu Medley
SHacapella’s performance was, in my humble opinion, the most enjoyable one of them all. They also arranged all of their music, which is a very impressive feat! The singers kept the audience in suspense with their acting during the James Bond Medley, but definitely not at the expense of their singing. They started off with the James Bond theme song as they walked around the stage stealthily like secret agents, while a male and a female lead mimicked the electric guitar riff. After a while, someone stole a diamond and the medley transited (very aptly) to Diamonds Are Forever from the 7th Bond film. After which, the male lead took on Skyfall, which sounded amazing with the perfect harmony with elements of Diamonds Are Forever in the background.
The second piece, Kung Fu Medley, was such a fun piece to listen to. It kicked off (pun intended) with the familiar Kung Fu Fighting (“Everybody loves kung fu fighting, HAH!”), where the energetic leads showed off some of their kung fu moves. It then moved to Eye of the Tiger, which had a slightly off intro as the speed was too fast – I only recognised the song when the verse started. In the last song, 男儿当自强 aka the Wong Fei-Hung song, the singers started showing off some tai chi moves while the two leads mimicked suo nas. It was, in short, a really cute and refreshing performance. I’m sure the audience loved it!
The curtain call marked the end of Amplitude 14/15 with Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk and Treasure playing in the background. I’m sure the audience enjoyed this night of nostalgia as we revisited many of our favourite show tunes. Of course, the KE7 Choir took this opportunity to mimic Gareth in our performance.
Also, a great ‘thank you!’ goes out to the Amplitude committee and the stage crew for working tirelessly to make this concert a success. Stay tuned for Amplitude ‘15/16! J
Photos courtesy of: KE Vision